You can make simple changes to keep energy bills down and help your air conditioner to not have to work overtime to control your indoor temperatures this summer.  Here are 11 ways to control your summer cooling costs:

1.  Don't place lamps or other heat producing appliances near your thermostat.  The thermostat senses the heat, and this causes the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.  

2.  Turn your thermostat down if you will be gone during the day.  Better yet, consider investing in a programmable thermostat.

3.  Make sure you clean or replace your air filter regularly.  For home with "high traffic"  (kids, dogs, neighbor kids, neighbor dogs, construction in the neighborhood...), a monthly filter change is recommended.  Make a mental note to change the filter when you pay your monthly utility bill.

4.  Put some shade over your a/c (condenser) unit.  Air in a shaded space is cooler than the surrounding air, which means that the A/C has an easier time cooling the air.  Be careful not to restrict the air, though.

5.  Keep plants, shrubs, and other landscaping about two to four feet away from your condenser (outdoor unit).  This will give adequate air flow for the system.

6.  Take advantage of energy-efficient equipment and their accompanying federal tax credits and local rebates.  This applies to new windows, air conditioners, and other appliances.

7.  Keep the cold air in by sealing leaks with caulking and weather-stripping.  Add insulation around air conditioning ducts.

8.  Use fluorescent and LED lighting to reduce lighting loads.  

9.  Turn off ceiling fans.  

10.  Keep bedroom doors open.  

11.  Keep registers open.