How to Make Your Old Home More Energy Efficient
Decades ago we didn't much care about energy efficiency when it came to building our homes. Plus, we didn't really have the technology to make a big difference.
Here's the good news: we've come a long way.
Here's the bad news: if you have an older home, you're going to need to do some renovations to get your house up to snuff.
Get an energy audit
Before you even think about making upgrades, you should get an energy audit for your home.
This will help you see how much energy your home uses and loses and what you can do to improve. A lot of energy companies will provide this service for free, but there are also professional companies out there that can help you. If all else fails, there are some DIY methods for energy audits.
Seal your home
A lot of energy loss is due to the fact that your home has small areas that allow air to escape.
Air conditioning didn't exist when a lot of older homes were originally built, having a home that was sealed up tight wasn't as important back then. Today, an unsealed home is like having a door open while you're running the air, and like your father (probably) used to say, "We're not paying to cool the backyard!"
Doors and windows
Make sure all your doors and windows are properly caulked and weather-stripped.
If you live in a cold climate, consider winterizing your single-pane windows; cover them by adding a sealed layer of plastic over the windows.
If you do have single-paned windows, you might be thinking that you should upgrade to something more energy efficient.
If you want to upgrade for aesthetic reasons, then great! But if you're only doing it for energy savings, you might want to think again. The upgrade won't actually make as big of a difference as you would think and it's a pretty costly renovation.
Original hardwoods are beautiful, but they can sometimes have gaps between the boards. That's not great if you're trying to make your home more energy-efficient.
Insulate your home
Sealing your home won't be completely effective until you've also insulated it. Here's where to start.
Make sure your attic has insulation in it.
If you see any dirty spots, this could be an indication that there's a leak in this spot, and that you should apply some additional insulation in that area.
Since we know so much of your home's hot and cool air escapes through the attic, you should consider getting an attic tent, which will help keep air from escaping from the pull-down stairs.
Unfinished spaces and closets
Many old homes also have unfinished spaces or closets with walls that aren't insulated. You should take care to insulate these areas even though they're not main living spaces.
Heating and cooling
Now that you've sealed and insulated your home, you know it's going to be much easier to keep it at a comfortable temperature.
Old homes usually have old systems—and by old, we mean inefficient.
Upgrading your furnace can make a big difference in how effectively you can heat your home.
Speaking of heating, make sure you have a modern thermostat that's programmable. This will allow you set a schedule so that you're not heating or cooling your home when you're not in it.
Want to go a step further? Spring for a smart thermostat so you can change the temperature no matter where you are.
Before we had HVAC systems, homeowners relied partially on landscaping to help regulate the temperature in their homes.
Large shade trees would be planted so that they blocked the sun in the summertime. When their leaves fell in the fall, they would allow the home to heat up a little more from the solar energy.
Before you start cutting down any trees, make sure that they're not providing that valuable service to you!
Hot water heater
So it's not technically a heating or cooling system, but turning your hot water heater down to 120 degrees can help you save energy.
Who needs scalding hot water coming from the faucet, anyway?
Heat individual rooms
Another great way to save energy is to invest in some freestanding heaters and fans that will allow you to heat and cool individual rooms instead of running the heat and air in the whole house.
Depending on the previous owners, your home might have come with some close-to-original appliances; we're talking appliances from an era before "energy efficiency" was even a concept.
They might be charming, they might be beautiful, but they are definitely not efficient. It's time to get rid of them.
While you're upgrading, don't forget to switch to LED lights, smart bulbs, or motion sensor switches to save energy with your lighting fixtures!
Old homes were designed with some pretty ingenious use of shutters, vents, and strategically-placed windows to help control airflow and light, so make sure you're utilizing all of those elements.
Trying to figure out where to start with all these updates? Let us show you how to prioritize updates to your new (old) home.