Friday, February 4, 2011

10 tips for energy savings in your historic cottage

It's still pretty chilly outside, and we can all use some advice on making our historic homes more energy efficient during the winter and sustainable at the same time. Here are 10 tips to think about:

  1. Restore and weatherize original windows and doors, sealing the exterior envelope of the house. Visit here for more information on weatherizing original windows. Refrain from replacing windows with energy-efficient models; the result would adversely affect one of your cottage's  most character-defining features. Nor is it worth it in the long run.
  2. Have the efficiency of your HVAC system checked and if necessary upgrade to a more efficient model. If you are especially ambitious, consider geothermal.
  3. Switch to LED light bulbs or CFL's if possible. Consider installing motion sensors.
  4. Add insulation strategically to the attic and/or basement to prevent heat from escaping rather than to the walls, which can harbor moisture and contribute to other problems.
  5. Invest in quality, heavy draperies that when closed help to prevent heat from escaping from single pane windows.
  6. Don't forget the basics. Close off rooms that are rarely used, turn off lights, unplug appliances that are rarely used. Monitor your energy use.
  7.  If your cottage has an existing wood-burning stove, use it! If you know your historic house previously contained a wood-burning stove, investigate where it might have been located and consider installing a period-replica. Some homes can be heated entirely from wood-burning stoves.
  8. Consider installing solar panels on an inconspicuous place, perhaps on a rear or side elevation of your roof if your historic district ordinance allows for them.
  9. If you are still convinced that your original windows are contributing to the problem, carefully install low-E exterior storm windows.
  10. Make sure your appliances have an Energy Star rating.

By living in a historic home and virtually recycling all the materials, you are already saving a HUGE amount of embodied energy! By making some initial investments, you can save a lot more on your utility bills in the long run. And if you produce more energy that you consume (a possibility with solar panels), you may even end up with your utility company paying you!

Have a great day and stay warm!


  1. Megan I have a stupid question about CFLs... I WANT to use them in my house, I really do. They're supposed to last so long and the energy savings is very enticing. Here's the thing... We moved into our new home less than 2 years ago, and we replaced burnt out bulbs with CFLs... and they have ALREADY blown out themselves!
    Any advice?

    New follower, btw

  2. Hi and thanks for following! You are not alone in your problem with CFL bulbs- a lot of people are having the same issue with the life cycle cut short and it may take some time before manufacturers can remedy the defects and weed out the bad batches. You might see if the bulbs have a warranty or consider contacting the manufacturer for your money back?

    Also, I read where switching CFL's on and off many times per day can reduce their lifespan. So perhaps only using CFL's for lights that you leave on an extended period of time would be the way to go. Otherwise, the better investment is LED bulbs (although expensive right now, the price will come down eventually). I like LED bulbs so much better anyway because of the improved light range and color--also they don't pollute landfills with toxins like CFL's if not recycled. Good luck!