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There are simple and inexpensive steps you can take to help you save energy and money during the summer months.

SUN BLOCK. Half of all of the heat that enters your home comes in through the windows. Closing curtains, blinds and shades will keep the sun's hot rays out of your house. Save up to 15 percent on your cooling bill by shading west-facing windows, which absorb the most afternoon sun. For the hottest parts of your house, consider installing an awning or planting trees in front of the window to shade the house.

QUICK CHANGE. A filter for your air conditioning system costs only dollars (about $5) per month during the summer. Dirty air conditioning filters prevent air flow and make the air conditioning system work harder. That means a higher bill.

ONE DEGREE. For every degree you turn your thermostat up during air conditioning season, you'll save up to 2 percent on your cooling costs. Try setting your thermostat at 78 degrees, and turn on a fan to help circulate the air. Fans don't cool the air, but they will make the air feel cooler.

MICROWAVE. Heat up food, not the house. A microwave is much more efficient and quicker at heating things up than an oven.

COOL TOUCH. Replace every incandescent light bulb in your house with an LED fixture. The LED bulbs cost more than incandescent bulbs, but they use less than one-tenth of the energy and will pay for themselves and then some over their lifetime. Plus, they emit far less heat than incandescent bulbs, so they don't add heat to your home's air or make the air conditioner work harder.

SOLAR POWER. Solar power your laundry. Skip the dryer and go for an old fashioned clothes line. You can't beat free from the sun.