While it is not a practice (or a house price) in Canada, many home buyers still prefer purchasing older homes. That decision is driven by several reasons, including historic value, lower price, better quality, and an already established neighbourhood.
However, older houses are not as energy efficient as modern buildings. That is where many house buyers raise concerns that upgrading towards a more sustainable home would be costly and take away from the original characteristics of the building. Those concerns are often overstated, and when approached correctly can save energy and lower your utility bills.
Today we are discussing not only energy-efficient upgrades but also challenges you might face when improving an older home. Because older houses, especially fifty years or older, were not built with eco-friendly materials or designed to be energy-efficient, you would have to consider the original structure of the house, the way it was insulated, HVAC and electrical system, and the age overall.
Start At the Top:
Sealing the Attic and More
If your home was built earlier than the 1980s, the chance is high that it lacks some insulation. One of the places where heat escapes is the attic. By adding insulation to the attic, you will notice how warm air stays preserved, keeping your house evenly heated up. Moreover, the utility cost would drop because the heating system no longer has to work as hard. “Sealing air leaks and adding insulation in the attic will boost energy efficiency and can save up to 10 percent on annual energy bills,” says Bob Vila.
Continuing with the top of the house, switching to a metal roof is more significant and expensive than insulating the attic. However, the benefits of a metal roof are too convincing not to commit to it. A traditional shingle roof typically needs repair every twenty years. At the same time, a metal roof is more durable and can last at least sixty years.
Secondly, a metal roof is more energy efficient. Attached with a counter-batten system, a metal roof decreases hot airflow and helps the house stay cooler during the hot summer months. If you go as far as applying a solar reflective coating, you will notice even less heat penetrating your house.
Another addition you can make to your roof is installing rooftop solar panels. It is not only sustainable and leaves a less damaging footprint (keeping thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere), but also is an efficient way to save money on electrical usage.
Upgrades Inside the House:
HVAC System Upgrade
The best way to start with your current HVAC system is by hiring a professional for an inspection. Of course, before calling HVAC maintenance services you can check for a clogged filter that reduces airflow. Otherwise, especially before upgrading your home’s central heating system, paying for an inspection and consultation is an essential step to take.
Firstly, keep in mind, if your HVAC is older than fifteen years old, upgrading to a more efficient option will take care of excessive dust, uneven room temperature and moisture buildup.
Secondly, even the most recent HVAC system upgrade won’t make a difference if the old house still requires proper sealing and insulation.
A New Water Heater
A water heater is responsible for at least 18% of a home’s energy consumption, and upgrading to a larger unit can drastically cut down your bills. For households that do not use much hot water, there are tankless models which heat up water only when you need that. Those are considered the most energy-efficient options.
Insulate or Replace Doors and Windows
If you go back to our suggestion about upgrading your HVAC system, you will notice that the HVAC is never efficient unless the house is properly insulated. Air leaks typically occur through gaps around windows and doors allowing heat or cool air to escape. In comparison to the newer windows and doors, houses built in the previous century did not have the luxury of double-glazed windows or longer-lasting materials such as plastic and aluminum.
Inspect your windows for gaps, holes, rotting frames, condensation or uneven size that prevent smooth closing.
Air leaks cause higher heating bills and inefficient temperatures around the house. Going as far as replacing old doors and windows (without sacrificing the design of the house) could not only cut down on your utility payments but also help to keep your rooms warm during winter and cool during summer.
Switch to Energy Star Appliances
If you bought an older house with the included appliances, consider replacing them with newer models, labelled as energy-efficient models (Energy Star). This program offers a vast selection of appliances in all categories including stoves, washers, dryers, refrigerators and more. Those efficient appliances drastically lower energy use as well as your monthly bills.
Do Not Forget About the Electrical System
The electrical system keeps your home running. However, those electrical systems that were used in older houses are no longer relevant. The reason is simple: old electrical systems have a hard time functioning with modern appliances.
Moreover, an outdated electrical system is fire hazardous. Hence, replacing it is not only about preventing your appliances from burning up but also safety reasons.
Replace Shower Heads and Toilets
It might not be the first thing you replace in the old house; however, such little details as brand-new shower heads can make a difference both aesthetically and sustainably. Modern shower heads and toilets come in many energy-efficient models that offer to reduce water usage and lower your utility bill.
“By installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators, up to 2,700 gallons of water and more than 330 kilowatt hours of electricity can be saved each year since there is less demand on the water heater,” as per Bob Vila.
The same applies to toilets that are responsible for at least 30% of indoor water consumption. That number describes modern toilets. Older toilets use even more water. While replacing them will cost you some sum, in the long run using energy-efficient toilets will save you more money.
The Last Step is to Seal the Floorboards
Older houses typically do not have carpets. Most of those houses have wooden floorboards or tiles. While you might fix the appearance of floorboards by polishing them with a designated floor solution, sealing is the next step. Old floorboards are the reason why cold air enters your home. That is why sealing floorboards, filling in gaps with thin foam and adding some rags can prevent your house from losing a significant amount of warmth.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an energy-efficient home?
An energy-efficient home is designed to lower water and energy consumption. Those houses have well-insulated walls and ceiling, and high-efficiency heating and cooling system that contributes to lower utility bills.
How to make your home more energy efficient?
Upgrading your home towards a more energy-efficient one does not have to be an expensive project. Simple actions such as testing your windows and doors for gaps, installing a clothesline, maintaining your appliances, sealing ductwork and tenting to your furnace can bring a positive change and do not cost much.
How to make an old home energy-efficient?
An older home will require more changes than a modern one to become energy efficient. Depending on the original condition of the house you might have to invest in HVAC system upgrades, replace windows, purchase new appliances and add insulation.