Riley Heruska
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Over the past few weeks, we've gotten a pretty decent taste of the summer heat that's to come. Temperatures have already moved toward the 100-degree mark a few times, and many of us are wondering if this is going to be one of the hottest Texas summers on record

One of the worst parts of dealing with extreme heat is the toll it takes on your AC unit. It's not uncommon for people's utility bills to increase dramatically as they try to keep their homes cool while blistering heat sears the pavement outside.

If you're worried about paying off high electricity charges this summer, here are five things you can do to minimize the damage and keep costs reasonable. 

1. Don't forget to use your fans. When most people feel a little toasty, they immediately turn to the thermostat to adjust the temperature. A cheaper alternative is to utilize a ceiling or floor fan. Sometimes circulating the air is enough to make a room feel cooler without using a ton of electricity. Yes, fans also require energy to work, but turning one on is far less costly than cranking your air conditioning. 

2. Ensure that your house is properly sealed.
The last thing you want to do when it's 100 degrees outside is air condition the whole neighborhood. Avoid leaving doors and windows open to keep the cool air trapped inside. You may also want to check for cracks and holes that allow your AC to escape. 

3. Double-check to see if your thermostat is working properly. If your device is failing to properly gauge the temperature inside your house, it might be causing your AC system to work overtime in an effort to maintain the temperature you set. Test your thermostat to see if it's accurate, and if it's not, consider installing a new one. Smart, programmable thermostats are also an excellent way to make your system more efficient and lower your bills. 

4. Keep the windows covered during the day. 
Many people underestimate how much direct sunlight can warm the temperature inside a home. Medium-colored drapes can reduce heat gain by about 33 percent while certain kinds of blinds can reduce heat gain by roughly 45 percent. Therefore, at least during the brightest times of the day, keep your windows covered and rely on artificial lighting. 

5. Adjust the thermostat accordingly. Sure, we'd all love to keep our home at a comfortable 74 degrees all day, every day, but that's not the best way to keep your utility bill low. It's important to think about how you are using your air conditioning when you're at home, at work, or on vacation. If you're only going to be gone for a short time (no more than a day or so), set your thermostat to a slightly higher temperature. If you're going to be gone for an extended period of time, it might be worth it to shut the system off entirely. After all, there's no need to cool a house when no one is even there to enjoy it. 

How do you keep your home cool and your bills low during a hot Texas summer? Leave other tips in the comments. 

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