Summertime brings fun in the sun, longer daylight hours, and one caveat: hotter temperatures means running the air conditioner and increased energy bills. The American Lighting Association (ALA) shares three easy solutions that budget-conscious households can use to immediately save money.

1. Read Your Labels

Before you purchase another light bulb, lighting fixture or ceiling fan, look for the Energy Star® label. Those products have undergone rigorous testing and meet the government’s strictest new guidelines for energy efficiency.

All of the Energy Star products have easy-to-read consumer guides right on the box. At a home center or large retailer, you’ll have to read the packages carefully when comparison shopping. However, a trip to your local lighting showroom will provide all of the information you need to make an informed decision.

2. Ceiling Fans Are Your BFF

“In summer, it’s possible to turn your thermostat to 78 degrees and if you’re using a ceiling fan, the comfort level would be the same as if the thermostat were at 72,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design. “Obviously, you could turn off the AC and only use the fan. Just remember to turn off fans in rooms that aren’t occupied to avoid wasting energy.”

Adds Cliff Crimmings, vice president/marketing for Craftmade International of Coppell, Texas, “Ceiling fans are a great way to make any space more comfortable, add a decorator touch, and save energy at the same time. It circulates the air around, taking away heat in the process. The small expense of running a ceiling fan compared to running an AC compressor results in saving hundreds of dollars per year in energy bills.”

“Before purchasing a fan, do your homework,” Crimmings advises. How large is the room? How high is the ceiling? Do you want the fan to blend in with the ceiling or become a major component in the décor? Would you like it to have a light that will take the place of a lighting fixture? Would you prefer to operate it via a remote control or with a wall switch? “These are all important things to think about, because your fan will last for years. All ceiling fans, because of their design and low energy consumption, will start to save you money from day one; the new Energy Star-qualified models will increase those savings even more,” Crimmings says.

3. Choose the Right Light Source

“Since lighting accounts for approximately 20 percent of a home’s energy cost, changing the most frequently used lights to more efficient fluorescent versions can make a tremendous difference,” explains Terry McGowan, ALA’s director of engineering and technology and the owner of Lighting Ideas in Cleveland. “The key is to consider the hours of use – the savings are greater and bulb life is longer when fluorescent lighting remains on for longer periods of time.”

You may have received a CFL in the mail from your electric company or purchased them on sale at a home center or mass retailer and been disappointed in the quality. According to Rey-Barreau, finding the right compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) for your needs requires a little know-how. “All incandescent bulbs have approximately the same color quality. Therefore, when you buy an exact replacement for your 60-watt incandescent, the color quality will always look the same,” he says. “With CFLs, the process is more complicated. A CFL produces about four times the light for the same amount of energy as an incandescent. To find the CFL that will produce the same amount of light as your existing incandescent, divide the wattage by four.” For example, to replace a 100-watt incandescent, you need a 25-watt CFL.

Then there’s the matter of color. “CFLs are available in three colors, and are often described as warm, neutral, and cool. The warm color will usually be the closest to incandescent,” Rey-Barreau reveals.

“By far the easiest way to find the right CFL for your home is to go to a lighting showroom,” Rey-Barreau explains. “Many have lightboxes that allow you to try out different models and compare them directly to incandescent bulbs and to each other.”

Using CFLs in a room that is also lit with incandescents can offer the best visual balance while saving money. “Light layering is an excellent technique,” McGowan states. “There are situations where CFLs and standard incandescent lamps can be mixed so that lighting quality is enhanced. A lighting showroom can help you see this for yourself.”

When replacing incandescents with CFLs, it’s important to consider the application. “CFLs are not ideal for all locations,” cautions Craig Wright, product manager for Progress Lighting of Greenville, S.C. “For example, decorative fixtures with shades pointing downward [or in chandeliers] will reveal the bulb to the living space, which could possibly increase glare and detract from the ambience.” In those cases, using controls such as dimmers and occupancy sensors for incandescent bulbs will help minimize energy use.

For more information about energy efficient lighting options visit a Hortons Home Lighting showroom with trained lighting and ceiling fan professionals on staff and more variety than home centers.