My house was built in 1892 and is situated in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Brunswick, Maine. It is three floors, has a full basement and is a little over 3,300 square feet. It still has its original windows and virtually no insulation. When we purchased the house a little over three years ago, the selling agent told us the furnace was likely installed by Jesus.
Upon moving in, my husband and I immediately went to work to make the house more efficient. Actually, we put a lot of work into it. And, while we’re still making improvements, we are already reaping the benefits of our energy efficient changes. Lower electricity bills. Not having to buy as much heating oil. Saving water. Taking advantage of federal and state energy efficiency rebates. These are good things.
Here are just some of the changes we made to the house and to our lifestyle that made a big difference:
- Added a completely new energy efficient furnace and boiler system, upgrading our old radiators from a gravity system to forced hot water, adding several zones throughout the house and all new programmable thermostats
- Purchased energy efficient window treatments for our big old windows and hung more window treatments to cover some of our glass doors during the winter
- Upgraded old wiring and lighting, replacing old bulbs with more energy efficient CFL bulbs
- Added insulation any time we opened a wall while remodeling
- Replaced the inefficient electric heaters on our third floor with more efficient silicone filled electric baseboard heat
- Made sure we turned off lights, printers, radios, appliances and other electronics when we weren’t in the room
- Started utilizing re-usable bags instead of plastic when grocery shopping
- Began recycling everything: paper, plastic, bottles, cans, batteries, old electronics, unwanted clothes….everything!
- Ordered the more efficient and organic Bioheat oil instead of the traditional heating oil
- Hired a professional to conduct a thorough energy analysis of the house, including a blower door test, in order to get advice on which areas of the house to focus on (Guess what? It’s not the windows!)
- Ditched the old electric hot water heater for a propane fueled, energy efficient hot water heater
- Focused on insulating and sealing various key areas in our attic and our basement
- Purchased a new high efficiency washer and dryer set that uses significantly less water
- Added things like rugs and door draft guards to block out cold air
The first winter was a cold one. You could actually feel breezes come through the house, and the old wood floors were always cold to the touch. Now, I can write this as I sit on my couch with two big windows behind me and feel warm and cozy despite it being February, 24 degrees and windy out. While this big old house is certainly an investment, I can honestly say we are already starting to recoup the money we’ve put into it through the work we’ve done making it more efficient.