Energy Efficiency in a Historic Home

So you bought an old…er, “historic” house. Congratulations! You own a piece of the past, a window to a different time. No doubt you’re enjoying a spacious porch, hardwood floors, and the old oak tree in the backyard.

Unfortunately, the past is a complete package, and you’ve also inherited its technological shortcomings. The engineers of yore were surprisingly adept at energy challenges, especially here in the South, where summers can strip the skin from your bones. Still, your new purchase could use some TLC to save you money and sanity.

Here are some tips for making your older home more energy efficient.

Look Out for Leaks

While those old-school engineers were smart, they were limited by materials. Wood and mortar can warp and decay over the decades, introducing the most common source of energy loss in your home: air leaks.

Three locations are particularly notorious for air leakage. The first is the attic, an oft-forgotten part of the home. Insulating an attic can save you a lot of money, especially in the winter. Attics also play host to the occasional bird or squirrel, who may create or worsen holes in its construction.

Windows are also frequent problems. While a lot of “old-growth” wood in historic windows is quite sturdy, it can still crack and splinter. You may be able to repair the wood rather than replace it. Sealants can also break down and need replacement.

Finally, look for cracks near utility holes and joints. Dryer exit tubes, cable and power entry points, and more can let air in or out. If you have a fireplace, checking around the chimney flue is also a good idea.

Upgrade Your Infrastructure

Your hot water heater is an expensive luxury, approximately 13% of your monthly energy bill. While upgrading is certainly an option, there are more affordable techniques to get that number down.

For one, you can insulate everything. The unit itself and its pipes can all be insulated, reducing the energy needed to keep all that water hot. You can also reduce the temperature; a simple 10 degree decrease can save you 3-5% on your utility bill!

Speaking of insulation, you should see what’s in your walls. Older homes often had to work with…unique materials for insulation. Nothing was off limits: corn cobs, newspapers, bricks, and just about anything else laying around. Replacing them with something more modern can sometimes halve your energy costs.

Be Careful!

Your charming old home presents a number of hazards, including narrow workspaces and lead paint. If you aren’t confident in your DIY ability, hiring a contractor can save your health and your wallet in equal measure. Give your investment the care it deserves!