Four ways to survive heat wave – and keep energy bills down

As America blasts its ACs and put its fans on overdrive to try to cope with the heat wave, it will use a lot of energy – which costs a lot of money. More than 40 percent of a typical home’s utility bill goes toward cooling costs.

But it’s possible to keep energy costs down and still stay cool – even during a heat wave. “You can save money by saving energy,” says US Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Here are four tips.

Orlin Wagner/AP
An unidentified bicyclist waits for a stop light next to a time and temperature sign in Lawrence, Kan., Thursday, July 21.

1. Cover windows and seal cracks

Light-colored window shades can reflect heat back outside, keeping rooms cooler and requiring less work from fans and air conditioners. “In my office, when the sun beats in there are light-color shades so there is no greenhouse effect,” Secretary Chu says.

In addition to drapes and blinds, reflective films and mesh screens can block heat from the inside. Outside, awnings and well-placed shrubs and trees can reduce a lot of light coming through windows. Properly placed trees can save families between $100 and $250 annually on their electric bills, according to the Energy Department.

Heat can also leak into homes through cracks and openings around the house. Adding caulk and weatherstripping around doors, windows, and air conditioners can prevent that (and can also block cold air from seeping in during cooler months).

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