Greening Your Historic Home

Repair

Repair historic windows instead of replacing them. Historic windows were built to last. The removal and disposal of historic wood and metal windows results not only in a loss of high quality materials like old growth wood, but also in an enormous amount of waste—not to mention the waste and byproducts produced in the creation of those replacement windows, made with lesser-quality material. In addition, the historic glass panes often can be replaced with low-e Argon glass panes. Don’t let a cracked window light or broken pulley rope discourage you from keeping those old windows!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Tip Sheet on Historic Wood Windows

The National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Service Preservation Brief 9: The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows and Brief 13: the Repair and Thermal Upgrading of Historic Steel Windows

The New England Window Restoration Alliance (NEWRA)’s “Top Ten Reasons to Restore or Repair Wood Windows.”

Also see Walter Sedovic and Jill H. Gotthelf’s article, “What Replacement Windows Can’t Replace: The Real Cost of Removing Historic Windows,” printed in the Association for Preservation Technology’s Bulletin (Vol. XXXVI, No. 4), available for purchase with APT.

Seal

Seal your windows and doors. Contrary to common thought, weather-stripping your windows, caulking exterior house trim, and repairing cracked window glazing and putty often makes the system more energy-efficient than replacement windows, without added waste or exorbitant costs. With windows in particular, make sure the weather-stripping you install creates a tight seal when you close them to keep the hot or cool air inside the house.

Insulate

Insulate your attic and basement. While one should be aware that insulation of the interior wall may create moisture on the warmer interior wall, simple insulation retains hot and cool air inside your house, making it more energy-efficient.

Ventilate

Ventilate your home naturally whenever possible, using fans, windows, and doors in warmer months. Historic homes were often designed and built with natural heating and cooling in mind. Natural ventilation lessens the need for artificial cooling and heating methods—some of the highest energy consumers in your house. For even more energy savings, turn your thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter.

Preservation Brief 24: Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling Historic Buildings

Pay Attention

Pay attention to your energy consumption. For example, use natural light as much as possible, and clean radiators and forced-air registers for maximum efficiency.

See the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tips on how to “Stay Warm and Save Money”.

For more tips on how you can reduce your own carbon footprint in your own home, see the United States Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide and the National Geographic Green Guide.

Calculate your own eco-footprint at Conservation International.

When it’s time to furnish your home, do so in the greenest way possible by using recycled or rehabilitated furniture, or sourcing new pieces from green furniture lines.  For more information, see A Guide to Green Furniture.