WASHINGTON - The high temperatures of summer don't have to mean high energy bills, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA's Energy Star program offers advice on ways to keep cool with energy-efficient products and practices.

"Every person can make a difference this summer," EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said. "When we use less energy as a nation, we preserve our energy resources, save money for American families, and help protect our environment."

The average family spends $1,500 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling, according to the EPA. To help homeowners protect against high energy bills, contractors can pass along to their customers the following EPA tips:

  • Look for the Energy Star label on products such as ceiling fans and programmable thermostats.

  • Schedule an annual checkup for your central air conditioner, and check or replace the air filter once a month.

  • Replace an old or broken-down central air conditioner or heat pump with new, high efficiency equipment. Homeowners can save as much as 20 percent on annual energy costs if this new equipment is properly sized and installed, along with properly sealed and insulated ducts.

  • Seal up gaps and cracks in your home "envelope" (basement, attic, around doors and windows). Add insulation if needed. This will help reduce energy bills throughout the winter, too.

  • Get informed. For more on year-round improvements to make a home more energy efficient, review the EPA's "Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling" on the Energy Star Web site at www.energystar.gov/cooling.

    Publication date: 06/13/2005