It would be truly ideal if homes were built with energy efficiency in mind, including alternative energy sources like solar or wind power, as well as the insulative materials that could help to reduce the need for major offenders like heating and cooling. But most modern homes aren’t designed with LEED or Passive House standards in mind, so it’s no surprise that older homes don’t tend to features these eco-friendly amenities. But if you’re invested in the idea of green living and you want to do more to cut energy consumption, you might be looking for ways to update your older home in order to make it more energy efficient. That said, many energy-saving upgrades can cost you an arm and a leg. Just take solar panels, for example. Sure they can nullify your monthly electric bill, but the average homeowner will pay $25,000-50,000 to purchase and install them. However, there are some relatively low-cost solutions to the energy issues common to older homes. Here are a few ideas that may be better suited to your budget.
- Energy film. One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to keep the summer heat out of your older home is to install energy film. There are two major issues that cause your home to heat up: one is that you probably have south-facing windows that soak up the sun during the hottest part of the day, and the other is that your home likely features clear glass, which allows about 90% of the sun’s heat in through the windows. Energy film can help to address both issues, and all you have to do is unroll it, cut it to size, and stick it directly to windows to block out up to 90% of the sun’s heat-producing rays. You can even remove it during the winter to allow warming sunlight in and then re-stick it when the summer rolls around again, providing you treat it with care.
- Weather stripping. This relatively inexpensive solution to leaks around windows and doors can be installed by a contractor, but you might just want to head to your local hardware store and do it yourself to save even more. When wooden surfaces (such as window and door frames) experience temperature and humidity fluctuations, they can swell and shrink, leaving gaps where outside air comes in and your bought air leaks out. Weather stripping can solve this problem either temporarily or permanently, depending on your seasonal needs and the products you install.
- Heat-recovery ventilator. If you take the time to seal up your home and make it airtight, it’s important to ensure that you have proper ventilation in order to maintain the high quality of your interior air. And one good way to increase energy efficiency along these lines is by installing a heat-recovery ventilator. This product uses the warm air being vented out of your home to heat up the colder outside air coming in (and it does the opposite in the summer). This means that you’re paying less to heat the fresh air coming into your home, maintaining the interior temperature, and using less energy in the process.
- Radiant floor heating. Okay, if we’re being honest this is not an inexpensive process. But if you happen to be replacing your flooring anyway, why not spend a little extra time and money planning for a more energy-efficient future for your older home? You can install hydro or electric radiant floor heating fixtures (depending on whether you have a boiler and radiators or central air in your home) before laying down flooring materials that are ideal for absorbing and releasing heat. This benefits you in a couple of ways. First, hot air rises, so any heat created in the floor will fill the whole room, making your interior more comfortable. But the heat will also last longer, reducing energy waste (as opposed to central air). And when you have materials like slate or other stone on the floor, it can also absorb sunlight, increasing natural and energy-free heat in your home. In short, you’ll offset up-front costs over time.
- Extra insulation. This can also be a major expense, but you stand to save so much that it’s probably well worth your while when you live in an older home. You know why sealing air leaks is so important to improving energy efficiency, but if you don’t take care of insulation problems, sealing up leaks won’t do you much good. So hire a home energy auditor to find problem areas and then add or upgrade insulation as needed.