Temperatures might be warming up, but that does not mean your home energy bills have to head for the rafters during the summer months.

"Cooling your house accounts for about 50 percent of your energy use in the summer," said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. "The good news is there are several easy, low- or no-cost strategies you can use to reduce your bill."

Knowing how to efficiently operate your thermostat can play a role in decreasing your energy bill. One of the simplest strategies is to set the thermostat to 78 degrees.

"While you are at work or sleeping, you can adjust the thermostat even higher. Similarly, if you're going to be away from the house for extended periods, you can set the temperature a few degrees higher to save energy," said Peek. "Programmable thermostats can make controlling your home's temperature easy."

It helps if your house is equipped with ceiling fans because you can boost the thermostat about 4° F without losing any comfort, said Sonya McDaniel, Pottawatomie County Extension Educator.

"Just remember fans cool people, not rooms. They work by wind chill, so it's important to turn them off when you leave the room," McDaniel said.

Also, make sure furniture or other items are not interfering with airflow from the registers. Be mindful of placing items such as lamps and televisions near the thermostat. If the thermostat picks up the heat from appliances and electronics, it could cause the air conditioner to run longer.

Keep in mind, turning the thermostat to a colder than normal setting could negatively affect your energy bill.

"The house won't cool any faster if you set the thermostat lower than normal," said McDaniel. "In fact, it may end up making it too cold in the house and, in the process, you could end up inflating your energy costs."

Two more energy-saving strategies include sealing leaky doors, windows, cracks or other openings to keep hot air from seeping inside, as well as cutting down on activities that may generate increased heat in your home.

"Use a microwave, grill or the stovetop to cook meals on hot days rather than turning on the oven," McDaniel said. "Even stereos, televisions and computers contribute to the amount of heat in the house, so by paying attention to activities such as running the dishwasher or doing laundry you can control your summertime home energy use."

Finally, consider installing window coverings such as drapes, blinds or awnings to block the heat. According to www.energy.gov, window treatments can lower energy use in your house, and can be a less expensive alternative than buying new energy-efficient windows.

For more information on how to save on your energy bill, contact your local county extension office.

Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.