How to make older homes more energy efficient

Replacing old or inadequate insulation is one way that homeowners can make older homes more energy efficient. (Courtesy)

Replacing old or inadequate insulation is one way that homeowners can make older homes more energy efficient. (Courtesy)

Older properties tend to have a sense of charm that newly built homes may lack. Perhaps it is their lived-in feel or design elements that remind homeowners of yesteryear that make older homes so popular among home buyers.

What older homes have in character they may lack in modern amenities.

For example, whereas many homes are now built with energy efficiency in mind, older homes may not be so eco-friendly. Fortunately, there are many ways for homeowners who love their older homes to keep that love going strong while making their homes more energy efficient at the same time.

• Check for leaks and plug any you find. Homes may develop air leaks over time, and such leaks allow air to infiltrate the home.

When that occurs, homeowners instinctively turn up the thermostat in winter to combat the cold air getting in. Come summertime, those same homeowners will run their air conditioners on a higher setting in an effort to stay comfortable when hot air is creeping through the cracks.

Rather than adjusting the temperature inside, fix any sources of air infiltration you find. Run your hand along doorways and windows to determine if any drafts are coming through.

Older homes may also develop cracks in bricks, around the foundation and in siding or stucco. Seal any areas where you feel air infiltrating your home, which will save money, reduce your energy consumption and make your older home more efficient.

• Add insulation. Many older homes are poorly insulated. But according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, adding insulation can reduce energy costs by as much as 50 percent.

Installing insulation can be tricky, especially if insulation was not originally included in your home, as is sometimes the case with older homes. Insulation can become damp and prove ineffective if installed improperly. Damp insulation also may contribute to mold growth and rot in the home’s framing.

Older homes may be lacking adequate insulation around attics, crawl spaces, basements, heating and cooling ducts, and water pipes. Cover your water heater with an insulated water heater blanket so the heater retains more heat and consumes less energy to heat the water.

• Stay on top of your home. Much like older vehicles, older homes require a little extra TLC on the part of homeowners. Don’t allow your home to fall into disrepair.

Even if your energy bills are not on the rise, inspect windows and doors to make sure they are closing tightly, as over time such seemingly minor problems can add up to substantial energy loss.

Also remember to clean gutters and downspouts, removing debris that can add up and lead to water damage that may ultimately compromise the effectiveness of your home’s insulation.

• Book an energy audit. Energy audits, which may be offered free of charge by your utility company, can help detect any additional areas where a home may be using energy inefficiently. Even if you have to pay for an audit, the cost savings if any additional inefficiencies are discovered will likely add up to more than the cost of the audit.

Older homes are attractive to many homeowners, who can take several steps to make sure their homes are operating as efficiently as possible.