Cut down on costs when the temperature heats up! Warmer temperatures and longer days are here, signaling the return of a summer we’ve all waited many long months for. Along with special summertime staples like trips to the pool, lazy afternoons and all the watermelon you can eat, the hottest time of the year can also leave you with cooling bills that could make you sweat. Thankfully, when the days start heating up, there are tried-and-true strategies you can implement to help keep your energy bills down while your AC unit works overtime to cool your home. Here are six ways to save a little energy and keep your bills from burning a hole in your wallet this summer.

INSULATE WINDOW AND DOOR CRACKS. Just like drafts in winter, heat will take advantage of any openings in window and door frames to steal its way into your home. A quick fix to keep the cool air in and the hot air out is adding weatherstripping tape to fill those pesky gaps. Gain extra protection from the elements by installing sweeps at the bottom of all doors and caulking around windows. Don’t forget to inspect attic and basement doors as well to see if any cool air might be escaping.

FIRE UP THE FANS. AC units and fans go together like peanut butter and chocolate — you can have one without the other, but they’re much better together. To make the most of the pairing, switch fans on so they can keep air circulating around the house, which lifts some of the burden off your AC unit. Plugged-in fans excel when directed low to the ground to head off hot air before it can rise. Now is the perfect time to make sure your ceiling fans are chugging along in the right direction — counter-clockwise for summer, which forces air downward.

UPDATE YOUR THERMOSTATS. As the temperature climbs, don’t forget to optimize your thermostats’ scheduling function for summer. The goal is to keep your AC unit from working so hard during the hottest part of the day, so try pre-cooling your home before the afternoon heats up. Keep comfortable while also giving your HVAC system a bit of a break between the peak hours of 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. If your thermostat doesn’t offer scheduling, make a habit of turning the dial each morning, or consider upgrading to a smart thermostat, which may increase your property value as an added bonus.

CASH IN ON TAX BENEFITS. When home improvements and energy-saving habits benefit the city by easing up on power demands, sometimes the city will share the savings through rebates and incentives. Check with your city or energy provider about cash rebates for small tweaks, like installing smart thermostats, or tax credits for larger projects like modernizing insulation and adding solar panels.

GET CREATIVE WITH SHADES. Natural light can be a blessing in the doldrums of winter but a liability in the summer heat. Minimize its effects on your cooling bill by installing shades to your windows and doors. From blinds and curtains to interior shutters (built-ins can boost your home’s value!), keeping your windows covered keeps the heat out. Also, when it comes to shade, don’t forget to think outside your home as well. Structures like pergolas, gazebos, patio covers and even sun sails not only block the sun’s rays in your yard, but can also reduce the heat that reaches your home’s interior as well, depending on placement. The same goes for Mother Nature’s original sun shades — trees!

CLEAN AIR CONDITIONING VENTS AND UNITS. To keep your HVAC system running lean and mean, give the units and vents a little TLC with an annual deep clean. Hose off the outdoor elements of your system to get it free of debris, and give all interior vents a wipe down to remove any trapped lint or pet hair. Sticking to a regular schedule of switching out your filters (many HVAC manufacturers recommend monthly filter swaps) can help your AC run as efficiently as possible. And, just like your car needs regular tune-ups, your HVAC system can benefit from a little maintenance each year before the mercury starts to climb.