Nearly 3 out of every 4 American enjoy some sort of air conditioning in their homes, but cranking it up all the time only uses more electricity and raises your utility bills. If you're concerned about paying too much for your AC but still want to feel cooler in those hot summer months, consider some of these alternative ways to do just that. Here are 5 ways you can cheat the heat without cranking up the AC all day and night.

#1  Use What Nature Gives You

Instead of artificially chilling the air in your home overnight, just use what nature has given you right outside. If you live where nighttime temperatures dip into the low 70s or cooler, turn off the AC and fling open all your windows.  To help pump that free air into your home, put a fan in front of one open window to draw the cool night air in. Or, look into installing a whole house fan to cool your home using cool air directly from outdoors.

#2  Cover Your Windows All Day

There's a reason greenhouses are made of glass – to let in sunlight and heat and keep it there. This same phenomenon is also happening at the windows of your home. When heat enters through the window glass, it raises the temperature in your home. To get around this, keep your windows covered all day, as long as the sun is up, especially on the windows facing south and west. Light-colored blinds and curtains work better than dark ones because they reflect the heat away rather than absorb it.

#3  Provide Exterior Shade

To better protect your home from the hot sun, provide a source of exterior shade, especially over the windows. In addition to window coverings, window awnings add an extra layer of protection by reducing solar heat gain up to 65%. If awnings are too expensive for you, trees planted in strategic spots outside your window work just as effectively and do not fade or deteriorate over time. Not only do trees help shade your home, but they add beauty to your yard.

#4  Use Appliances in the Evening

Like windows, appliances are another big source of unsolicited heat. Your oven especially emits a lot of heat, as well as the clothes dryer and dishwasher. To avoid extra heat during the day, try to use your appliances at night when it's cooler. For example, turn on the dishwasher when you go to bed and let it run overnight. Instead of using the oven, cook outside on a grill and let the heat remain outdoors where it belongs. Finally, while you cannot escape using your clothes dryer completely, line-dry items when possible and run the dryer at night. Keep the lint filter clean to boost its efficiency.

#5  Approach Your AC Wisely

Don't look at your AC as the enemy; approach it wisely and use it to your advantage. If you don't already have one, install a programmable thermostat to automatically raise or lower your AC temps for you. While you are home, your AC can keep the air cooler for your comfort but automatically raise it a few degrees when you are gone for the day. These automatic adjustments will increase the efficiency of your AC and help keep utility costs down.

Also, manually turn on your fan at the thermostat. This distributes cooler air around your home and helps you feel cooler by circulating air inside your home. Changing the filter in the AC regularly helps increase its efficiency. Consider having your AC unit serviced and have repairs made to help it run more efficiently. For more information, contact companies like A-1 American Services.