Upgrading and weatherizing an old house can seem like a daunting task. Where do you start? Do you tackle windows first or begin by insulating the attic? Are you prepared for an earthquake or even just allergy season? Whom do you consult? What tasks can you do on your own?
Why older homes? State of Oregon building codes began requiring higher energy-efficiency standards in all residential construction post 1993. If your home was built before then, it’s more likely to have inadequate insulation in the attic, floors and walls. There’s greater risk for earthquake events – if your home isn’t bolted to its foundation. Health and safety issues also merit a deeper look.
Consider 4 basic areas to investigate for improvements:
Heating and cooling systems: Homeowners may be wasting a lot of energy – and money – with inefficient systems. A few options include upgrading to high-efficiency gas or electric systems. In some instances, it can be the perfect time to consider both the cost and environmental benefits of transitioning from oil to gas or electric heat.
Leaks and Drafts: Older homes can have a lot of cracks, gaps and holes in them – those gaps could add up to the size of an open window – just think about it: an open window, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through winter? That’s not only really drafty and uncomfortable, but you may as well be paying to heat the outdoors!
A frequent problem within ductwork (the tubes that carry hot or cool air from forced air furnaces to your living space) is that 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and gaps in connections. This waste leads to higher utility bills and difficulty keeping the house warm or cool, regardless of the thermostat settings or efficiency of the heater or air conditioner.
Health and Indoor Air Quality: Leaky ducts can also bring moisture, dust, spores and allergens from crawl spaces into living space, resulting in poor air quality and potential health impacts. They can also pull in combustion gases from natural gas furnaces and water heaters, leading to unsafe air inside your home.
Insulation: A well-insulated home delivers year-round benefits. Not only will you see lower heating bills in the winter but cheaper air conditioning in the summer. Insulation resists the transfer of heat through walls, roofs, and floors. This helps keep the heat in during the winter and out during summer. The effectiveness of insulation is indicated by its resistance to heat flow, known as its “R-value.” The higher the R-value, the better.