Residential Energy Assessment
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Below is an evaluation format I recommend for existing and new homes.  For existing, use actual energy records, including energy acquired for free like firewood.  If new homes being designed, we can calculate an estimate of heating and cooling energy, then estimate other energy based on current household usage history.   

I.  Record and Assess Annual Usage and Cost

Compile at least 1 calendar year of usage and cost for conventional energies:


    Natural Gas (Ngas)

    Liquid Propane (LPG)








How do your energy usage, cost and carbon emissions compare with local and regional norms per-sf of floor area and per-person?

If you live in the Midwest USA (Ohio, KY, Indiana, etc), consider my no-cost Household Energy Survey!

Or use the following tables to estimate energy contents and CO2 emissions for common conventional energies:

Energy Type : Btu Content
Electricity : 3414 per kWh
Gasoline : 125,260 per gallon
Heating Oil : 139,000 per gallon
Kerosene : 137,000 per gallon
Liquid Propane :  91,600 per gallon
Natural Gas : 102,900 per CCF
Wood : 18,750,000 per mini-cord (3/4 of a full cord)

Energy Type : CO2 Emissions
Electricity : 1.74 lbs per kWh (based on OH-KY-IN generation fuels mix 2016)
Gasoline : 19.6 pounds per gallon
Heating Oil : 26.4 pounds per gallon
Kerosene : 21.5 pounds per gallon
Liquid Propane : 12.5 pounds per gallon
Natural Gas : 12.1 pounds per CCF
Wood n/a

If your usage and/or emissions are higher than local norms, consider ways to lower your usage and/or seek cleaner energy.

If your usage and/or emissions are average, you should feel less urgency to lower your usage or seek cleaner energy.  But even average users can usually find significant cuts.  

If your usage or pollution is far less than average, congratulations!

Below is an organized way to evaluate possible energy improvements:

II.  Optimize Your Site and Landscape

Can windows in living spaces admit more winter sun from the SE and south?

Can  east, south and west windows be better screened or shaded in summer?

Are exhaust vents from and least airtight assemblies around conditioned spaces sheltered from winter winds?

Do living spaces have openable window layouts for good natural ventilation

Are high-moisture room windows and exhaust vents directed downwind?

Do you have south-facing roofs or another sunny place for solar panels?

Are exterior drains, grades and pavements around your foundation sloped down and away for best natural drainage?

Cound rainwater collected, stored or used?

How Is recycling and composting accomplished? 

Can energy efficiency be improved for transportation to/from most-traveled locations (especially work, stores, schools)?

Is firewood from local deadwood or waste?

III.  Maximize Insulation and Airtightness

Opaque Assemblies (good targets)
.....Ceilings (R-38 to 60) with ceiling airtight
.....Attic-access doors (R-30 to 50) and weather-stripped
.....Wall & floor edge (R-15 to 30) and airtight
.....Near-grade slab (R-10-20) and airtight
.....Basement wall (R-10 to 20) and airtight at top
.....Basement slabedge (R-5 to 10)
.....Subslab (R-5 to 10)

.....Total unit R - 3 or higher
.....Air leakage no higher than 0.10 cfm/sf @ 25mph
.....Less solar-transmittant glass or shading for summer sun
.....No all-metal or aluminum frames
.....Full screens for double-hungs for top-down operation
.....Able to be ‘latched’ tight
.....Weather-stripping in good shape

.....If glazed, at least double pane w/ low-E
.....If opaque, either solid wood or foam-core
.....Air leakage no higher than 0.10 cfm/sf @ 25mph
.....Weather-stripping in good shape
.....Storm Door?

IV.  Review the HVAC:

Are the systems sized and installed correctly?
.....heating sized to hold 65F when it's lowest normal temperature outside? many heating system output BTUs/hr per conditioned floor area (sf)? all combustion supplied with adequate outside air?
.....are all combustion chambers sealed from living space? ductwork airtight?
.....are ducts inside conditioned space or well sealed and insulated if outside it? the AC system properly sized?
.....Are exposed hot water pipes insulated?

