From a news release issued by Alliant Energy:

“Higher summer temperatures and humidity levels mean higher electric bills. This is a direct result of the increased use of air conditioning and other appliances,” says Tim Heinrich, Director of Customer Support Services for Alliant Energy. “However, there are many free and low-cost ways to stay cool and comfortable this summer – while keeping electricity costs in check.”

Customers utilizing window air conditioners may want to consider using a timer to turn on the air conditioner half an hour before returning home rather than running it while you’re gone. Be sure to keep the filters clean to maximize performance. If possible, locate the unit in a window that is most central to the area you are cooling and on the shadiest side of the building. Customers in the market for a new window air conditioner should make sure it is the proper size; it’s better to get one that’s too small than too large. A larger unit will start up and turn off more frequently and won’t be as effective at dehumidifying the air.

For customers with central air conditioners, Alliant Energy suggests keeping them well maintained to ensure peak efficiency. That means scheduling yearly maintenance and regularly checking the refrigerant charge as well as indoor and outdoor air coils.

Setting back thermostats or using a programmable thermostat during long periods of time, such as at night while you are sleeping or during the day when no one is home, allows homeowners to save energy without having to sacrifice comfort. Resist the urge to override the pre-programmed settings. Every time you do, you use more energy and may end up paying more on your energy bill.

Used in combination with your air conditioner, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise your thermostat setting without reducing your comfort. The airflow produced by the ceiling fan creates a wind-chill effect, making you feel cooler. Be sure to turn the fan off when you’re not in the room to save energy – ceiling fans cool people, not rooms.

Finally, the less you use air conditioning, the less electricity you use. If you keep your windows closed to keep humidity out while the air conditioning is off, a well insulated home should only rise a few degrees throughout the day while you’re not home.

Alliant Energy offers a few additional tips for customers to save energy and reduce electric bills, by:

* Keeping window blinds and shades closed during the day.

* Grilling outside or cooking with microwaves instead of conventional ovens.

* Using the dishwasher only when it’s fully loaded. If available, use the dishwasher’s energy-saving features such as partial-load setting and no-heat drying cycle.

* Replacing incandescent light bulbs, which generate heat, with more energy efficient fluorescent bulbs as they consume less energy and last longer.

* Considering whether maintaining a second refrigerator or freezer unit is worth the additional $150 dollars it costs a year to run. If so, place the extra unit in the basement where it is naturally cooler so the appliance will not have to cycle as frequently.

For additional information on how to become more energy efficient year-round, Alliant Energy encourages customers to contact Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, by calling 1(800)762.7077 or visiting