PhotoWith the eastern half of the country in the grip of a summer heat wave, staying cool and keeping energy bills under control become twin, if not conflicting, priorities.

But there are some simple things you can do. For example, close air conditioning registers in unused rooms and keep the doors to those rooms closed. This will reduce the amount of energy your air conditioner will use to maintain your home's temperature.

Make sure heat-producing appliances are not near wall-mounted thermostats. Doing so will make your air conditioner run longer than necessary to maintain your preferred temperature.

Turn up the thermostat a bit

When it gets really hot outside, try to stand a little more warmth inside. When the temperature rises, set your air conditioners a few degrees warmer. Every degree you add to your interior temperature in the summer can reduce your energy usage by up to three percent.

Lighting adds to interior heat, and here's where phasing out incandescent light bulbs can help save money. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), since CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and they produce less heat.

If you have already had a seasonal HVAC tune-up your air conditioner will run more efficiently. And if you haven't done so lately, replace the filter on the air handler.

Blot out the sun

This is not the time of year you want the sun to shine in. Close drapes or blinds on windows that receive direct sunlight. Blocking the sun's rays reduces the temperature in your home, which means your air conditioner has less work to do.

If your home has an attached garage, keep your garage door closed during the hottest hours of the day.  This can reduce the amount of cool air that might escape, resulting in less work for your air conditioner.

Locate window air conditioning units where they will be in the shade during the hottest hours of the day. Keeping the sun off your window air conditioner will reduce its workload and increase your energy efficiency.

In the kitchen, cook with the microwave instead of the oven. Eating salads and other food that doesn't need to be cooked will make you feel cooler while producing less heat in the house.

Run kitchen and bath exhaust fans only as long as necessary to remove odors or steam from the room. Leaving a fan running will pull cool air from your home, increasing its temperature.

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