A ceiling fan can help lower utility bills by making it feel cooler.

Thirteen percent of a home’s energy costs are for cooling, according to Energy Star. Here are three easy ways to rein in these expenses—even on hot summer days.

1. Turn your fan on. Instead of setting the air conditioner to 74° or 76° F, set it to 78° F and let your ceiling fan do the rest. It costs little to run and can make the temperature feel as much as 4° F cooler, according to the Department of Energy.

2. Make simple changes that increase efficiency. Close curtains during the day to keep the sun from heating up the house, reduce oven use, repair leaky AC ductwork, and plug cracks around windows and doors.

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3. Replace your thermostat. If you have central air condition­ing, one of the most effective ways to save money on cooling is to install a programmable or smart thermostat. (As a bonus, you’ll also save money on heating this winter.)

Programmable thermostats can be set to a schedule, typically one for weekdays and another for weekends, that reduces the amount of cooling (or heating) when the house is empty or when you’re sound asleep. According to the DOE, a programmable thermostat can reduce cooling and heating bills by 10 percent.

Smart thermostats connect to the internet via WiFi and allow you to control your central air and heat with your smartphone. Some smart thermostats keep track of your temperature preferences and use the data to optimize your cooling and heating schedule. Others have multiple sensors that monitor temperatures in various parts of the house for more balanced cooling or heating.

For the fully automated approach, try the Nest Learning Thermostat or Nest Thermostat E, which use sensors and geolocation to learn when you are and are not at home and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Models such as the Carrier Cor offer manual control and remote control from a smartphone but very little in the way of automation.

The Honeywell Lyric T5, Eco­bee 3, and Ecobee 4 offer a hybrid approach for those who require some automation but still want a full set of manual control features.

Before investing in a smart or programmable model, check with your utility company to see whether it offers any incentives or even a free thermostat. Many offset the cost with rebates or discounts. For ratings and prices of these and other thermostats, see our full thermostat ratings and recommendations.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the July 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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