How to lower your summer electric bill while keeping cool

Seven tips for staying comfortable and keeping energy bills in check on hot summer days

Funeyes via Pixabay |

Let’s face it. It’s hot out there and it’s getting hotter. On these dog days of summer, many of us are turning to air conditioners for relief. In 2020, air conditioning accounted for 19% of the energy use in U.S. homes.

But, running your A/C all summer can be expensive. Data from the EPA and Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest air conditioning adds an average of $438 to Americans’ utility bills each year. And when millions of people ratchet up their energy use to cool their homes, it strains on our electric grid and increases pollution.

To help protect consumers from high utility bills and our environment from increased energy use during hot summer months, we’ve compiled some best practices that can help you keep your electric bill in check and keep you cool, regardless of what kind of weather summer dishes up.

Seven tips to staying cool while saving money on your electric bill

Miguel via Flickr | CC-BY-SA-2.0
Light-colored curtains can block sunlight and reflect heat, helping to keep your home cooler on hot summer days.

1. Install curtains or blinds on windows.

Most of the sunlight that enters our windows becomes heat in our homes. Light-colored curtains or blinds can help block that sunlight and reflect heat, keeping your home cool. If you’re on a budget, even just hanging a sheet over a sun-flooded window to block and reflect the light can make a big difference.

2. Cool your home naturally. 

If you live in a region where it’s cooler at night and in the morning, opening windows during those cooler nighttime hours and inviting that cool air inside can help lower the temperature of your home. You can use a window fan to blow cool night air into your home. Then, as the temperature climbs in the morning, close your windows, shut the blinds or curtains, and turn on your fans or A/C — which now won’t have to work as hard to keep your home comfortable.

The Sleep Judge via Flickr | CC-BY-2.0
Your body can cool down through three processes: convection, radiation, and perspiration. Ventilation enhances all these processes.

3. Use fans.

Moving air creates a wind chill effect that cools your body. 

Ceiling fans are a great option to take the edge off hot summer days and use less energy than air conditioning units. Ceiling fans make a room feel cooler for its occupants by circulating warm air up and cool air down. You’ll want to make sure the blades of your ceiling fan are all slightly tilted. 

Box fans or standing fans are also good options to circulate air. If you want more cooling power from your fan, you can place a bucket of ice or a pan of cool water in front of your fan, which will create a cool mist as the ice melts. Adding salt to the ice can make the breeze feel even cooler. 

One important note about fans is that they don’t actually cool your room, but they cool people, as explained in this resource from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  So if you’re leaving the house, turn your fans off so you’re not wasting energy.

4. Avoid using heat-producing appliances during day.

Appliances that produce heat while they’re working can counteract your best efforts of to keep your indoor air cool. Among the worst offenders are televisions, dishwashers, and clothes dryers. You can wait until the sun goes down and the outdoor air cools off to run your dishwasher and clothes dryer. And you can try to avoid using your stove altogether on the hottest days; instead, serve refreshing cool salads for dinner or grill outdoors.

If you’re in the market for new appliances, choose models with the Energy Star label. They’re guaranteed to be more energy efficient and put off less wasted heat than your old ones.

5. Tune up your A/C system and replace the filter.

If you have central A/C, seasonal tuneups can help keep your system running smoothly. If you can’t get an appointment with a technicians who would typically check refrigerant levels and clean cooling coils, one simple thing you can do is to change the system’s air filters yourself. If you haven’t done that in the last 3 months, we highly recommend. Changing your filter can help your A/C unit work more efficiently, lowering your energy use and therefore, your energy bill. 

saving energy
US Dept of Energy | Public Domain
Raising your thermostat by just one degree on hot days will decrease your electric bill by 2 percent.

6. Set your thermostat to 78 degrees.

According to the Edison Electric Institute, raising your thermostat by just one degree in the summer will decrease your electric bill by 2 percent. So, when it’s in the triple digits outside, setting your thermostat to 78 degrees offers a respite from the heat. If you wear loose-fitting clothes, drink plenty of water, and use fans to circulate air, you’ll find that 78 degrees is a comfortable temperature and it won’t force your A/C to work overtime, driving up your energy bills.

7. Make your home more energy efficient.

Taking steps to reduce energy waste in your home can lower bills, make your home more comfortable and reduce pollution. After all, the cleanest energy is the energy you never use in the first place. Our guide: How to weatherize your home offers a one-stop-shop with advice on where to start and basic DIY weatherization tips.

Our Citizens Guide to Reducing Energy Waste offers room by room ideas to reduce reduce your energy waste and become more energy efficient in your home.


Johanna Neumann

Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Johanna directs strategy and staff for Environment America's energy campaigns at the local, state and national level. In her prior positions, she led the campaign to ban smoking in all Maryland workplaces, helped stop the construction of a new nuclear reactor on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and helped build the support necessary to pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which set a goal of reducing the state’s per capita electricity use by 15 percent. She also currently serves on the board of Community Action Works. Johanna lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family, where she enjoys growing dahlias, biking and the occasional game of goaltimate. 

Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Abe Scarr is the director of Illinois PIRG and is the PIRG Energy and Utilities Program Director. He is a lead advocate in the Illinois Capitol and in the media for stronger consumer protections, utility accountability, and good government. In 2017, Abe led a coalition to pass legislation to implement automatic voter registration in Illinois, winning unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly for the bill. He has co-authored multiple in-depth reports on Illinois utility policy and leads coalition campaigns to reform the Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. As PIRG's Energy and Utilities Program Director, Abe supports PIRG energy and utility campaigns across the country and leads the national Gas Stoves coalition. He also serves as a board member for the Consumer Federation of America. Abe lives in Chicago, where he enjoys biking, cooking and tending his garden.