Tagged: “green building”

Optomizing energy for historic homes


Are you wondering how to lower your energy bills without losing features that give your house its character? Are you concerned about how your decisions might affect the long-term maintenance or condition of your home?

Historic homes were constructed using different techniques and materials than most modern structures. They were typically built with environmentally friendly features such as:

  • Thick walls
  • Light-reflecting finishes
  • Operable windows and shutters
  • Vents
  • Awnings and porches to provide shade
  • Locally sourced materials

Older homes can be made more energy efficient. They simply need to be treated with a thoughtful, whole-house approach.

Maximize Your Home’s Original Energy Saving Features

Here in Albany, NY,  some of these considerations may be applicable to your individual needs:

  • In the northeast, saltbox-style houses were positioned so that the long slope of the roof directed the cold north wind up and over the house to keep the house warmer in winter.
  • House and buildings were grouped in an L or U-shape to create a sheltered dooryard in which to work.
  • In areas where the winters are cold, chimneys typically run through the center of the house to allow the heat to radiate into the rooms.
  • Thick masonry or adobe walls work in both warm and cooler climates. The walls provide thermal mass to absorb the sun’s energy during the day and transfer it very slowly to the interior. This helps keep the interior cool during the day and warmer in the evening as the heat works its way through the walls.

Owners of older and historic homes can continue to use these practical features as they were originally intended, or rediscover them, making use of their great energy-saving potential.

How can I establish a baseline comparison of where to start with my historic home?

Energy audits provide the best way to identify air leaks in your home. This comprehensive audit will create a roadmap of where and how to best make improvements on your home. This is especially critical with historic homes because air sealing can dramatically alter how moisture moves through the structure.

Here is a  video from NYSERDA that outlines the steps involved in assessing where the common inefficiencies are in buildings. (While the property they are looking at is in not historic, you can at least get an idea of the process)

Be sure to check out NYSERDA’s website that focuses on the Residential Opportunities.They also have their 2013 issues available on line to download
Comfort at Home
The diagram at the top of the page was found on the Edinburgh World Heritage Site. I liked it because it referenced what they call “Behavior Change” which essentially is the reduction for the need of energy.

US Environmental Protection Agency
Edinburgh World Heritage