Stay cool with some summer energy-saving tips

With spring winding to a close, suburbanites and city folk will soon start prepping their places for simmering summertime temperatures. For most, this process begins with a few thermostat adjustments or maybe some quality time with a clunky, precariously balanced window unit.

This year, add energy-saving tasks to your pre-summer to-do list. By making some simple household tweaks, you can stave off the heat and improve your home's energy efficiency.

Watch the windows
Drafty windows are a year-round problem. They allow heat to escape in the winter and discharge air conditioning in the summer. So, make sure to check your windows for air leakage. If you encounter this problem, seal up the openings with caulk. According to the Department of Energy, caulk works for stationary cracks up to one-quarter of an inch wide. Weather stripping is also a good option. However, be prepared to commit more time and money if you decide to go in this direction.

You might also consider making some energy-saving design changes. Draperies effectively deflect sunlight and cool down rooms. Medium-colored sets with plastic backing are your best bet. In fact, studies show that these particular drapes cut interior heat gains by more than 30 percent.

Maximize efficiency with accessories
Air conditioning units can't do it all. So, take a trip to your local home improvement store and pick up some essential house-cooling accessories. Kick off your shopping spree by purchasing a ceiling fan or two. But, be warned: fan misinformation is rampant.

For example, some experts tell homeowners that these fans can effectively cool rooms in lieu of air conditioning. Unfortunately, this just isn't true, reported Gizmodo. Ceiling fans cool people, not spaces. These wind generators are definitely effective in stuffy areas packed with humans, but don't deploy them in empty rooms expecting an extreme cool down.

Programmable thermostats are also a good option. According to the EPA, these digital wonders can save you around 10 percent on your annual heating and cooling costs. However, try not to switch off the air conditioning when leaving the house. This strategy may sound like an obvious money-saving hack, but in reality it requires your unit to expend extra energy re-cooling an entire home.

It might also do you some good to switch out your sheets, reported The Huffington Post. When the heat hits, stow those flannel or t-shirt textiles and nab some cool cotton. Additionally, think about trading in your current pillows for a pair stuffed with buckwheat hulls. These breathable cushions provide great support and won't stick to your body during extra humid nights.

Cook to get cool
Kitchens can get hot during mealtime. So, as temperatures rise, adopt some novel meal preparation techniques. Start by making cooling meals like gazpacho and salad. If you need to cook some protein, do it outside with a charcoal or gas grill. If you must cook indoors, use the microwave or the stove top instead of the oven, reported the California Energy Commission.     

Work with what you've got
Sometimes it's best to leave behind the cooling equipment and deal with the heat on your own by making a few simple summer lifestyle changes. If you've got a basement, try spending more time below. Additionally, turn off the lights, especially if you use incandescent light bulbs. These bulbs use up to 90 percent of their energy through heat emission.

When it's bedtime, prepare by dampening your sheets with some cold water or placing a frozen hot water bottle at the foot of the bed. Before you bed down, open your windows to let in cooling outside air.