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How to Green an Old Home

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(credit: istockphoto)

(credit: istockphoto)

From 1920s Tudors to 1950s Colonial Revivals, those who are attracted to the romance of interesting architecture can’t settle for anything less. While known for their charm and historic nuance, older homes, no matter what era they herald from, are rarely extolled for energy efficiency. If you thought you had to surrender eco-effectiveness for architectural magnificence, think again. Even the oldest home can be retrofitted for highly maximized environmental impact and cost savings without compromising upon their historic features or character. Here are a number of highly effective strategies to consider.

Start With an Energy Audit
The more information you have about your home, the better. Contact your local utility company to see if they provide this service. If not, you can check for air leaks on your own by waving a lit incense stick anywhere you suspect air drafts and leaks, on a day when there is a lot of wind. If the smoke blows in, so is external air. If the smoke blows out, you are leaking air and losing energy. By determining the sources of drafts and leaks, you may be able to save money and reduce energy usage with the simple use of a caulk gun.Upgrade the Building Envelope
Comprised of the foundation, interior and exterior walls, windows, roof and/or attic floor, the building envelope is the key to thermal management. One of the most efficient ways to take an old, drafty house and increase its energy-efficiency is by reducing its heating load in winter and cooling load in summer. This can be done by adding insulation and air sealing as well as paying special attention to the type of windows currently installed and their sealing system. Often, this kind of retrofit can be done in conjunction with renovation work such as roof or siding replacement, which may reduce costs and increase tax incentives. Insulation can be added to both the exterior and interior walls, promoting a markedly diminished need for indoor climate regulation, such as heating or air conditioning.

Replace Old Appliances
If your appliances are as old as the house, you are probably throwing money out the window every time you open the refrigerator door or turn on the stove. Despite the initial outlay, certified energy-star appliances use 10 to 15 percent less energy than their older counterparts, plus reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There’s also no guesswork. Energy-star appliances come with two price tags indicating both take-home cost and monthly operation cost.

Use Energy-Efficient Lighting
Today’s new generation of LEDs (light emitting diode) and CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) cast a kinder light than in years’ past, able to complement even the most elegant period home. These light bulbs typically screw into standard light sockets and are long-lasting, mercury free and highly energy efficient, utilizing only a fraction of the amount of electricity required for standard bulbs.

Add a Smart Thermostat
A programmable thermostat gives you the power to control and maintain the temperature of your home for both maximum comfort and energy efficiency. No longer utilized just for brand-new, modern houses, programmable thermostats allow you to schedule different usage patterns for every day of the week if necessary. Make sure to place them away from direct sunlight and from heating or cooling units as well as from open windows, rather than simply placing them in the same spots as their older counterparts.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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