Old House, New Tricks: 15 Ways to Make an Aging Home More Sustainable
As the world continues prioritizing sustainability and environmental consciousness, the focus has shifted toward making aging homes more eco-friendly rather than tearing them down.
Revamping older homes to be more sustainable reduces their carbon footprint and lowers utility bills. With strategic modifications and upgrades, you can transform your aging home into an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly space.
Here are 15 ways to make an older residence more sustainable.
- Energy Audit
Before initiating sustainable upgrades, it’s vital to conduct an energy audit to identify areas requiring improvement. This assessment helps pinpoint energy inefficiencies and spots where modifications can make the most significant impacts.
Professional energy assessments or DIY evaluations can reveal where you’re wasting energy, allowing for targeted improvements.
- Insulation and Air Sealing
In the United States, 90% of homes are under-insulated. Inadequate insulation and air leaks are major contributors to energy loss in many older homes. Upgrading insulation in attics, walls and floors and sealing air leaks can significantly improve energy efficiency.
Adding weatherstripping around doors and windows, caulking gaps and insulating ducts prevents heat loss in the winter and keeps homes cooler in the summer, reducing the workload on heating and cooling systems.
- Heating and Cooling Systems
Updating the heating and cooling systems in an aging home is a pivotal step in upgrading its sustainability. Replacing outdated systems with newer, more energy-efficient models can limit energy consumption and utility costs by up to 50%.
High-efficiency furnaces, heat pumps or geothermal systems offer better performance, consume less energy and often provide advanced features like zoned heating and smart thermostats.
These systems provide better temperature control and lower greenhouse gas emissions, creating a more eco-friendly living environment. Proper maintenance and regular servicing of these upgraded systems further ensure optimal performance and longevity.
- Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors
Replacing old, single-pane windows and inefficient doors with energy-efficient models can considerably reduce heat loss or gain. Opt for double- or triple-pane windows with insulating frames and doors consisting of sustainable materials. This swap enhances your home’s energy efficiency and improves sound insulation.
- Energy-Efficient Appliances
Older appliances tend to be energy guzzlers. Upgrading to energy-efficient models, like refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters, can drastically lower utility bills while minimizing environmental impact.
Look for appliances with ENERGY STAR ratings for maximum efficiency. While upfront costs may be more expensive, you can save $450 on your energy bill annually.
- Solar Panels and Renewable Energy Sources
Installing solar panels can transform an aging home into a more sustainable one. Generating renewable energy decreases reliance on conventional power sources and also potentially allows homeowners to sell excess power back to the grid.
Renewable energy has skyrocketed in the United States, with the Biden-Harris administration aiming to achieve a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035.
- Water Efficiency Upgrades
Globally, we use 10 billion tons of water daily, and the average American uses between 100 to 175 gallons each day. Conserving water is just as essential as conserving energy, as only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is drinkable.
You can install low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads to reduce water usage. Consider harvesting rainwater for outdoor uses like watering gardens, which decreases your reliance on the municipal water supply.
- LED Lighting
Upgrading your home’s lighting to LED fixtures is a highly impactful choice. LED bulbs use significantly less energy compared to traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. They have a longer life span, consume less power and produce minimal heat, making them an ideal choice for sustainable living.
Switching to LED lighting lowers your electricity bills and decreases the frequency of bulb replacements, which also cuts down overall waste. Additionally, LED bulbs come in various color temperatures and designs, allowing homeowners to create their desired ambiance while being energy-conscious.
- Greywater Recycling System
Greywater refers to gently used water from sources like showers, baths, sinks and washing machines. Including a greywater recycling system in your house allows you to collect this water and reuse it for irrigation, flushing toilets, watering plants and other non-potable uses.
By diverting greywater from sewage systems, you limit your water consumption and minimize the strain on municipal water treatment facilities. These systems promote a more efficient use of water resources and lessen the environmental impact by repurposing water that would otherwise go to waste.
10. Sustainable Materials and Practices
When renovating or making any additions to your home, choose sustainable materials like reclaimed wood, bamboo, cork or recycled materials.
Embrace eco-friendly paints, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) products and sustainable flooring options. Using environmentally friendly materials decreases your residence’s environmental strain.
11. Smart Home Technology
Add smart home technology to optimize your energy use. Smart thermostats, lighting fixtures, plugs, and home automation systems can regulate energy consumption and adjust settings based on occupancy, optimizing efficiency.
12. Metal Roofing
Metal roofing offers several sustainable advantages for aging homes. These roofs are more durable, often lasting two to three times longer than traditional asphalt shingles. They reflect solar radiant heat, reducing cooling loads in the summer and potentially cutting energy costs for air conditioning.
Additionally, metal roofs are largely made from recycled materials and are fully recyclable at the end of their life span, lessening the impact on landfills. Their reflective properties can also contribute to a house’s overall energy efficiency, making them an excellent choice for homeowners looking to upgrade their aging roofs while remaining eco-friendly.
13. Green Roofs
Green roofs entail covering the roof surface with a layer of vegetation, providing numerous environmental benefits. They offer natural insulation that lowers heat absorption and loss, thereby improving the home’s energy efficiency.
Green roofs can also mitigate the urban heat island effect by absorbing heat and decreasing ambient temperatures. They aid in stormwater management by absorbing rainwater to lessen runoff and alleviate pressure on drainage systems.
Besides these ecological benefits, they provide a habitat for local wildlife, contribute to air quality improvement and extend the roof’s life span by protecting it from weathering and UV radiation.
Landscaping is another factor homeowners shouldn’t overlook. Choosing native plants and drought-resistant landscaping minimizes water consumption and supports local ecosystems. These plant choices require minimal maintenance and watering, offering a natural and eco-conscious solution to enhance the home’s surroundings.
Strategically placing trees and shrubs provides natural shade during summer, and this vegetation acts as a windbreak in winter, lessening the workload on heating and cooling systems. Implementing rain gardens, permeable surfaces and effective irrigation systems further contributes to water conservation efforts and minimizes runoff, while mulching retains moisture and promotes healthier plant growth.
15. Energy Monitoring and Management Systems
Implementing energy monitoring and management systems provides real-time data on energy usage within the home. These systems track and analyze energy consumption, offering insights into where and how you use energy.
With this information, you can make informed decisions to optimize power use, identify inefficiencies and adjust habits or systems for better conservation.
Out With the Old, in With the New
Revamping aging homes is an investment for the future. These modifications reduce these properties’ environmental strain and increase their comfort and value.
By implementing a few sustainable upgrades, homeowners can transform their older houses into eco-friendly sanctuaries while leaving a positive impact.