Energy Checklist For Homes

By
Home Inspector with STLhomeinspector.com

There are many features about a home that make a
difference in the amount of energy needed for heating,
cooling and lighting. Thus, these features can have a
major impact on the amount of money you devote to
maintaining the winter and summer comfort of occupants.
This checklist will help you evaluate the energy-saving
potential of various housing features.

Housing features to consider include: Site; House
Design; Construction and Insulation; Heating and Cooling
System; Color and Lighting.

Site
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 or
placement of garage/carport (air infiltration and heat
loss are reduced when wind velocity is lower)

House is built into a hillside or partially into the
ground (the relatively constant year-round ground
temperature reduces winter heat loss through below-grade
walls and provides a cooling effect during summer).

The long axis of the house runs east and west (allows
more windows on the south to take advantage of winter
sun, and south windows can be protected from summer sun
by awnings, roof overhang, trees).

Large deciduous shade trees are planted on south and
west side of house (to provide summer shade during the
hottest part of the day, but allow winter sun to heat
house)

Low evergreen trees and shrubs or a slatted fence are
placed on side of house exposed to winter winds (to
provide a wind break and reduce air infiltration,; avoid
high evergreens on southeast, south and southwest as they
block winter sun from house).

House Design
Main roof ridge runs east and west (for better summer
cooling and to provide a more desirable location for a
solar heat collector in the future).

Shape of house is a slight rectangle (long rectangles
L-shapes H-shapes T-shapes and U-shapes provide more
outside wall surface for heatloss).

Entry halls for front and back doors can be closed
off 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 deciduous
trees or vines (to shade from summer sun but allow winter
sun into the house).

East and especially west windows are kept to a
minimum 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 the
summer).

Amount of window area is no more than 10 to 15
percent of floor area (there is more heat loss through
glass, even double or triple glazing, than through an
insulated wall). Note: Before you decide to eliminate
certain openings, keep in mind that local building codes
may require that certain rooms of the house have windows
or doors to the outside. This is for safety's sake,
especially fire safety. Check with the building inspector
in your local area or county to be certain of
requirements.

Operable windows are placed so that cooling air can
travel through the house in summer and escape at a high
point of interior space (example: an operable window in
an upstairs hallway will draw off warm air from the
inside).

Attic ventilators are placed so air is drawn from
cooler, shady parts of house (under eaves for inlet of
cool air) and exhausted as high as possible (along ridge
of roof or at attic gable ends). Vents allow the escape
of unwanted moisture from attic in winter and lessen
attic heat build-up in summer (be sure ventilation is
adequate; at least one square foot of eave inlet and one
square foot of gable outlet for EACH 150 feet of ceiling
area is recommended. Periodically check vents, especially
eave vents, to see they are not obstructed by insulation
or other building materials.)

Chimney for fireplace is placed on an inside rather
than an outside wall (so heat is lost to inside of
house).

Fireplace is designed to heat the room (such as a
circulating type with a glass fire screen door to prevent
heat from the room being lost up the chimney) and has an
outside air intake for combustion of wood to prevent
furnace heated air from being used for combustion (newer
fireplace systems can be designed so duct-work connected
to the system provides outside air for combustion; check
with fireplace dealers in your area).

Plumbing fixtures are located close to water
heater(s) (to reduce heat loss from water as it moves
from tank to point of use).

Water heater is located in a heated space (even a
well-insulated heater loses more heat when placed in an
unheated area).

Stair wells to second floor or basement have tightly
sealed doors either at top or bottom of the stairs (to
prevent "chimney" effect and loss of heat to upper area).

Multi-family housing has "extra" energy saving
potential In this type of housing, each dwelling shares
one or more walls with other dwelling units (in
townhouses, duplexes, or apartments in mid- or high-rise
buildings, less wall space in each unit is exposed to the
outside, thus greatly reducing the amount of heat loss
from each unit through its walls, or ceiling and floor in
some cases).

Construction and Insulation

Insulated glass or storm windows used to reduce heat
loss (storm windows and double-pane insulated glass will
reduce heat loss by approximately 50 to 51 percent, while
triple-pane windows will reduce heat loss by
approximately 68 percent).

Storm doors used on all exterior doors (storm doors
will reduce heat loss through exterior doors by
approximately 35 to 40 percent).

Weatherstripping is installed around jambs of all
doors and operable windows (heat losses due to
infiltration can increase heating costs by sizeable
amounts).

Caulking around all door and window frames is in good
condition to reduce infiltration heat loss (caulking
normally dries out with time and needs replacing).

Heating ducts/runs are wrapped with insulation except
where they pass through heated rooms (metal runs in
unheated crawl spaces, basements and attics lose heat to
these cold areas). Note: If possible, the system should
be designed so heat runs do not pass through unheated
areas.

Hot water pipes are wrapped with insulation except
where they pass through heated areas (metal or plastic
pipes in unheated crawl spaces, basements and attics lose
heat to these cold areas Note: If possible, the water
supply system should be designed so pipes do not pass
through unheated areas.

Attic and gable areas are adequately ventilated (see
point above in design features section concerning attic
ventilation requirements).

Sill sealer/filler has been placed around top of
foundation wall below sill plate (to reduce infiltration
into basement area).

