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Tricks to Treating Your Older Home to Energy Upgrades

Project Planning
October 25, 2016

It's frightening how much energy an older home can lose. Even scarier is the thought that energy-efficient upgrades might affect the look and character of the home you love. Fortunately, Carini Heating & Air Conditioning, who are in our network of home improvement contractors, offer some tricks of the trade to ease any fears about how energy-saving fixes may impact your vintage home.

Energy Upgrades Shouldn't Give You a Scare

You bought your vintage or older home because you love its style, its history, and even its quirks. Still, these are modern times, and you'd rather not suffer a bone-chilling freeze in the winter or cauldron-like heat in the summer. Did you know that heating and cooling your home accounts for 48 percent of your energy bill on average? A better heater, new insulation, or a modern, energy-efficient AC unit could make life more comfortable and lower your bill at the same time.

While this is appealing, you don't want the work required to install new insulation or a big AC unit to be like a curse marring the beauty of your home. That's why it's important to hire heating and air specialists who know how to design energy upgrades that don't turn your home into a horror show.

One thing to keep in mind with heating and air upgrades in older homes is that hazardous building materials may be discovered upon inspection. Asbestos, for example, may be lurking in attics and around ducting. If that's the case, it's possible to either get rid of these materials or leave them in place as long as they are not touched. Licensed and certified companies can safely remove unsafe materials before energy upgrades are installed.

The Wicked Ways Older Homes Lose Heat

Heat escapes from vintage homes in all sorts of sinister ways! You may have poor insulation in your attic, walls, and subfloors, or even no insulation at all. Old, leaky windows may make your house sound haunted, but what's worse is they let warm air creep out at the same time. Windows and doors that aren't properly sealed are another culprit, as are air gaps in doors.

Heat can sneak out of air ducts, too. These ducts, which are used in forced-air heating and cooling systems, aren't always easily accessible, as they are hidden in walls, attics, or basements. They may have been improperly designed or not installed according to building codes. Or they may have become disconnected or damaged over the years. Sometimes rodents are the cause!

The real tale of terror, however, is the amount of energy lost through leaky duct systems, which is about 20 to 30 percent in the average home according to ENERGY STAR. That can cost you a hundreds of dollars a year.

Frightful Furnaces: Enter at Your Own Risk!

One of the most common problems Carini encounters with vintage homes is old, inefficient, and potentially dangerous wall and floor furnaces with a continuous pilot light. Installed decades ago, these antiquated, natural-gas furnaces are 56 to 70 percent efficient, meaning that the other 30 to 44 percent of the fuel used to heat your home escapes. Compare those numbers with modern furnaces, which run at about 98.5 percent efficiency according to Energy.gov.

More terrifying than poor energy efficiency, however, is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Also known as the invisible killer, CO is an odorless, colorless, and deadly gas. It's the result of the fuel that an old furnace burns to generate heat. If the furnace malfunctions or isn't properly vented, that could lead to CO poisoning in your home and, Halloween puns aside, can actually be fatal.

Old furnaces can also pose a fire hazard. If there's a fuel leak, you could trigger an explosion by lighting a match or turning on a light.

Energy Upgrades Can Look Great, Not Gruesome

Although these problems sound frightening, there's no need to break into a cold sweat if you notice a problem with your older home's heating and air system. The best solution is intelligent, well-thought-out design.

Design decisions can improve both the performance and energy efficiency of your heating or air-conditioning system. For example, proper design will guide the best spot to place a new air conditioning unit, the ideal type of insulation to install, or the appropriate retrofit of your heating system.

Good design ensures the result is aesthetically pleasing, blending in with the existing décor and architecture of your home. It will also add to your comfort. Not only will you enjoy the perfect temperature in your home no matter the weather, but you'll also love how increased energy efficiency can lower your utility bill.

Petrified About Price?

If the thought of costly energy upgrades spooks you, don't despair. Many utility companies offer rebates on heating and air products. It's often possible to get more energy-efficient and money saving-technologies at no additional cost when combining rebates from the utility company and the manufacturer. Financing is available, too.

Ultimately, making energy upgrades to your vintage home shouldn't be a hair-raising experience.

Learn more about the unique financing for energy upgrades available with Renovate America.

Sources:

http://energy.gov/public-services/homes/heating-cooling
https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_ducts
http://energy.gov/energysaver/minimizing-energy-losses-ducts
http://energy.gov/energysaver/furnaces-and-boilers 
http://www.safebee.com/home/how-prevent-explosion-and-other-furnace-disasters
https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Carbon-Monoxide-Information-Center/Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-and-Answers