If you own a historic Michigan home, you certainly want to preserve its charming features. But that doesn't mean your lovely home can't be energy efficient, too. By going about the work of upgrading your home's efficiency systematically and choosing your contractor with care, you can have the best of both worlds -- a beautiful historic home and energy efficiency.
Home energy audit
Before you do anything, have a qualified HVAC contractor do an energy audit of your home. The audit will reveal the problem areas. Try to hire a contractor who is familiar with and experienced in doing audits of older homes. He'll understand that you want to preserve the important features of your home, and he won't treat your home the same way he would treat a newer house. He'll make recommendations that are appropriate for your specific situation.
Three important areas
Your home differs significantly from newer homes, of course. But any home -- regardless of its age -- can benefit from a focus on three areas: efficient heating and cooling, insulation and air sealing. What you do in these three areas will differ in some respects from what the owner of a newer home does.
Your HVAC system: It may very well be that your heating system (and cooling system, if you have one) is very old and inefficient -- it may have been neglected over the years, as well. An upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace could help to lower your energy bills. But first, do what you can to lower your heating load without significantly altering your home. Insulating and air sealing can go a long way toward improving your energy efficiency. Adding air conditioning in some older homes can be tricky, as the ductwork on the second floor is often insufficient. Replacing that ductwork could mean tearing out the walls. Many homeowners find that window air conditioners do an adequate job. Alternatively, consider a ductless mini split in the area that absolutely must be kept cool.
Insulation: Many older homes have little, if any, insulation. Trying to heat or cool these homes wastes enormous amounts of energy dollars. Although you might be reluctant to tear out your prized plaster walls to add insulation, at least consider insulating the attic. That will keep warm air from escaping through the ceiling in the winter, and it will keep hot air from the attic radiating into your living space in the summer.
Air leaks: Air leaks around your exterior doors and window frames can be sealed with caulk and weatherstripping without significantly altering the appearance of your home. Also find and fix air leaks in spots where cable and wires penetrate exterior walls and places where two construction materials meet on the outside of your home. Last, inspect your ductwork, and seal any leaks that you find.
If you do it right, your historic Michigan home can be energy efficient. If you have any questions, contact Mast Heating and Cooling. Our team of highly trained and courteous professionals is more than happy to help you.
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