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Energy Efficiency in Historic Homes

Old home in winter for 401(e) blog


Do you live in a historic home? What historic homes lack in energy efficiency and modern building materials, they make up for in beauty, character, and of course, a sense of history. But how can you save energy and increase comfort while still preserving the qualities that make these older homes so unique?


Photo credit:  Mark Sylvesester, FreeRangeStock

Photo credit: Mark Sylveseter, FreeRangeStock


First, while energy efficiency technology has come a long way since the time many historic homes were built, that doesn’t mean that these homes weren’t designed and constructed with energy efficiency in mind. Some may argue that we have lost sight of building homes that fit well with their specific natural environment — without the convenience of modern mechanical systems that we have today, older homes were designed more specific to a region and climate, maintaining comfort and conserving energy through the use of properly placed windows, shutters, and awnings. Are you utilizing these original, built-in features? Peg O’Leary, Coordinator of the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission, notes:

“It is so important to understand historic homes and how the components worked together to create a comfortable living space. Awnings, double-hung windows, ceiling fans, and shade trees all contribute to a home’s livability, especially in reducing summer heat. It is also important to understand that original windows are easy to maintain and are made of old-growth lumber that is far superior to any products on the market today.”


Second, there are a number of other minimally-invasive measures you can do yourself such as cleaning vents and radiators, updating light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs, weather-stripping windows and doors, and caulking air leaks. Behavioral changes like making sure to lower your thermostat setting in the winter and raising it the summer can also play an important energy-saving role. Energy conservation is always an appropriate and important step before making significant alternations or investing in new systems.


After completing these smaller energy conservation steps, then you might want to consider consulting with a home energy expert. If you haven’t been to 401(e)’s Testimonial page, you should definitely check it out and be sure to watch Bret and Carenlee’s video. Owners of a beautiful historic, yet drafty home, Bret and Carenlee decided to have an energy assessment performed. By identifying problem spots, they were able to make their home warm and cozy without sacrificing the beauty or character of the home.


For more reading on energy efficiency and preservation of historic homes, check out the following resources: