Summer’s heat often brings with it an unexpected increase in energy use and costs. You can avoid surprises and reduce the impact of hotter weather on your bills with a few easy steps.

If you take these actions but still see a spike in your summer energy bills, consider a free home energy audit. We provide these no-cost energy audits to IREA customers. Our energy efficiency specialist will visit your home and compile important data regarding your heating and cooling systems, energy use patterns, types of electrical appliances and equipment, and opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. Our specialist will later provide you with a set of additional actions you can take to reduce your home’s energy use. Visit www.IREA.coop/energy-audits to learn more and schedule an audit.

• Have your air conditioning unit(s) serviced early each summer. Doing so will allow it to run more efficiently in July and August. Even if your unit has been serviced within the last 12 months, keep the area around it – at least 2 feet in any direction – free of debris so that it receives adequate air flow. You also should continue to replace the air filter.

• Add insulation. It might seem like insulation is more important during colder months, but it also traps cooler air inside your home during warmer months. Insulation with a resistance rating between R38 and R60 is recommended for most homes in IREA’s service territory. Locate air leaks around doors and windows, and seal them with caulk or weather-stripping to prevent cold air from escaping and warm air from entering.

• Use a ceiling fan if you need only temporary comfort in a specific area of your home. The cost to power a ceiling fan is a fraction of that required to cool multiple rooms with air conditioning. Be sure to turn it off when no longer needed, though, as a ceiling fan only cools people and does not lower the temperature in a room.

• Open windows overnight, if they are inaccessible from the outside, and turn off your air-conditioning unit. Colorado’s naturally mild nights will typically cool your home as effectively as AC. Close drapes and shutter blinds during the day to reduce solar gain. South-facing windows are especially important to cover during daylight hours.

• Use a grill or other outdoor appliance instead of your kitchen oven or stove. Don’t use large appliances such as washing machines and clothes dryers during the day, when your air conditioner is likely running. Wait until early evening to do so.

• Consider a smart thermostat. Most homes already have programmable thermostats that save up to 10% on cooling and heating costs, though some 40% of owners don’t use their programming features. Smart thermostats make programming even easier by passively learning the energy-use behaviors and patterns of the home’s occupants. They also can automatically adjust to match outside temperatures, which reduces cooling costs. Most smart thermostats include a variety of smartphone-compatible features. A typical home will see a savings of $50 to $100 per year through the use of a smart thermostat.