Energy Checklist

The Old House Web
checklistThere are many features about a home thatmake adifference in the amount of energy needed for heating,cooling and lighting.

Thus, these features can have amajor impact on the amount of money you devote tomaintaining the winter and summer comfort of occupants.This checklist from the Michigan State University Extension Service will help you evaluate the energy-savingpotential of various housing features.

Housing features to consider include:construction and insulation; heating andcooling system; color and lighting; site;and house design.

Construction and insulation

  • Insulated glass or storm windows used to reduce heatloss. Storm windows and double-pane insulated glass willreduce heat loss by approximately 50 to 51 percent, whiletriple-pane windows will reduce heat loss byapproximately 68 percent.
  • Storm doors used on all exterior doors. Storm doorswill reduce heat loss through exterior doors byapproximately 35 to 40 percent).
  • Weather-stripping is installed around jambs of alldoors and operable windows. Heat losses due toinfiltration can increase heating costs by sizeable amounts.

caulking window
One of the easiest and quickest dollar saving techniques is caulking leaks in your building.

Photo: Ron Coppock Photography, Inc.

  • Caulking around all door and window frames is in goodcondition to reduce infiltration heat loss. Caulkingnormally dries out with time and needs replacing.
  • Heating ducts/runs are wrapped with insulation exceptwhere they pass through heated rooms. Metal runs inunheated crawl spaces, basements and attics lose heat tothese cold areas. If possible, the system shouldbe designed so heat runs do not pass through unheatedareas.
  • Hot water pipes are wrapped with insulation exceptwhere they pass through heated areas. Metal or plasticpipes in unheated crawl spaces, basements and attics loseheat to these cold areas. If possible, the watersupply system should be designed so pipes do not passthrough unheated areas.
  • Attic and gable areas are adequately ventilated.
  • Sill sealer/filler has been placed around top offoundation wall below sill plate, to reduce infiltrationinto basement area.

Heating and cooling system

  • Thermostat is located on an inside room partition. Thermostats on exterior walls, near windows, nearheat-generating appliances, in drafts or in sunlight maynot react to actual room temperature, hence will not keeproom temperature within limits desired.
  • Heating controls are designed to allow for zonedheating, which permits heating of lightly used areas only as needed. In some homes, heating runs or registersmay be designed with dampers or valves which allow you tostop the flow of heat into seldom used rooms. These canbe added by heating and cooling professionals; while inother homes, zoned heating may be achieved by the use oftwo thermostats, one controlling the bedroom area and onecontrolling the living area (a more expensivealternative).
  • Mechanical ventilators/fans in kitchen, bath andlaundry fit tightly, are weather-stripped and havepositive closure shutters. Ventilators without shuttersallow excessive back drafts of cold air into home.
  • Furnaces are located as centrally as possible inhouse to reduce lengths of both hot and cold runs toshortest possible distance.
  • Furnace design and location permit easy access to airfilters. Clogged filters reduce efficiency.
  • Humidity level of home is kept at 30 to 40 percentduring the heating season. Warm air feels warmer and morecomfortable when humidity is present in the air; humiditycan reduce static electricity problems as well.Portable humidifiers located centrally in home will addhumidity, or power humidifiers connected to forced airfurnaces will add humidity.

Color and lighting

  • Outside walls and roof are a light color if summerheat is a greater problem than winter cold, such as in un-insulated summer cabins. Light colors reflect the sun'sheat while dark colors absorb it.
  • Interior wall and ceiling colors are light tints orwhite so both daylight and artificial light arereflected more than absorbed.
  • Floor covering is medium to light in color so lightreflectance will save on amount of artificial light needed.
  • Overhead lights in living areas and bedrooms providegood over-all light for less total wattage than severallamps; lamps can then be used for task lighting of areasas needed. Simple fluorescent enclosed fixtures, flushwith the ceiling, will provide excellent light withlittle energy use; incandescent fixtures may be preferredby some.
  • All light fixtures are located so they can be easilycleaned. Dust on bulbs, tubes and fixtures reduces illumination.


This home receives the majority of its heating from the sun using passive solar and climate appropriate design. The majority of windows on the home are placed on the south elevation, as shown here. During the day, the home is bright and cheery because of all of the daylight that enters through the south windows.

