With the cost of living increasing and warm weather approaching in Utah, a national organization is offering some advice on how to keep costs down during the hot summer months.

Nationwide, buildings represent 40 percent of energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a news release Tuesday by the Atlanta-based American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

More than 80 percent of homes in the United States have air conditioning, and some 16 percent of residential electricity use is for room and central unit air conditioning, the society said.

"Saving energy translates into money savings for homeowners," said the society's president, Kent Peterson. "In addition, saving energy is beneficial on a global scale, since we face dwindling energy reserves."

Max Sherman, a distinguished fellow with the group, said homeowners can take steps to make their houses more energy efficient.

He advised people to set the air-conditioning thermostat at 76 degrees or above during the day and move it a few degrees higher at night. Installing ceiling fans is also a good way to stay cooler indoors, he said, or use whole house ventilators to avoid running the air conditioner.

People should also clean or change furnace filters every month or two and have the system maintained according to manufacturer's instructions. He said dirty filters, coils and fans reduce airflow, which decreases performance.

Sherman said making adjustments could reduce energy consumption 5 to 50 percent, depending upon the changes made. Caulk, weather stripping or spray-in foams around windows, doors, exterior walls or between spaces such as garages, basements and crawl spaces can also lower energy use.

"If you talk about insulating a home that has not been insulated, you could cut energy consumption in half," Sherman said. "Caulking or weather stripping could save 10 percent, or setting up your thermostat could save you 10 to 15 percent."

Insulation can be blown into wall cavities, especially in older homes. If siding is replaced, a layer of exterior insulation should be added.

Other suggestions include using kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely and installing a timer switch to limit the time an exhaust fan is on.

Closing drapes or shades on the east, south and west windows during the day can prevent the sun from heating a room. Also, shade or drapery material should be reflective on the side facing the window.

Sherman said air ducts should be checked for leaks. When using duct tape to repair and seal ducts, use tape with the Underwriters Lab logo that doesn't degrade, crack or lose its bond with age.

Shading from overhangs, awnings, exterior shades, shade screens and foliage can reduce heat entering the house, especially on east and west windows.

Later this month, the society will hold its 2008 annual meeting in Salt Lake City to exchange information on heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration design to operate more efficient buildings, systems and equipment.

For more energy-saving tips, visit www.ashrae.org/consumer.

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