At the risk of sounding trite, they sure don’t build houses today like they used to, even as recently as the first decades of the last century. Like most other things, this can be good and bad.
The part that is good is the one-of-a-kind, hand-carved woodwork. Intricate stained glass windows. Plaster walls with depth and warmth. Hardwood floors with a patina that remains even after refinishing. A patina that many try, and fail, to replicate by “antiquing” new wood.
The part that is bad is the lack of insulation, not to mention drafty windows and doors. Other negatives include: obsolete heating systems, lack of central air conditioner and dungeon-like basements. You get the idea.
So how do you make a historical house energy-efficient without breaking the bank? Here’s a few steps to take to get started on the road to making your historical home as comfortable and energy-efficient as newer homes that were built within the last few decades.
Get an Energy Audit
Most utility companies will provide this service for free, which should only be a starting point. For a more complete audit, hire a company that specializes in energy audits. A company like this will give you a more in-depth analysis that will most likely pay for itself through the savings you ultimately see on your utility bills after implementing some of all of their suggestions.
Add Insulation and Weather Stripping
Whether you live in a warm or cold climate, a house without insulation or weather stripping looses heat in winter and air conditioning in summer. To start the process of making your historic home energy efficient, plug the leaks.
That means adding weather stripping to windows and doors and at the very least adding insulation to the attic. You can also add insulation to the ceiling of the basement, thereby keeping heat in the living area during the winter. Also, your air conditioner will not have to work as hard because this will significantly reducing leaking of air conditioned air during the hot summer months.
Regular Maintenance of Mechanical Systems
Change the filters in your furnace at least once a year, but preferably monthly during the heating season. Check the exposed heating ducts for leaks and seal them with a sealant made just for that purpose. Bleed radiators in hot water or steam heating systems.
Wrap a specially-made blanket around your hot water heater. You can even wrap exposed hot water pipes with special insulation to prevent heat loss as the water travels to the faucets.
Make sure that plants or bushes are not blocking the outside portion of your air conditioner. Remove any foliage or plants within about three feet of the condenser.
Consider adding some type of solar energy-producing apparatus to your home. It can be as simple as a solar hot water producer or as complex as a system that will produce all the electricity your home can use, including air conditioning. In some cases, a solar system will produce even more electricity than you use. In many states the utilities will purchase that extra energy from you.
If your home is on the historic register and you believe that you cannot make these changes, contact a solar energy company. There may be more ways than you believe to make your historical home more energy efficient. Or, if you see a historical home with solar panels, ask the owners how they made it work. Solutions are out there. One only need look for them.