9 ways to cool down air-conditioning costs
Improve plantings around your house
"Most heat that accumulates inside a house comes directly from the sun shining onto the roof or through windows, and heating the house directly," says John Krigger, owner of Saturn Resource Management, which offers energy conservation training in Helena, Mont.
Planting leafy trees around the building's exterior will stop the sun from reaching inside your home. "Even for the cost of going to the nursery and buying a 15- to 20-foot-tall tree, trees are still the best value," Krigger says.
If the trees or shrubs shade your air conditioner, you could boost your AC's efficiency by up to 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.