5 Effective Ways to Retrofit Older Housing to be More Energy Efficient

Guest Blog by our friend Justin Harve

Owners living in older homes are not necessarily destined to be stuck with high energy bills that simultaneously drain the wallet and Earth’s precious resources. By investing in a few surprisingly affordable updates, a home of any age can easily be transformed into an energy-
efficient living space. Here are five low-cost and effective ways to retrofit an older house to save hard-earned green while also living green.

1. Affordable Lighting Upgrades

Replacing incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs) can have a huge impact on energy expenses in a brilliant way. CFLs and LEDs are reported to use anywhere from 25 to 80 percent less energy and last three to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Simply changing out five commonly used bulbs with energy efficient ones can save homeowners up to $100 annually. Another affordable lighting upgrade involves installing motion sensing switches. These ensure that the lights turn off automatically as a room is exited. There are also ‘smart’ lighting options that can be controlled remotely via Internet connected devices, but it’s a bit more costly than
standard sensors.

2. Home Sealing Tips

Sealing up a drafty home is an affordable way to increase home comfort levels while reducing heating and cooling losses through cracks and unsealed areas. Common areas of the home that typically require periodic resealing include air ducts, attics, pipe inlets, doors, foundation and windows. However, the biggest ‘leakers’ of energy in homes tends to be windows, with estimates citing that poorly sealed windows can cause up to 30 percent of home’s energy loss. While replacement can be costly, owners can update existing windows to boost efficiency by
adding:
• Caulk and weatherstripping
• Storm windows / panels
• Solar control film
• Window treatments / coverings
• Exterior shading such as awnings or blinds

3. Adding Insulation

Having adequate insulation is integral to the energy efficiency of a home. Many owners of older homes are often surprised to discover that while the attic is insulated, that there is little to no insulation within the structure’s walls. Fortunately, adding insulation is an affordable DIY project that most homeowners can undertake comfortably to curb related heating and cooling losses. Owners may want to use the same type of insulation currently installed or opt for another material. Common options include fiberglass, foam and cellulose materials that come in batts,
rolls, vapor barriers, foam boards and spray boards. One of the most important things owners need to consider is the insulation’s R-value. R-values measure the material’s thermal resistance, and depends on the insulation’s thickness and density. The higher the R-value, the more efficient and effective the material is.

4. Install a Programmable Thermostat

Heating and cooling tends to be a home’s largest energy expense, and most older homes still utilize traditional thermostats that can only be operated manually. However, programmable thermostats are very affordable, simple to install and allow owners to have complete control over their HVAC system from anywhere. The systems are more accurate than old-school models and connect directly to smartphones and other online devices. This allows owners to cut back on heating and cooling usage when away from home, while giving them the ability to remotely turn it on before returning.

5. Upgrade the Water Heater

New efficiency standards for water heaters have been implemented in recent years, giving homeowners good reason to consider an upgrade. Conventional storage tank hot water heaters that are ten years old or more can be responsible for up to a fifth of a home’s annual energy expenses. The actual overall savings will depend on how much hot water is utilized each day. For example those using 55 gallon tanks can save 25 to 50 percent with an Energy Star rated model.

However, those looking for an even more efficient way to source hot water might consider investing in a tankless water heater. Also known as on-demand water heaters, these devices can produce anywhere from two to five gallons of hot water per minute without the need for a reservoir or tank. Tankless water heaters are compatible with either gas or electricity, but the greenest models available are solar powered. Those who use less than 41 gallons of hot water each day may find this to be an ideal solution to curbing excessive energy use in an older home. Those looking for more ways to retrofit and update an older home for energy efficiency should contact a local expert for an energy audit.

Justin Havre is a Calgary native and owner of Justin Havre & Associates. Having worked in real estate for over a decade after starting his career in tech, Justin believes countless homes and their residents throughout the world can benefit from smart updates that take advantage of affordable advances in technology. You can find Justin at: https://www.edmontonhomes.ca/