Summer days in St. Louis mean fun in the sun and long relaxing days spent poolside, but let’s not forget about one very common, and expensive, aspect of summertime – cooling costs.After a long day outside, there’s nothing more inviting than the idea of “chilling out” in your living room with an ice cold glass of lemonade. But, when you add up the costs of chilling out, there’s nothing “chill” about it!Cooling your home has become a taboo subject for homeowners; sure, you want to be comfortable, but you also want to be able to pay the bill when it comes. There’s a happy medium folks, and none of it involves being sweaty and unable to pay your bills. If you’re ready to cool your home without breaking the bank, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for tips on how to cool your home and efficient ways to cut energy costs.Maximize Your Thermostat & Air Conditioning UnitIf you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, now is the time to invest in one! If you do already have one, put it to use – adjust the settings to higher temperatures at night and during the daytime hours when nobody is home.Air conditioners located in shady spaces use less electricity, thus keeping energy bills affordable. To shade your air conditioning unit, surround it with trees and shrubs; as you’re planting, be sure not to block air-flow!While you’re at it, make sure you’re changing your air filters on a monthly basis during the Summer months.Keep Cool with Insulation & BarriersDecorate your windows with black-out shades, drapes, and blinds. Black-out window treatments direct heat away from your home, and can keep indoor temperatures up to 10 degrees cooler!Add fresh caulk and weather stripping around windows and doors to keep cool air in, and hot air out.Are your air conditioning ducts located in an unconditioned space (attic, crawl space, garage, etc.)? If so, consider adding insulation around the ducts.Unplug, Disconnect & Update AppliancesWhen you’re not using your computer, turn it off – this is a huge energy saver, folks!Plug high-powered home electronics, like your television and DVD players, into power strips, then power them off when not in use.Update old, outdated appliances with more efficient ENERGY STARKeep lamps, televisions, and other high-energy producing items away from your thermostat. Why? Well, the heat from these appliances cause air conditioners to show higher temperatures, meaning your unit has to work harder and longer to get the temperature in your home to a comfortable level.Embrace Energy-Efficient LandscapingThere’s not much you can do about the angle of your home – you just have to embrace the way the sun reflects! However, you can still block some of the rays by installing awnings on south-facing exterior windows and planting trees in front of west-facing windows.Speaking of trees… Did you know that planting just three threes around your home can save up to $250 every year? It’s true; their shade keeps temperatures around your home between three and six degrees cooler! To save a few bucks, and enhance your curb appeal, plant a few trees on the south and west sides of your home.Tree Tip: Be careful though – the more trees you have in your yard, the higher your risk is for getting clogged gutters and water damage. To keep both of these nightmares at bay, regularly maintain your gutters and downspouts, and always check your home for leaks after a heavy storm.Make Little Changes for a Big DifferenceRather than relying on your dishwasher’s drying cycle, air dry your dishes.Reduce the temperature on your hot water heater; for most, 115° is more than comfortable.Think light bulbs don’t make a big difference? Think again! Go through your home and replace every incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb. Using a fifth of the amount of energy and heat, Compact fluorescent bulbs produce the same amount of light as those non-energy efficient incandescent bulbs. Make the switch, today!