Many people choose to live in old homes because of the charm, personality, or familial ties to the home. It’s a common belief that living in an old home means you will be dealing with high energy bills forever, however there are ways to make your old home energy efficient.

First, let’s touch on how older homes were designed. Despite being built prior to central heating and cooling, they still were built with temperature in mind. Older homes have their own ways to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. Some old homes have thick walls, vents for controlling air flow, and porches and awnings. You can keep these features in mind when enhancing the energy efficiency of your old home.

Tackling the energy problem at the source

Before you make any costly changes to your home, you should identify exactly which parts of the home are lacking in efficiency. You can do this by conducting an energy audit in your home. While utilities and local governments can provide you with a free audit, hiring a professional energy auditor may be your best bet. Not only can they identify the problems, but they can also help you learn how to make the best improvements in your home.

Auditors often conduct their test to analyze the sealing in your home, but they perform multiple tests to see your home’s efficiency. When preparing for an energy audit, you should have the last 12 months of your utility bills to share with the auditor.

Choosing energy-efficient light bulbs

If you live in an older home, there is a chance that you’re still using incandescent bulbs, which are notorious for being extremely inefficient in comparison to newer light bulb options. Compact fluorescents (CFLs) are often most recommended because of their increased efficiency and ability to last longer than incandescents. However, if you’re slightly more tech-savvy, you can switch to LED or smart bulbs for the added connection to things like Alexa and Google Assistant.

Modernizing your outdated bathroom plumbing

When you think of older homes, do you think of the leaky faucets and faulty toilets? Plumbing in most old homes is outdated. Even if they had been replaced at some point, it’s possible that you still have inefficient plumbing. Pre-1980 toilets use seven gallons of water per flush, and that means by simply flushing the toilet you’re wasting a lot of water. This improvement alone can reduce your sewage and water costs significantly.

Improving the insulation in the attic

During the construction of historic homes, it was often the case that insulation wasn’t considered at all. If it was considered, you could have anything from corn cobs to newspaper as a way to insulate the walls. Nowadays we have much better forms of insulation. 

If you plan to insulate your home when there was none prior, you must tread carefully. If insulation is improperly sealed and ventilated, it can cause the insulation to become damp. When this happens, it can grow mold or rot in your framing and other wall components. 

You also must consider the components of the framework in your home if you plan to insulate your walls. According to the EPA, if your home was constructed in the 1850s or earlier and it has wood framing, it’s possible that it has post and beam construction rather than balloon framing. Insulating your walls if it was constructed this way can result in the aforementioned moisture build-up in your insulation.

At the end of the day, the key to properly insulating your home is ensuring that there is proper air sealing and ventilation.

Sealing air leaks

Speaking of which, let’s talk about sealing your home. Before air conditioning and heating, properly sealing homes was not a priority and difficult to achieve. Fortunately nowadays, we have the technology to easily seal our homes and HVAC units. 

Gaps or cracks can form in: the foundation, walls, roof, doors, windows, and holes in the attic floor. There are a few ways to reduce these drafts. First of all, you can simply seal them yourself (or hire a contractor to help). But you can also close curtains, blinds, shades, and shutters at night during the colder seasons. Draft “snakes” or rolled up towels under doors can reduce the air drafts under the doors. And lastly, closing your fireplace damper or filling the opening when it is not in use helps with drafts.

Upgrading your HVAC and water heater

It is possible that your home has an HVAC unit installed, but unless you have purchased your home within the last five years, it’s likely that this unit is outdated. The average life expectancy for an HVAC unit is 20 years. If your unit is approaching its age limit, you should consider upgrading it to a newer and more energy efficient model (look for the Energy Star seal!).

Although, if you haven’t done any proper sealing and insulation improvements on your home, even upgrading to a newer HVAC unit may still not help with the efficiency issues.

While you’re inspecting your HVAC units, consider your water heater as well. Water heaters often consume most of your home’s’ energy costs. There are a few ways to make your water heater more efficient. First, you can insulate the unit and its pipes. Second, turn the thermostat down to 120°F. Every 10°F that you reduce the temperature can save 3-5 percent of your energy costs. 

And if you have room in your budget… consider a tankless hot water system, or a solar hot water system.

Replacing doors and windows

While this is a great way to increase the energy efficiency of your home, this should only be considered if you know that you will stay in your home for a long time. This is a personal choice that can also reduce your energy bills. However, simply sealing your windows and doors can also help significantly. If you don’t envision yourself staying in the home long-term, perhaps skip this and go for sealing instead.

Final thoughts

These are all ways to help make your old home more energy efficient. Some of these tips vary in cost and time, but each one has its once benefits to your home. If you are struggling to decide how to improve the energy efficiency in your home, we’d love to assist you and answer any questions you have. Contact us today!