When in your home set your thermostat to the warmest degrees while still being comfortable. You consume less energy when the weather inside of your house and outside is less drastic. The U.S. Department of Energy says we should keep the thermostat to around 78 degrees in the Summer.
Letting in heat through sunlight will just make your apartment hot and urge you to turn on the Air Conditioner. Closing the blinds and curtains will not allow your apartment to heat up as fast and your 78 degrees apartment will stay at that temperature.
If you run your large appliances like a dishwasher, washer, or dryer, during the day then that will only cause the chances of Peaker plants being activated to increase. Using them at night when no one else is consuming a high level of energy will overall combat the negative effects of the Peaker plants. Running Your Dishwasher at night can actually save you water and money.
A dirty air filter restricts the flow of the HVAC and causes the system to work harder which uses more energy. If the filter is extremely dirty for an extended period, then it can cause the HVAC to heat up, burn out, and then fail.
Since your house will be warmer you can use a ceiling fan to get some air circulating. When you use a ceiling fan you can raise your thermostat by about four degrees before you feel the temperature change.
Going outside is the best way to save energy in your home if you turn everything off before leaving. Make sure to unplug any unnecessary cords and shut off all lights. When leaving your home, you can set your thermostat to the same degrees outside, and then when you get home set it to a cooler temperature. Visit a park for a picnic, go shopping at a mall, grab a bite or do some remote working in a coffeeshop. The possibilities are endless.