Heating and Cooling System

Thermostat is located on an inside room partition
(thermostats on exterior walls, near windows, near
heat-generating appliances, in drafts or in sunlight may
not react to actual room temperature, hence will not keep
room temperature within limits desired).

Heating controls are designed to allow for zoned
heating (permits heating of lightly used areas only as
needed). Note: In some homes, heating runs or registers
may be designed with dampers or valves which allow you to
stop the flow of heat into seldom used rooms (these can
be added by heating and cooling professionals); while in
other homes, zoned heating may be achieved by the use of
two thermostats, one controlling the bedroom area and one
controlling the living area (a more expensive
alternative).

Mechanical ventilators/fans in kitchen, bath and
laundry fit tightly, are weatherstripped and have
positive closure shutters (ventilators without shutters
allow excessive backdrafts of cold air into home).

Furnaces are located as centrally as possible in
house (to reduce lengths of both hot and cold runs to
shortest possible distance).

Furnace design and location permit easy access to air
filters (clogged filters reduce efficiency).

Humidity level of home is kept at 30 to 40 percent
during the heating season (warm air feels warmer and more
comfortable when humidity is present in the air; humidity
can reduce static electricity problems as well). Note:
Portable humidifiers located centrally in home will add
humidity, or power humidifiers connected to forced air
furnaces will add humidity.

Color and Lighting

Outside walls and roof are a light color if summer
heat is a greater problem than winter cold, such as in
uninsulated summer cabins (light colors reflect the sun's
heat while dark colors absorb it).

Interior wall and ceiling colors are light tints or
white (so both daylight and artificial light are
reflected more than absorbed).

Floor covering is medium to light in color (so light
reflectance will save on amount of artificial light
needed).

Overhead lights in living areas and bedrooms provide
good over-all light for less total wattage than several
lamps; lamps can then be used for task lighting of areas
as needed (simple fluorescent enclosed fixtures, flush
with the ceiling, will provide excellent light with
little energy use; incandescent fixtures may be preferred
by some).

All light fixtures are located so they can be easily
cleaned (dust on bulbs, tubes and fixtures reduces
illumination).

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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
56,731
Kevin Pierce
Cascade Builder Services - Tacoma, WA
New Construction Warranty Management

Great information!  Especially for the coming months.  Thanks for the tips Billy!

Sep 27, 2008 04:16 PM #1
Anonymous
mark tyrol

How To Stop Drafts and Save On Energy Bills

  

Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding pull-down attic stair, a whole house fan, a fireplace or clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

Drafts from these often overlooked holes waste energy and cost you big in the form of higher energy bills.

 

Drafts are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Drafts occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits that caulk and weather-stripping provide to minimize energy loss and drafts.

But what can you do about drafts from the four largest "holes" in your home -- the folding attic stair, the whole house fan, the fireplace and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

Attic Stairs
When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.

Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the attic door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door -- do you see any light coming through? If you do, heated and air-conditioned air is leaking out of these large gaps in your home 24-hours a day. This is like leaving a window or skylight open all year ‘round.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an insulated attic stair cover. An attic stair cover seals the stairs, stopping drafts and energy loss. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

Whole House Fans and Air Conditioning Vents

Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only the drafty ceiling shutter between you and the outdoors.

 

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan shutter seal. Made from white textured flexible insulation, the shutter seal is installed over the ceiling shutter, secured with Velcro, and trimmed to fit. The shutter seal can also be used to seal and insulate air conditioning vents, and is easily removed when desired.

 

Fireplaces
Sixty-five percent, or over 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home, especially during the winter heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.

Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.

A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the drafts and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

Why does a home with a fireplace have higher energy bills? Your chimney is an opening that leads directly outdoors -- just like an open window. Even if the damper is shut, it is not air-tight. Glass doors don't stop the drafts either. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking your expensive heated or air-conditioned air right out of your house!

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a Fireplace Plug to your fireplace. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, the Fireplace Plug is an inflatable pillow that seals the fireplace damper, eliminating drafts, odors, and noise. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts
In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold drafts in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.

Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce these drafts. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the drafts. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted drafts, and also keeps out pests, bees and rodents. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

For more information on Battic Door's energy conservation solutions and products for your home, visit www.batticdoor.com or, to request a free catalog, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to P.O. Box 15, Mansfield, MA 02048.

Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover and an attic access door, and is the US distributor of the fireplace plug. To learn more visit www.batticdoor.com

Sep 28, 2008 01:20 AM #2
Rainer
8,335
Billy Boerner
STLhomeinspector.com - Saint Louis, MO
Home Inspector

Kevin - Thanks yes it's a about that time

Mark - Thanks for stopping by!

Sep 28, 2008 04:46 AM #3
Rainer
23,676
James Graner
Residential Services: http://appraisalmo.com - Saint Charles, MO

Bill,

Thank you for this one. What a great set of points from your training as an inspector to others.

 

Jan 03, 2009 08:18 AM #4
Rainer
654,274
Baker Home Inspection and Commercial Properties Inspections
Baker Residential and Commercial Properties Inspections - Springfield, VT
Home and Commercial Properties Inspections Vermont

Billy, I stop by in-order to check to see if you had started being active on your blog here agin or not. But it sure looks like you are not.

Jul 22, 2013 09:39 PM #5
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Rainer
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Billy Boerner

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