Photo by: Nancy Carlisle

  • House is located on south or southwest slope of hill. Sun hits at angle so greatest solar heat is received
    through south windows in winter.
  • House is protected from winter wind by a hill orplacement of garage/carport. Air infiltration and heat
    loss are reduced when wind velocity is lower.
  • House is built into a hillside or partially into theground. The relatively constant year-round groundtemperature reduces winter heat loss through below-gradewalls and provides a cooling effect during summer.
  • The long axis of the house runs east and west, which allowsmore windows on the south to take advantage of winter sun. South windows can be protected from summer sunby awnings, roof overhang, trees.
  • Large deciduous shade trees are planted on south andwest side of house to provide summer shade during thehottest part of the day, but allow winter sun to heat house.
  • Low evergreen trees and shrubs or a slatted fence areplaced on side of house exposed to winter winds toprovide a wind break and reduce air infiltration avoidhigh evergreens on southeast, south and southwest as theyblock winter sun from house.

House design

  • Main roof ridge runs east and west for better summercooling and to provide a more desirable location for asolar heat collector in the future.
  • Shape of house is a slight rectangle. Long rectangles, L-shapes, H-shapes, T-shapes, and U-shapes provide moreoutside wall surface for heat loss.
  • Entry halls for front and back doors can be closedoff to form "vestibules" thus reducing flow of cold air to inside and warm air to outside.
  • Main living area, where the living room, family room,dining room and kitchen are located, has as few
    partitions as possible (for best heat distribution).
  • Bedroom wing can be closed off, so heating and air-conditioning can be reduced when not needed during the day.
  • South windows have an overhang or awning deciduoustrees or vines, to shade from summer sun but allow wintersun into the house.
  • East, and especially west windows, are kept to aminimum and/or provided with shade trees and tall shrubs,fences, awnings, tinted glass or other shading devices to keep out early morning and late afternoon sun in thesummer.
  • Amount of window area is no more than 10 to 15percent of floor area. There is more heat loss through
    glass, even double or triple glazing, than through aninsulated wall. Note: Before you decide to eliminate
    certain openings, keep in mind that local building codesmay require that certain rooms of the house have windowsor doors to the outside. This is for safety's sake,especially fire safety. Check with the building inspectorin your local area or county to be certain ofrequirements.
  • Operable windows are placed so that cooling air cantravel through the house in summer and escape at a highpoint of interior space. For example, an operable window inan upstairs hallway will draw off warm air from the inside.
  • Attic ventilators are placed so air is drawn fromcooler, shady parts of house (under eaves for inlet of
    cool air) and exhausted as high as possible (along ridgeof roof or at attic gable ends). Vents allow the escapeof unwanted moisture from attic in winter and lessenattic heat build-up in summer. Be sure ventilation isadequate; at least one square foot of eave inlet and onesquare foot of gable outlet for EACH 150 feet of ceilingarea is recommended. Periodically check vents, especiallyeave vents, to see they are not obstructed by insulationor other building materials.
  • Chimney for fireplace is placed on an inside ratherthan an outside wall so heat is lost to inside of house.
  • Fireplace is designed to heat the room, such as acirculating type with a glass fire screen door to prevent
    heat from the room being lost up the chimney, and has anoutside air intake for combustion of wood to preventfurnace heated air from being used for combustion. Newerfireplace systems can be designed so duct-work connectedto the system provides outside air for combustion; checkwith fireplace dealers in your area.
  • Plumbing fixtures are located close to water heater(s) (to reduce heat loss from water as it movesfrom tank to point of use).
  • Water heater is located in a heated space. Even awell-insulated heater loses more heat when placed in an
    unheated area.
  • Stair wells to second floor or basement have tightlysealed doors either at top or bottom of the stairs (toprevent "chimney" effect and loss of heat to upper area.
  • Multi-family housing has "extra" energy savingpotential In this type of housing, each dwelling sharesone or more walls with other dwelling units. Intownhouses, duplexes, or apartments in mid- or high-risebuildings, less wall space in each unit is exposed to theoutside, thus greatly reducing the amount of heat lossfrom each unit through its walls, or ceiling and floor insome cases.

This information comes from Michigan State UniversityExtension bulletin E1384, A Checklist for Energy-SavingHomes.

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