10 Things You Can Do Over the Weekend to Make Your Old House More Efficient

By Noelle Lord Castle
This article was originally published in the Landmarks Observer

Back when your drafty old place was built, believe me they had energy efficiency in mind.  Buildings were oriented so main living areas could take advantage of heat from solar gain, sturdy evergreen trees were planted to block the winter winds and deciduous trees to shade the summer heat, chimneys were constructed strategically to take full advantage of the radiant heat from warm masonry and the fire, and they would never have gone to bed without taking the basic step of closing the curtains.  Resources were precious.

Bottom line was that common sense prevailed.  When it comes to making your old places as efficient as possible today, common sense is your best (and often least expensive) weapon.  It’s easy to get caught up in what seems like a major issue with a quick solution (replace old windows with new ones) and lose sight of the long term implications which not only include the loss of historic fabric but major financial and environmental costs.  Modern “upgrades” do not have the lifespan of older materials, and can undermine older building systems (big timbers need to breathe!).  Take some reasonable steps and you will see big improvements, and your special building will not suffer the consequences of being torn apart.


10 Things You Can Do Over The Weekend to Make Your Old House More Efficient

(efficiency=warmer home +more money in your pocket
+ good for the environment)

1.       Install (or begin on the north or draftiest areas) good quality weather stripping around doors and windows Save at least 10%.

2.       Install a programmable thermostat and reduce the temperature by up to 10 degrees (no lower than 55 degrees) when you are not home.  Save up to 20%.

3.       Seal air leaks and gaps around windows, doors, and other building intersection or access points. Go around from the inside and the outside (in warmer weather) using caulking, backer-rod, and spray foam as appropriate.  Save at least 10%.

4.       Install insulating window treatments and use them to seal out drafts and block out heat in summer. Save $10 monthly for every degree you can lower your thermostat.

5.       Install low-flow faucets and shower heads (really, new ones are indiscernible).  Save $200-$500 annually.

6.       Wrap all exposed water pipes with foam insulation and secure electrical tape.

7.       Start using a humidifier, moisture makes air feel warmer so you can lower your thermostat.  Save $10 monthly for each degree you can lower your thermostat

8.       Use compact florescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diods (LEDs) instead of incandescent bulbs. Use up to 75% less electricity, change just 15 bulbs and save $50 annually.

9.     Turn back your hot water heaters to 120 degrees.  Save up to 10%.

10.    Change the filters in your heating and cooling system units.  Have them serviced annually for best efficiency.

Noelle Lord Castle operates Old House C.P.R. and shares her passion for helping owners of older buildings discover how to take good care of them through consulting, teaching, and writing.  She can be reached by the email linked here.