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Published August 14, 2011, 12:00 AM

Savvy Consumer: Simple tips for chilling out during summer

Summer has plenty of pleasures to enjoy – but those sweltering, steam-bath-like dog days? Not so much. Follow these stress-free ways to keep your home cool during a hot spell – without sending your electric bill through the roof.

By: Good Housekeeping Reports, INFORUM

Summer has plenty of pleasures to enjoy – but those sweltering, steam-bath-like dog days? Not so much. Follow these stress-free ways to keep your home cool during a hot spell – without sending your electric bill through the roof.

Save on A/C

Direct sun, even through closed windows, can raise indoor temps up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day, causing A/Cs to work up to three times harder. To beat the heat:

- Set the thermostat at 70-75 degrees when you’re home and to 80 degrees when you’re not; don’t turn it off completely before leaving the house (it can actually cost more to cool the house back down once it overheats).

- Position electric devices like lamps, TVs or computers at least a few feet away from your A/C thermostat. The reason: The A/C can sense heat from these appliances, which can cause it to run longer than necessary.

- Place room units on the north side of the house when possible. An A/C unit operating in the shade uses up to 10 percent less electricity than one placed in the sun. For a more long-term fix, plant trees to shade your windows to save as much as 25 percent of the energy a typical home uses.

- Know when to upgrade. In terms of energy use, you may want to consider a new A/C if yours is more than 10 years old (for a window unit) or 12 years old (for central air) – and definitely if it’s not cooling as well as it used to – to shave up to 30 percent off your cooling bill.

Manage moisture

An estimated 50 percent of U.S. homes have unhealthily high levels of moisture. What to do when it’s not the heat but the humidity:

- Move indoor plants outside – they produce a lot of airborne moisture.

- Invest in a dehumidifier. The 70-pint Frigidaire ($193, Amazon.com) zapped humidity best in Good Housekeeping Research Institute tests.

- Run bathroom exhaust fans for a full 20 minutes after a shower or bath to “dry” the air.

Remember: Heat rises

Attics can reach temps of 150 degrees. Take measures to properly insulate this area from the rest of the house: Install sweeps and weather-stripping around the door (about $10 and $8 for a roll, respectively, at hardware stores). For a hatch-style entrance, invest in a stair-insulator cover like the Attic Tent ($200 to $240; AtticTent.com)

to seal it.

Harness the heat

Hot weather isn’t all bad for your electric bill.

- Line-dry clothes outdoors – there’s nothing like that fresh smell! – and skip the dryer (the costliest part of doing laundry).

- Hang towels that are soggy from a day at the beach or pool to dry in the sun over a line, a railing or the back of a chair. Bonus, if towels will be used again before laundering: Solar rays can kill some smell-causing bacteria.

On another matter ...

Speed cleaning: Pet hair

Here’s how to de-fuzz furnishings fast.

From fabrics: The reason fur clings to upholstery: static electricity. Liberally spray furniture with an antistatic spray, like Static Guard ($5 for 5.5 oz.; MyStaticGuard.com). Lightly dampen a pair of rubber gloves with water and rub down the fabric. For delicate fabrics, use the gloves dry.

From floors: Spritz carpeting with antistatic spray. Set your vacuum to the highest level that still skims the carpet, and go over the trail your pet has left. For bare floors, skip the broom; it’s easier to collect them with a dry sweeper, like a Swiffer.

Recalls alert

The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund.

For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, (800) 638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.

- Children’s Task Lamps: Sold at Target stores nationwide and Target.com from January 2011 to April 2011 for about $13.

Lamps may overheat, causing the adhesive inside the lamp socket to melt and migrate into the bulb area of the socket. The cooled glue can adhere to the light bulb base and make the bulb difficult to remove, which can result in a broken light bulb, posing a risk of laceration to consumers. Melted flammable glue that migrates onto the electrical components of the lamp poses a risk of fire.

Customers can return the lamps to Target stores to receive a full refund. For more information, contact Target Guest Relations at (800) 440-0680.

- 2002-2007 Ford E-250; 2002-2007 Ford E-350; 2002-2007 Ford E-450; 2002-2007 Ford E-550; 2002-2005 Ford Excursion; 2004-2011 Ford Ranger: The multi-function switch was shipped with a subcomponent (slider) that may experience deformation, causing the turn signal, taillights, hazard warning signal flashers and/or brake lights not to activate. Non-functioning lights could increase the risk of a crash.

Dealers will replace the switches free of charge. For more information, visit SaferCar.gov.