A historic home has numerous perks for its owners; original hardwood floors, high ceilings, intricate detail, and the fact that you have, and are living in, your very own piece of history. However, with the good also comes the bad; poorly insulated walls, air leaks in windows and around doors, and less than perfect water pressure.
Maintaining an energy efficient home not only saves electricity, gas, and water, which in turn saves you money on your utility bills, it also increases the value of your home and makes it safer and healthier to live in. What can you do to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives? For starters, it is important to know that there are many things that you can do on your own, without the help of a professional. However, it is a good idea to get an instrumented energy audit done by a professional energy auditor before getting started, just so you get an idea of what you are in for!
Here are 4 of the most common problems with historic houses and the (sometimes) easy solutions to fix them:
-Problem: Poor Heat Distribution, High Gas Bill
-Solution: Try a combination of a few techniques such as air sealing, adding attic and wall insulation, and adjusting your equipment controls manually. These different improvements will be sure to keep your family thoroughly warm and your wallet happy. One client of ours saved enough in heating bills in just one winter to cover the cost of insulating their attic with spray foam. A one year payback! Many states now have very attractive rebate programs available too. For more information on the right way to insulate your old house, download our eBook on the topic.
-Problem: Drafty Windows, High Electric/Gas Bill
-Solution: We almost always recommend repairing and weatherstripping original windows instead of replacing them. By adding the right weatherstripping, installing storm shutters and using them when it is appropriate, and hanging interior blinds, curtains, and shades, your drafty windows may no longer be an issue. This will seal in the heat in the winter and the A/C in the summer, thereby saving you money in your utility bills every season.
-Problem: Weak Water Pressure, High Water Bill
-Solution: Try replacing low quality shower heads with low-flow, high efficient models. Also, to ensure there are no leaks in the pipes, have them inspected annually after the coldest winter months or replace them all together if you do not feel comfortable with their quality. Not only will this rest your nerves, it will save you money in the long haul if a pipe is to burst! By the way, we're available to do annual inspections on plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems- as well as roofing, gutters, and many other parts of your house.
-Problem: Poor Lighting, High Electric Bill
-Solution: It makes sense, in some cases, to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (or CFLs for short!). But some of them are slow to turn on and don't provide a great deal of light, in my opinion. Fortunately, newer technology is on the scene. LED lighting has come a long way in the past few years. I replaced the recessed lights in my own kitchen with LED inserts and have been very happy with them. They use a fraction of the energy that incandescents use.
Of course, these are the micro- steps you can take to save some energy costs. Most utilities over free energy audits. If you're in Massachusetts we can point you in the right direction. Quick tip though: most of these consultants will recommend replacing your old windows. Don't believe them!