Energy Efficiency Tips for Older Homes

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One of the most charming things about Cincinnati is the city’s beautiful architecture but to enjoy owning them, it helps to know energy saving tips for older homes. The Cincinnati area is full of historic neighborhoods and old homes in styles ranging from Federal and Greek Revival to Art Deco. 

In fact, the National Register lists 28 districts from the City of Cincinnati. They range from a small grouping of three buildings to a collection of more than 1,200 buildings. But the beauty of these houses comes at a cost. During both winter and summer, homeowners can pay a hefty price to keep them comfortable.

For owners of older Cincinnati area residences is boosting energy efficiency possible without sacrificing the homes’ historic character. Yes! By following energy saving tips for older homes such as these, you’ll save significantly on a home that meets modern energy-saving standards while retaining its historic charm. 

Original Energy Saving Tips for Older Homes Included Passive Solar Design

Start by focusing on what’s already in place. Without today’s conveniences, older homes were built with energy-efficiency in mind. Using what’s known as “passive solar,” homes were often designed to make the most of natural sources. Passive solar design includes how the house is positioned on the lot and location of windows or specific rooms. It includes exterior finish choices and awning installation. 

Purposeful landscaping includes the strategic planting of trees. Evergreens are often planted as a windbreak for winter and stormy weather. Deciduous trees provide shade during summer months but let warmth peek through during colder weather. 

They might have front porches to catch cool breezes on summer afternoons and evenings. Fireplaces weren’t added just for eye appeal, but also for warmth. Today, they can be modified with gas inserts. Thick brick or plaster walls in many Cincinnati homes serve as thermal insulation. 

Thanks to advancements in building materials and a better understanding of energy efficiency, you can upgrade the energy efficiency in your older home without sacrificing character.

Increase Energy Efficiency in Old Houses with These Tips:

1. Start with an Energy Audit

Start at the beginning to understand what you’re working with and to prioritize. In Cincinnati, Duke Energy customers can get a free audit while the team at Apollo is capable of evaluating plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling efficiency. 

2. Pay Attention to Air Leaks

Air leaks surface in many areas in old houses. Easily fix many common sources of air leaks, such as those around door frames and windows, with caulk and weatherstripping. This won’t detract from your home’s appearance. 

The HVAC ductwork in most homes develops leaks over time. Depending on its age, you could improve energy efficiency in your older home with ductwork repair or replacement. 

3. Rethink Heating and Cooling

This is an easy area to improve the energy efficiency of an older home by leaps and bounds. Regardless of your system, regular air filter changes and preventive maintenance tune ups help increase energy efficiency in older homes. 

Air Conditioning Upgrades

Depending on your home, you may not have air conditioning at all. That’s okay. We have a solution for that which doesn’t include major renovations. If you do have central air, the air conditioner is probably inefficient. 

Air conditioners’ cooling ability is measured by something called SEER. It stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. ENERGY STAR air conditioners are good choices to improve your comfort and energy usage. 

Heating Upgrades

Only a few years ago, a standard gas furnace provided 80 AFUE, or 80 percent efficiency. This means for every dollar spent to heat the home, twenty cents disappeared up the flue. Now, gas furnaces are available with 98 AFUE so 98 cents of every dollar spent heats your home. This lowers your heating bill overall. 

No Ductwork – No Problem – Use Ductless Mini Splits

Ditch the old noisy, inefficient window air conditioners. In addition to the security risk of it hanging out your window, they are not great for your energy bill. Enter ductless mini splits. Available as air conditioners or heat pumps to heat and cool, ductless bypasses many older home concerns. 

Install ductless units in a single room or use them throughout the home. Depending on the model, one outdoor AC compressor connects to up to six indoor air handler units. Ductless allows owners to replace or boost heating and cooling without tearing into walls or connecting complex ductwork. 

Older homes frequently have additions made by different owners or generations further complicating installation of traditional central air. Ductwork can get expensive real fast. 

Ductless installation is flexible. Install air handlers on the ceiling or a wall. They only require a three-inch hole to connect electric and refrigerant lines to the outdoor unit. Save yourself the hassle and get a free estimate for ductless heat pumps. 

4. Explore Water Heater Options

Hot water accounts for a large part of your energy bills. Replacing your water heater can help you take charge of your utility bills. Tankless water heaters continue to grow in popularity. With an estimated lifespan of up to 20 years, tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand and cost less to operate. They also mount on the wall and because there’s no tank, free up floor and storage space. 

5. Windows…Feature or HVAC Air Loss?

Many preservationists advise against replacing windows, as they are prized historic features, plus the wood is often old-forest and weather-resistant. Instead, consider low-E or laminated glass storm windows. They resist infiltration as efficiently as replacement windows. 

Another option is to apply a tinted film to the windows. Specialized firms provide this service to decrease the amount of sun coming through windows. If you have a lot of southern or eastern windows it often makes those rooms hot or unusable. If so, consider this service to decrease the work your HVAC system has to do. It also saves your flooring and furnishings from fading.

Making Major Changes: Get Appropriate Permits

Save yourself time, money and headaches with the appropriate permits if your home is considered part of a historic district. If you need assistance providing plans or technical specifications, Apollo Home is happy to assist you. 

When we plan an HVAC installation, for example, we design plans to ensure the heating and air system is sized correctly for the building. If ductwork is involved, we need to plan for it. The permit may require these documents. Just ask your Apollo Home consultant. 

Safety Tip: Check for Federal Pacific Electric Panels

While not an energy efficiency for old houses tip, we strongly recommend an electrical inspection, whether you have wiring projects planned or not. One reason is because of Federal Pacific Electric Company circuit breaker panels. As one of the most common electric panels from the 1950s to the 1990s, it’s possible you have one. 

There is considerable concern in the electrical services community and beyond as to their safety. The FPE panels with Stab-Lok circuit breakers continue to demonstrate a greater risk of malfunction and fire. Because the company went out of business they were never recalled. If you or an elderly relative live in a home built during this era, we recommend an electrical inspection. 

Safety Tip: Old Pipes and Sewer Lines

Another issue with older homes is the plumbing pipe materials. Some pipes may be at risk for leaching lead into your water, especially if you or prior residents used chemical drain cleaners in the past. 

You may also have crumbling clay pipes in your sewer line. These were really popular for decades but nearly all are at the end of their useful life. 

Between material breakdown and mature tree roots wiggling inside, you might need to replace plumbing pipes and sewer lines. Apollo Home is ready to help with these older home issues too. 

Need Help with Energy Saving Tips for Older Homes? Call Apollo

We’ve learned a lot in our more than 100 years and gladly use it to help you. For your peace of mind, we fully insure and background check our friendly certified HVAC techs, licensed plumbers and electricians. They also receive ongoing certified training to repair or service any brand of equipment. 

If you’re curious about a new tankless water heater, ductless mini split, air conditioner, gas furnace or electric panel let us know! We’re happy to provide a free estimate for plumbing, electric or HVAC installation

So, for more expert advice about energy saving tips for older homes – or new – contact Apollo Home. Serving the greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area, we’re always happy to help.

"Ernie & Mike did a superb job on my new furnace and A/C installation. Despite having more than a day’s work to do, they came in and stayed until the job was done. They were organized, efficient, and protected the rest of the house well. Got both furnace and A/C installed the same day. Ernie was courteous, informative, and clearly knew his job better than anyone I’ve encountered before. The units look so good guests now get The Tour of our new system. Apollo is clearly not a fly-by-night company. I would recommend them to anyone in need of a new furnace and/or A/C."
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