You can improve your historic home’s energy efficiency without losing its historic character.
If you own a historic home, chances are many of the modern amenities that we now take for granted simply weren’t there when your home was designed and built. This includes the sort of comprehensive, fully automated, HVAC systems more modern homes would have. Fortunately, you don’t have to destroy your home’s historic character in order to improve your indoor air comfort and energy efficiency. Here are some tips that will help.
Restore Original Features
First of all, consider restoring and utilizing the features your home’s original occupants used to stay cool in sunny southern California. These features include:
- Light colored finishes on exterior walls to reflect solar heat
- High ceilings to allow air to rise within rooms
- Transom windows between rooms to allow hot air to exit
- Shutters to protect windows with lots of sun exposure
- Deep balconies, porches, roof overhangs, and awnings to provide shade
One helpful tip for keeping your home cool the way prior generations did is to open the windows on the shady side of the house as well as an attic window or vent in order to make a cooling draft pass through the house. You can also open the top sash of a window on the other side of the house if you don’t have attic ventilation.
Historically, builders were sometimes very creative with what they used for insulation. Everything from newspapers to corncobs to rags has been found inside old walls. By upgrading your insulation to a modern product, you can greatly enhance your home’s ability to hold heated or cooled air.
Repair and Weatherize Windows
Many historic homes have beautiful solid-wood window frames holding single panes of glass. While modern double pane windows are much more efficient, installing modern windows can detract from your home’s historic character if you’re not careful. A better option might be to install storm windows on the inside or outside of the existing window, to add extra protection without losing the look of the historic window. You should also make sure your historic wood windows are properly sealed with weatherstripping to prevent drafts.
Consider Ductless AC
Many historic homes have been converted to central air by concealing ductwork behind a drop ceiling. Unfortunately, this destroys the original look and feel of the high-ceilinged rooms. You may also end up concealing details like hand-carved moldings. Many people don’t realize that there is another alternative besides clogging up their windows with AC units. Ductless air conditioners can be installed in walls or ceilings to provide more unobtrusive cooling.
Check Your Building Seal
Finally, don’t forget to check your building seal for leaks. An Air Balancing test from Econo West Heating Air & Plumbing can be a very helpful tool in identifying how much heated or cooled air is being lost through gaps in the building seal.