Is heating equipment efficient and least polluting?
.....efficient furnace combustion (90% min. AFUE)?
.....heatpump with HSPF 8 minimum?
.....pellet stoves & fireplaces with firebox airtight to living space?
.....most efficient (70% min) wood fires with lowest emissions (< 3 grams/hr)?

Are cooling systems most efficient and least environmental impact?
.....SEER 13 minimum?
.....outside units not in full afternoon sun?
.....reasonably short refrigerant lines?
.....refrigerant line insulation in good shape?
.....outdoor unit access to plenty of free airflow?
.....non-CFC refrigerant? fans to increase air movement so t-stat setting can be higher?

Are heating & cooling systems operated efficiently and appropriately?
.....turned down or off when not needed for long times?
.....controlled by a programmable thermostat?
.....electric water heater timer?
.....more manual and automatic switches?

V.  Take Advantage of Solar

Passive Solar: 
Think about these questions when considering passive solar.  Can a south-facing sunspace or greenhouse be attached to the house with south-facing glass?  Can more south-facing glass be added (upto 8-12% over the conditioned floor area).  Could there be more openings in walls to and from the passive solar-heated areas of the house and other spaces outside the passive solar area?   How can it ventilate in summer, cooling without adding load on the cooling system?  Do few windows face east, west, north or up?  Do interior design and window treatments allow good daylighting but lessen glare?  Are summer sunbeams adequately blocked or shaded from entering windows and doors, as by roof overhangs, sunscreens, lower SHGC glass (esp east and west)

Active Solar Heating:
.....Solar panels to heat water?
.....Solar panels to heat air during winter?
.....Solar cooking or food drying?

.....Solar electricity, grid-connected or offgrid, or just to charge small batteries

VI.  Improve Indoor Air Quality

Prefer low pollution materials in construction and operation or few exposed particle boards? or few carpeted floors? and low VOC paints and finishes? exposed loose insulation?
.....measures to control and minimize dust & pet dander?

Apply paints and finishes when windows can be open for maximum ventilation
.....can living spaces be "baked" after new finishes to accelerate offgassing?

Make envelope interior surfaces warm enough to prevent condensation when indoor air is humid and outdoors is cold indoor concrete directly on the ground?
.....foam exterior wall sheaths over wood or metal framing?
.....high-R windows without metal framing?

Ensure ample exhaust ventilation, fresh air supplies, air filtration and dehumidification
.....exhaust fans?
.....air-to-air heat exchanger?
.....air filters?
.....efficient vacuum cleaning?

Educate occupants to shut windows when outdoor dewpoint exceeds 65F.

Prohibit smoking inside the living space.

Avoid the use of toxics inside the conditioned space except when maximum ventilation is possible, especially open windows.

VII.  Use Most-Efficient Appliances, Equipment & Devices

Hot water
.....install lower-flow showerheads and faucets
.....insulate exposed hot water pipes
.....aim for shortest runs from tank to points of most use
.....consider solar water heating especially for electric or LP water heaters

Refrigerators & Freezers
.....smallest acceptable size with least energy-using special features refrigerator door style, chest-type freezers
....."most efficient" according to USDOE EnergyGuide or ACEEE
.....not exposed to direct sun or next to ovens
.....lids and doors close tightly

.....front-loading washers (horizontal axis) or other low-water-using type
.....cold or coolest wash & rinse
.....outdoor hang-drying when above 50F and not too humid, or indoor hang-drying with adequate ventilation
.....electric dryer used only when no other way

.....machine used to wash only full loads, cold rinse, air dry without heat
.....hand-wash small loads, cold rinse, air dry

.....fluorescent and LED electric lamps
.....dimmer general lighting, brighter task lights close to light-demanding tasks
.....outdoor lamps lowest-watt, aimed down, shielded from direct view and kept off during daylight

Computers & Small Electronics
.....notebooks and tablets instead of stationary desktop models
.....flat screens instead of tube monitors
.....computers, TVs, entertainment centers, etc., switched "off" when not in active use for one or more hours electric as possible for landscape lights, pumps, small battery chargers, calculators, wrist watches

John F Robbins, CEM / CSDP 
3519 Moffett Rd
Morning View, KY USA


John F. Robbins is also at LinkedIn and Facebook