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Trinity Valley EC News

The Energy Advisor: Older Homes Pose Unique Energy Challenges

A few updates around the house can save a bundle

Not all old houses are haunted, but I’ve seen plenty of homes that have lingering ghosts of dated construction techniques, aging materials and many spooky energy unknowns hiding in the walls and attics.

If you have a much older home, particularly a house more than 20 years old, it is almost a sure bet that there are some things to be done to catch up with modern homes.

Buildings don’t age all that well, and unless every owner has been diligent with maintenance, the structure can develop significant air leaks. Even if your older home was built well, materials and building standards have come a long way.


Current standards include R-13 wall insulation and R-38 above the ceiling, but that hasn’t always been the case. In the ceiling this can be a very cost-effective upgrade.

Wall insulation may be a different story. If you have any remodeling plans in the works for this summer, consider your options while you have things torn up.

There are also options for adding foam or blown-cellulose insulation using small holes rather than pulling off sheetrock or wall boards.

Be sure to watch out for safety concerns like lead paint or asbestos in older homes.


Windows are another area that has been greatly affected by modern technology and manufacturing.

If your home has single-pane windows, or double-pane windows that show signs of leakage between the panes, your energy dollars are going out the window in a literal way. Air gaps in window sashes and around the frames of windows should be checked as well.

Simple caulking and foam rubber gap sealing products can make a big difference here. Other products, like plastic window film and even heavy curtains, can also help on a budget.

Ultimately, new windows can pay for themselves over time by lowering cooling and heating costs, although the upfront costs can be prohibitive.

Floors and Ceilings

Many older homes on pier-and-beam foundations have very little sealing below the floor. Carpets and rugs can help your feet feel comfortable, but there could be cracks and gaps allowing airflow into and out of your house.

The same happens above your head, where cracks around electrical fixtures, attic openings, and holes for wiring and air ducts can all make an easy path for air to escape.

HVAC Equipment

As with the house itself, your A/C unit may also need some updates. Well-kept units can operate efficiently, but dirt builds up over the years and affects how well your system can do its job. A professional inspection and cleaning can add years of life to the unit and save you money over time.
Newer units can be a considerable saving as well, particularly if you add a heat pump in place of resistive heating in the winter.

Other Considerations

Safety is always our top priority here at the co-op, so please make sure any updates that involve electrical boxes or wiring are done safely. We are happy to provide temporary disconnections while work is being done.

Every little bit helps. It isn’t always easy to see on a particular electric bill, but for every minute the AC doesn’t run, there is a savings.