NEW YORK - The government is predicting that it won't be as hot this summer as it was last year. But you'll probably still have the air conditioner going full blast at your small business. And you could probably shave money off your electric bill without much effort.

If you take some steps now, you can save a lot. And the things you do to cut your cooling costs now will save money when it gets colder and you turn the heat on.

Get a new thermostat and some fans: If you do not have a programmable thermostat, get one. You can set it so the air conditioner goes on half an hour or an hour before your staff gets to work. And it can shut down automatically when it is time for everyone to go home.

Consider buying fans or air circulators as well. They are inexpensive, and they can help move cool air around an office. They can be particularly helpful if you have window or wall air conditioners rather than a central system where the cool air comes out of several ducts.

Get your equipment serviced: You will spend more to run it if your unit has not been checked and cleaned. The last thing you want is to have it die on you at the hottest part of the summer.

Do not assume that because you had the air-conditioning serviced at the start of summer you are done. Energy consultants recommend that filters for air-conditioning units be changed at least monthly.

If your unit is on its last legs, consider replacing it now. You can probably get a good price from an appliance dealer because many small companies are still being careful about spending.

Be sure that all your equipment is running efficiently. Electricity rates are higher during the summer. So it costs more to run your lights and computers and, if you have a factory, your manufacturing equipment. If they are working well, it will cost you less.

If you are buying any new equipment, make sure it is the most energy-efficient you can get. The government's Energy Star website,, has advice on how to find appliances that help you save on electric bills.

Fill those cracks and crevices: Cracks in your walls or crevices between floorboards are costing you money. In the winter, you will feel the cold drafts. But warm air that comes into your air-conditioned space is not as jarring. Look around your entire premises for spots that need caulking or filling and get it done. If your window sashes do not shut tight, get foam-pellet-filled snakes to block the air flow.

Need more ideas? The Internet has plenty of sites with information about how to save energy in your business:

The Small Business Administration has energy saving tips at

State government websites may also have information. Here's the address for Oklahoma's:

Many utilities also have tips. Here's the Georgia Power site for businesses: