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.
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
All light fixtures are located so they can be easily
cleaned (dust on bulbs, tubes and fixtures reduces
There are many features about a home that make a