Old homes exude character and charm, but they’re not always the most efficient properties to live in. In fact, owning a period property could be more expensive than you first realized. Not only are there the renovation and maintenance costs to consider, but you also need to be aware of your home’s energy efficiency, and what it could be costing you.
Besides the drain on your bank balance, you also need to make sure your home is a safe and comfortable place for you and your loved-ones to live. Poor energy-efficiency can lead to damp, mold, and other issues that could impact your health as well as your finances.
The good news is that you don’t have to resign yourself to living in an inefficient home, however old your property. These tips will help you reduce the cost of your energy bill and live a more environmentally responsible and comfortable life.
Keep the Doors Closed
The best way to conserve heat, and therefore energy, in your home is to heat it at night and keep the doors closed during the day. It’s also important to open curtains and drapes to allow the glass of the windows that have been warmed by sunlight to heat the room, an entirely free way to add heat to your home.
It goes without saying that you should keep lights off and electrical devices unplugged rather than left on standby when you’re not home, but many people make these mistakes. It might be tempting to leave lights on to give the illusion that someone is home and improve your building’s security, but you’d be far better off installing an alarm or a double lock than piling more expense onto your energy bill. Remember: small changes are essential in maintaining energy efficiency in your home.
Change the Toilets, Faucets and Showerheads
While original features may look beautiful, they are not always the most efficient. Given that some period properties are over a hundred years old, it stands to reason that an old faucet mayleaks, or that a decades-old toilet may not flush efficiently.
Not only are ill-functioning bathroom features frustrating, but they will also cost you more money in the long term than modern replacements. Updating your sinks, toilets, faucets and showerheads to energy-saving equivalents could save you 77% on your water bill. Then, not only will you enjoy a more pleasant shower, but you’ll also have more money in your pocket to show for it.
If you’re worried about modern features looking out of place in your home, try vintage-look bathroom pieces. You can have all the functionality of a modern bathroom without compromising on the character and style of your home.
Improve Your Hot Water System
Insulating your hot water lines is the most efficient way to improve your hot water system, and will prevent them cooling off quickly and reduce the need to reheat between uses. It’s also advisable to use low-flow fixtures for your shower and bath and try to limit yourself (and the rest of the household) to one bath or shower per day each.
Try not to get sucked in by “instant hot water taps” in your kitchen, as these are a huge drain on energy resources. It’s better to use an energy-efficient kettle instead.
Replace Your Lightbulbs
Replacing incandescent bulbs with LED ones is the cheapest and fastest way to improve the energy efficiency of your home. LED bulbs are more expensive than traditional bulbs, but you stand to make some substantial savings in the long run. According to Xcel Energy, based on the average household having 47 bulbs in their home and paying 11.88 cents per hour, you stand to save $42.02 every month on your energy bills.
To put those figures into perspective, that’s over $500 a year. It doesn’t make economic sense to change your bulbs while there is still life left in them, so wait until they blow before you replace them. You can find LED strips for the vanity light in your bathroom, your lamps and overhead lights to ensure an energy-efficient home.
Replace the Window Frames or Glass
Old windows tend to be the single biggest drain on household energy, as they are typically not well insulated. Upgrade your single glazing to double-glazing, or replace the window frames entirely if they are leaking or rotten.
If your frames are aluminum, replace them with vinyl, as these are more resistant to heat transfer. Tinting your windows can also make a big difference to the inside temperature, during both the summer and winter months.
If you live in a period property, you will need to be careful about replacing your windows. You need to make sure that your chosen style of replacement window is sympathetic to your home’s design. It’s not advisable to try to fit windows yourself, so hire a reputable company for your replacement windows San Diego to ensure the job is done right.
The initial outlay for solar panels is expensive, but you do stand to save some serious money in the long run. Plus, the environmental advantages of changing your energy source are plentiful.
If your budget can stretch to replacing the power source in your home, you could stand to save hundreds of dollars a year on energy bills by going solar. Your panels need to be positioned to capture the most sunlight, which is especially important in regions where cloudy days are more prevalent than sunny. Alternatively, geothermal systems can be installed almost anywhere.
Insulate Your Attic
Making sure your walls and attic are well insulated will reduce the rate that heat flows out of your home, and keep it warmer for longer. It’s a good idea to ask an energy auditor in your local area to come and do an inspection of your home, as insulation will only improve your energy efficiency if it is properly (and this usually means professionally) installed. This is one area where it pays to consult an expert. Other things you can do to improve your home’s insulation include adding more furnishings, use window seals and insulating drapes, and opt for carpet instead of bare floors.
Plant Trees and Shrubberies
The fact that landscaping can improve the efficiency of a home is a fact unknown to many, but houses surrounded by trees are the most efficient. During warmer months, the foliage blocks the infrared radiation that makes your house warmer, while the branches let the radiation come through during the winter, and protect from winds. Of course, this only has a minimal effect, but when it comes to energy conservation, it’s the small details that add up to the biggest results.
Upgrade Your Old Furnace
Boilers that predate 1992 tend to waste over 30 percent of the fuel they use, making them a huge waste of energy. If you live in a climate where it’s cold enough to use your furnace, and you know it’s nearing the end of its service life, you will want to think about upgrading it to a more efficient system. The ACEEE recommends using a condensing furnace instead, as these systems boast an energy efficiency of 90 percent, meaning you stand to save up to 27 percent on your energy bill.
If in doubt as to the age of your furnace, it’s worth consulting a technician or energy auditor for advice. They should be able to tell you how old your system is and suggest a suitable replacement for your home.
Invest in an Energy-Saving Refrigerator
It’s easy to forget that your refrigerator is a constant sap on your energy, costing an average of $50–150 per year to run. Energy-star rated models can slash this cost in half. It’s also a good idea to think about the size of your refrigerator. Do you need a large one, or will a smaller one suffice for your needs? Wherever possible, opt for a fridge with a freezer compartment rather than a separate freezer.
Know How to Use Your Appliances Efficiently
One of the best ways to minimize your energy consumption is to be knowledgeable about your devices and how best to use them. Do full loads of clothes in the washing machine, and don’t turn your dishwasher on until it’s full. Modern appliances typically have energy-efficient settings so that you can utilize those, too. Remember to turn off your electrical equipment when it’s not in use, especially if you’re going on holiday or leaving the house for a few days. There’s no benefit to keeping them plugged in, and even standby modes drain a lot of unnecessary energy.
Make Small Changes to Your Daily Habits
There are lots of areas where you can make small adjustments to your everyday life that will ultimately save you money on your electricity bill. Letting your hair dry naturally instead of using a hairdryer, for example, could save you approximately $165 per year. Reading a book for two hours every evening instead of watching TV or going on your laptop could save you $40 per year while ditching the microwave could save you $80. Of course, you’re not expected to do all of these things, but implementing one or two energy-saving habits will increase your efficiency and save you money.