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Consumer Reports: How to pinch pennies on your electric bill

Just about everything costs more right now, so here are some simple tips to cut utility costs without sacrificing comfort.

CLEVELAND — Just about everything costs more right now, and that goes for groceries, supplies, and anything and everything related to our homes, including energy bills. Experts at Consumer Reports share some simple tips to cut utility costs without sacrificing comfort.

As we head into the hottest months of the year, it's important to keep in mind that 13% of a home's energy costs are for cooling. To take some heat off your electric bill, adjust your thermostat settings. It's one of the simplest and most significant things you can do to keep your energy bills under control.

Even better, a programmable or smart thermostat can actually lower cooling and heating bills by as much as 10% a year. Most smart thermostats use Wi-Fi and allow you to control your central air and heat with your smartphone. Some even learn your routine—when you're home and when you're away—along with your temperature preferences so you can customize your cooling and heating schedule.

CR recommends the Honeywell Home T9 RCHT9510WF Thermostat for $200 ($200 in Canada). It includes a sensor to measure temperature and humidity.

Some simple changes around your home can also help lower your bill. For instance, keep your blinds and shades closed during the day to keep the sun from heating up the house.

Ceiling fans have been popular for generations, and for good reason: They can actually help to save money. They cost very little to run, and when used with your air conditioning, you can actually raise your thermostat by about four degrees and feel just as cool. And if you're buying one, fans with the Energy Star label are 60% more efficient than conventional fan/light units.

Take time to plug cracks around windows and doors, and repair any leaky A/C ductwork to make sure your cool air isn't leaking out.

Finally, try not to use your oven. Along with using energy, it also heats up the kitchen. If you really need to bake, try to use a CR top-rated toaster oven or air fryer. They're an affordable, money-saving option and heat up more quickly. Even better, get outside and grill!

If you decide to add a smart or programmable thermostat to your house, CR suggests you check with your utility company to see whether it offers any incentives or even a free thermostat.

    

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