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By Kara Reinhardt and Raechel Conover

As summer officially starts, temperatures are breaking records in the Northeast and the national weather map appears bathed in bright red. If you’re sweating out the heat without air conditioning, here are some of Cheapism’s top picks for affordable ACs.

  • The Kenmore 70051 (starting at $160) may be all you need for a small space of 150 square feet or so. Reviewers say it’s easy to install and use and it doesn’t skimp on features. (Where to buy)
  • The Frigidaire LRA074AT7 (starting at $159) is exclusive to Lowe’s and can cool up to 250 square feet. Both consumers and experts call it quiet and effective in online reviews. (Where to buy)
  • The LG LW8012ER (starting at $219) is equipped to handle about 350 square feet. Consumers praised the performance of last year’s model and have greeted this one with similar acclaim. (Where to buy)

All these air conditioners are efficient enough to earn the government’s Energy Star rating. Below are some additional tips for keeping a lid on energy costs this summer.

Turn off the air when you leave the house. All the air conditioners on the above list come with timers, so you can set them to turn off automatically at the time you usually leave for work.

Keep curtains and shutters closed. During the day this keeps the sun from streaming directly in. If it’s still warm, invest in dark or heat-blocking curtains -- a cash outlay, yes, but potentially cheaper than several months of steep AC bills.  

Don’t leave windows open. Except at night. That’s right -- open your windows at night to let in cooler air. Then shut them first thing in the morning (preferably before the sun comes up).

Hang wet sheets in front of windows. Some summer nights just don’t cool down and the house still feels suffocating. Apartment Therapy puts forward a novel idea: wetting sheets and hanging them in front of open windows. The outside air blowing in through the wet sheets creates a cooling effect that’s much cheaper than air conditioning.

Create cross ventilation. To do this, turn on several fans and experiment with placement to generate the best cross breeze. If you have windows on opposite sides of a room, position one fan to pull air into the house and another to push hot air out.

Turn off and unplug everything. Every appliance (big and small) puts out some heat when it’s running. If you aren’t using an appliance, turn it off and unplug it. Additionally, avoid using big appliances when it’s really hot outside. Cook on the grill instead of the stove and hang laundry out to dry instead of running the dryer.

Hang out in the coolest parts of the house. If you’re home during the day, beat the heat by staying out of it. The basement will undoubtedly be cooler than the upstairs, so park down there if you have the option. In the late afternoon, when the sun hits the west side of the house, move to a room on the east side.

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