Ten Steps to Eliminating the Negative Environmental Impact of Your Old House

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips, Green Renovations

1. INSULATE: Insulate your attic and walls with as much as possible.

2. CAULK & SEAL: Ceiling lights, attic hatches, chimneys, dryer ducts and other cracks in your house leak the comfortable air you’re trying to keep in.  Make sure to also seal and insulate the basement sill plate (that 1 foot gap between your house and the wood that sits on the foundation). (DIY spray foam Tiger Foam is great for insulating and sealing the sill plate)

3. FIX WINDOWS: Restore your old windows (avoid buying new!!) - make them go up and down again!  Add weatherstripping.  It’s a big job, but DIY will save you thousands of dollars in labor and energy.  (Lorri Sipes is an architect on a mission to Save The Windows)

4. STORM WINDOWS: Add well-sealed storm windows with Low-E glass  (we’re using Trapp windows)

5. EFFICIENT LIGHTING: Change ALL lights to efficient compact fluorescents (add motion sensor switches if you can afford them)

6. CHANGE YOUR SHOWER HEAD: Install a 1.5 gallon per minute shower head - will save you 11,000 gallons of hot water and about $100 each year.  (Bricor, Hansgrohe, American Standard, Kohler and Caroma - look for the WaterSense label and models with less than 1.6 gallons per minute)

7. ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES:  Upgrade to all Energy Star rated appliances (get a smaller refrigerator than you think you need; disconnect the ice maker)

8. WATER HEATER: buy the most efficient you can find; consider an on-demand heater; wrap your tank with an insulation blanket; set the thermostat on the tank below 120°

9. GEOTHERMAL HEATING - A/C and HOT WATER: (VIDEO on how Geothermal works)

10. RENEWABLE ENERGY: Add some wind or solar or purchase from a utility that produces renewable energy.  (micro-inverters can help maximize production in northern climates like ours in Michigan:  VIDEO on how micro-inverters work).

In my next post I will share some practical tips for greening your old home and how my wife and I are going beyond zero.


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  1. 5 Responses  to “Ten Steps to Eliminating the Negative Environmental Impact of Your Old House”

  2. marc
    Aug 29, 2011
    Another good source for spray foam insulation is http://foaminsulation.net. I got my stuff from them when I converted my garage into a studio. It was easy to do, a bit messy, and that is the warmest room of the house now.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    Since the number of scald injuries far exceeds the occurrence of Legionella, the CDC recommends setting the water heater temperature 120 degrees F (about 50 degrees C) or LOWER at the tap where it is used. http://www.cdc.gov/Safechild/Burns/ For energy savings the Department of Energy, the EPA and most other conservation organizations (including www.Greenovation.TV) recommend no higher than 120F. Ideally, your water should be set to the temperature that feels comfortable without having to turn on the cold water. If you have to add cold water, that is energy wasted to heat the water in the tank. Again - above 120F can cause scalding if you don't have a newer faucet with a mixing valve for safety . . . and it just wastes energy.
  4. Jason
    Aug 29, 2011
    I have installed a water source heat pump, which heats and cools our home as well as producing hot water. This was an expensive system, but I really like it.
  5. Jeremy
    Aug 29, 2011
    Buying a shower head is a novel idea, wouldn't have even thought about that until I read this. It makes perfect sense, so much unnecessary water comes out of those huge ones, might notice a water pressure difference but I'll survive.
  6. MichelleG
    Aug 29, 2011
    Shouldn't water in the water heater be kept *above* 120 degrees to prevent Legionnaire's disease and growth of other bacteria?