With milder weather forecast for June, July and August, the U.S. Energy Information Administration is predicting that Americans will be paying less for electricity this summer than last year. But don't start celebrating yet. The savings will be only $10 on average, enough for a few ice cream cones or cold beers. The average homeowner will still pay $395 to keep the lights on and air conditioning running. To cut costs, follow these tips from our experts.
Switch lightbulbs. CFLs and LEDs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and generate about 75 percent less heat per bulb. They also last much, much longer. Each EnergyStar qualified CFL can save you about $6 a year in electrical costs and can pay for itself in savings in a couple of months according to our lightbulb tests. LEDs cost more, but each bulb can save more than $100 in energy costs over its lifetime.
Unplug it. Many devices use electricity even when you're not actively using them. All that "vampire" power can add up to 10 percent of your energy bill. Unplugging or powering down such devices as set top boxes and video game consoles can save over $100 per year.
Size your AC correctly. When it comes to air conditioning, bigger isn't necessarily better. Oversized units, either window or central air conditioners, will quickly cool the area but not remove enough humidity, resulting in a cold, clammy space. Find the right size from our list of recommended air conditioners.
Raise the thermostat. Thermostats should be set to cool a home only when it's occupied or about to be. Many of the newer thermostats tested by Consumer Reports can be programmed for various times and days of the week. To learn how read, Use a programmable thermostat to keep cooling costs in check.
Check the refrigerator. High temperature and humidity levels can make your refrigerator work harder to keep the contents cool. You can help it run most efficiently by making sure the coils and gaskets are clean, and by not keeping the door open while you decide what to eat or drink.
For more tips on how to maintain your cooling equipment and save on your utility bill, check the Consumer Reports guide to summer cooling. You can find the full report from the Energy Information Administration on its website.
--Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman