Saving money on your electic bill in excessive heat

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PHOENIX -- Record-breaking temperatures are leading to record-breaking energy use. When it gets this hot, it only means your air conditioner will be working overtime. Many people will also turn down their thermostats to keep their homes cool, which means everyone will be dreading their electric bills.

"During the summer, air conditioning can account for 50 percent or more of your total energy bill," said Kathleen Mascarenas with Salt River Project. "There are many low-cost, effective ways to bring down your electric bill."

Even better, Mascarenas has some ways to cool off your home without spending a single penny.

Some no-cost tips to help save on your cooling costs:

• Set your thermostat between 78 to 80 degrees when you are home and up to 85 degrees when you are away. Mascarenas explained, "For every degree you set your thermostat above 80 degrees, you can save approximately 2 to 3 percent on cooling costs."

• Leave draperies closed during the day to help keep out the heat.

• Leave the air vents open in your home. Closing air vents can create pressure imbalances, resulting in increased air-conditioning costs.

• Make sure your fireplace damper is closed when operating your air conditioner so your cooling dollars don't go up the chimney.

• Don't place lamps or TV sets near your air-conditioning thermostat. It senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.

• Set your air-conditioning fan to "auto." Using "auto" rather than "on" can save you $15 to $25 each month on your energy costs.

Along with these tips, Mascarenas offered other advice that may cost a little bit now, but will save you big in the long run.

• Replace disposable air filters or clean permanent ones at least once a month. A dirty filter forces your equipment to work harder, causing higher energy bills.

• Switch to CFL light bulbs. They produce less heat than incandescent bulbs, so you don’t feel like you are going to melt while you put on makeup and blow dry your hair.

• Grill outdoors and prepare meals that do not require using the range or stove. Making a salad or a sandwich helps you avoid heating up the house.

• If you are using the stove, run the exhaust fan to force hot air and pollutants out of the kitchen.

• In the bathroom, use the fan to remove the heat and humidity from your home when you shower or take a bath. Remember to turn it off when you are finished.

• Ceiling fans are a great way to help keep you cool, but keep in mind: Fans cool the skin, not your room. "So if you leave the fans on when you leave the house, you're actually wasting energy," Mascarenas explained. Which means, you are throwing money out the door.

• Switching to an SRP Time-of-Day price plan and getting a Home Energy Assessment are other ways SRP helps you save money in these hot summer months.