Old houses are notoriously challenging to heat and cool. But there has always been an existing conflict about changing and modernizing an old house. Structural differences from modern homes make efficient heating and cooling difficult to achieve, but enjoying the history and beauty of an older home does not have to mean paying extravagant heating and cooling bills to stay comfortable!
There are several ways through which you can make your old house energy efficient and durable.
Best Way to Cool Old Houses
Many older houses were built long before air conditioning was standard in homes. Therefore, they lack the infrastructure (ductwork) needed to accommodate modern forced air cooling systems. Therefore, the traditional central air conditioning system is not always the best way to cool old houses. Luckily, there are energy efficient solutions available that work well for an older home’s cooling needs.
High-Velocity HVAC Systems
Ductwork is most often installed in the areas of the home we cannot see – if central heating and cooling was not included when your home was first built, it may not have the place to accommodate ductwork and this may become an obstacle in cooling your old house. High-velocity systems are efficient and use mini-ducts smaller than the standard ones. Since they are small, they can be easily installed around the house. They even have smaller vents, and therefore there would be fewer disruptions in the interior decoration of your house. High-velocity HVAC systems can help you cool your old house.
Ductless Mini-Split HVAC
Another solution to the ductwork dilemma many older houses face is a ductless HVAC system. As the name suggests, these units do not require ductwork installation, making them a best way to cool old houses when ducts are not an option.
A ductless heat pump or air conditioner typically consists of a wall-mounted indoor unit combined with an outside compressor. It’s most often used in a situation where a window AC unit or baseboard heating would be considered, such as a new addition to a house. But unlike window units, ductless units require only a very small hole to be drilled into the wall, making them less vulnerable to air leakage and security problems. Plus, they’re less visible and audible.
House Fan or Ventilator
This cooling device is usually installed in a hallway ceiling below the attic space. The fan pulls warm air out of the living space and exhausts it into the attic space where it leaves the home through the roof vents. The system also pulls in cooler outside air through open windows. In moderate climates a whole house fan may be able to take the place of air conditioning.
Best Way to Heat Old Houses
Seeing a historic home sparks a certain feeling that just isn’t felt when you see a more modern house that looks like a mirror image of the homes to its left and right. The charm and craftsmanship of an older home just cannot be rivaled. However, the heating systems in historic homes often leave much to be desired.
If you own an older home, you may find yourself constantly adjusting the thermostat to deal with the cold or trying to find ways to keep the bedroom warmer without having to run the heater all night long.
Luckily, modern technology has emerged to complement your older home’s heating system, while simple, more commonplace fixes also help you with optimizing your home’s heating system without running your wallet thin.
Mini-Duct Forced Air System
A high-velocity, mini-duct system operates similarly to conventional systems in that it also moves heat out of a house by absorbing it indoors and releasing it outside. Both systems use refrigerant, an air handler, evaporator, and a compressor/condenser. The velocity of air that comes through a mini-duct vent has a lot to do with both where the ducts are located in a room and the number of ducts used.
Heating your house with a mini-duct system has the same benefits as cooling: quick, unobtrusive installation and superior air circulation. Adding heating capacity to a mini-duct system simply requires adding a source of heat that can warm air to be pushed though the ductwork.
Hot water pipes fixed on the floor is a concept that became popular post in World War II. Radiant heat is comfortable and offers fixed heated air around the house. Radiant heat is often found in old houses. However, these may be prone to leaks. As a result, you should prefer checking with the system to avoid problems such as leaks. Make sure to use the modern radiant heating system for convenience.
Make Your Old House More Energy Efficient
Install a Smart Meter
Installing a smart meter in your home will help you save money in the necessary areas. “Smart” Meters are digital utility meters that send customers’ detailed usage information to the utility using a radio-frequency transmitter (or over the power lines in the case of Powerline Carrier (PLC) systems. Some meters (AMI mesh networks) also contain other capabilities, such as remote shut-off. Smart Meters are part of a larger plan to change the electricity grid to a “smart” grid–though there is controversy about whether the customer meter is actually crucial to that change.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat lets you preset temperatures for different times of the day, so air-conditioning is working only when you are home. The least expensive thermostat models let you set four cycles that, unless manually overridden, repeat every day. Higher-priced models allow you to create settings for each weekday and for each weekend day.
Since you are making renovations to your old house, maybe it is time that you update the lights as well. You should be giving up the traditional lights and bulbs and switch to LED bulbs. These can eventually last for 25,000 hours. As a result, there will be very little electricity consumption and also the newer models of lights tend to create less heat in your home when compared to the older bulbs that range from 100 watts to 1000 watts. Getting LED lights can help cool your old house.
Invest in Renewable Energy
You should get proper renewable energy sources for your house. The most popular renewable sources of energy are solar and wind. This means you will get to withdraw energy from the ground and air. Using renewable energy to generate electricity will help you save money on your electricity bills. However, make sure to check with the installation process to avoid any headaches down the road.
Stop the Draft
Controlling drafts should be the top priority. Air leaks allow heat to escape from the living spaces in winter (or enter during summer) thereby compromising insulation effectiveness by up to 50 percent. Look for leaks inside and out where interior and exterior surfaces meet—the junctures of walls and ceilings and around baseboards and corner boards that can shift and shrink as they age, resulting in sizeable gaps.
You can identify many air leaks with a simple test. On a windy day, light an incense stick and move methodically around each room of your house, including the basement and attic. Hold the incense in front of window and door openings, utility access points, and around all corners (floor to ceiling) where interior meets exterior. Drifting smoke indicates drafty air leaks. Take the time to plug up foundation gaps and cracks anywhere you can see daylight from the basement side, typically around masonry and stone foundation materials.
Most of the house’s heat is lost due to an open chimney. However, this is not a major concern as you can easily seal them to prevent energy loss. You should prepare a thick layer of felt and insert in the chimney through the fireplace, to prevent energy loss. You can remove this when you are lighting the fire during the winters.
The Spin on Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are everywhere in warm-weather climates. Spinning counterclockwise, they move air around the room. Not all energy experts feel it’s a good idea to use them in the heating season (doubters says they cool the air too much), but the fans do help bring heated air down to earth in rooms with cathedral or high-sloped ceilings. However, that’s only if you slide the reversing switch on the side of the motor housing to the winter (clockwise) position. Then run the fan at its lowest speed. If you can’t reverse the blade rotation or if you think the fan is cooling off the room too much, leave it off.
Give Us a Call
Heating and cooling your older home just got easier, with help from Aire-Tech! We give you countless resources to help you explore and learn about HVAC options for older homes. To tackle your older home’s indoor comfort challenges head-on, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by phone or through our website.
If your system needs repair or inspection, call Aire-Tech on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.