Air conditioning tips: How to stay cool in the summer heat

Brutal heat has been beating down on the U.S., and across the globe, with high temperatures reaching above 90 degrees -- and in some cases over 100 -- recently in cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, and Atlanta. When extreme heat strikes, the best place to be is inside somewhere -- anywhere -- with air conditioning. And, indeed, the vast majority of Americans can cool off in their own homes. Seventy-five percent of U.S. households have air conditioners according to the Department of Energy. So how can you get the most out of your unit and stay cool?

HOW LOW SHOULD YOU GO?

"So, an air conditioner is not a refrigerator," says Jerry Hall, the owner of Assured Comfort. "The lowest I believe an air conditioner should be set is 68 degrees."

WINDOWS AND PLANTS

The sun's rays coming through your windows is one of the ways your house absorbs heat.. When choosing landscaping, consider planting trees that provide shade near a window, Martin says. Drapes and blinds in lighter colors are also good picks to help keep the heat out.

But while having beautiful plants inside your home may boost your home's zen factor, believe it or not, too many will increase moisture and your home's humidity level according to Jerry.

GENERAL MAINTENANCE

Performing general maintenance on your unit isn't the most fun activity, but on hot days, you'll be glad you did.

Longer cycles of your air conditioning system running on and off, noises, water leaks from condensation and equipment vibrations are all signs that it may need servicing.

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