The hottest days of summer make your air conditioning unit work the hardest. Here are ways to lower utility bills, save energy, increase comfort and maximize efficiency when your A/C needs the most help to keep you cool. 1. Call an HVAC Professional Each central air conditioning unit should be inspected, cleaned and tuned by a licensed, bonded and insured HVAC Professional before the hot season begins. 2. Check your filters Check the air filter once per month and replace it as needed. This is especially important during the summer when dust and allergens circulate. If the filter becomes clogged, your system will have to work harder to supply the same amount of cool air. Replacing filters is one of the easiest and most effective methods of conserving energy and saving money on your HVAC usage. And much like changing the oil in your car, it’s a critical step in maintaining your system’s long-term health. 3. Keep your A/C in the shade Air conditioners with proper shading can run more efficiently. Air in a shaded space is cooler than the surrounding air, meaning the A/C will have an easier time cooling the air. 4. Don’t let your thermostat take the heat Don’t place lamps, TV sets, or other heat-producing appliances near your thermostat. The thermostat senses the heat causing the air conditioner to run longer than necessary. When installing a new thermostat, don’t place it in a location where the sun might shine on it directly. 5. Do touch that dial to save some money Remember that each degree you dial below 78 increases your energy consumption by about 8 percent. If your monthly electric bill is about $100, you’ll save $8 a month with EACH degree you can stand above 78. 6. Consider a programmed response If it’s hard to remember to tweak your thermostat before you leave for work, consider investing in a programmable or smart thermostat or a timer for your window unit. 7. Is it time to replace your HVAC model? You may find your old air conditioner is no longer efficient. Consider replacing your unit with an energy-efficient model. They’re usually more expensive but thanks to federal tax credits and competitive prices, the prices are falling, and because they use less energy, you save in the long run, too. When replacing your A/C, look for a properly sized unit. If you install an A/C that is too large, it will cycle on and off — reducing the efficiency of the system. 8. Weatherize so you don’t cool the whole neighborhood You want your cold air to stay in and hot air to stay out. Some basic weatherization steps can prevent air loss when you need cool air the most. Seal air leaks with caulking and weather-stripping. Add insulation around air conditioning ducts. 9. Watch the pavement and mind the landscaping Avoid landscaping with lots of rock, cement, or asphalt on the south or west sides of your home. If it’s not shaded, it will increase the temperature around the house and radiate heat. 10. Look out for debris Keep plants, shrubs, and other landscaping about 2 to 4 feet away from your outdoor unit to ensure adequate airflow. 11. Feel the breeze from your fans If your home has ceiling fans, switch your ceiling fan to run counterclockwise in the summer. That will push the cool air down. You can run a ceiling fan half the day for about $1.50 a month, compared to $25 for an air conditioner. 12. Install window film to save energy A great home improvement idea is to install home window film or tint to the insides of your windows. Not only can it help keep your house cooler in the summer, but also warmer in the winter.