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Energy Efficiency Tips for Old House Owners

Here are some simple things that YOU can do. Start at the top of each section with the least expensive, easy to do items and work your way to the bottom where a little more investment and expertise may be needed.

Systems Basics

• Reduce your AC costs! Put windows to work – cross ventilate, adjust blinds, etc.
• Install programmable thermostats and adjust the settings appropriately as seasons change.
• Set water heaters to 120 degrees, and even less in summer.
• Use thick or padded rugs to insulate bare floors.
• Don’t block hot air or cold return registers with furniture or other barriers.
• Read NPS’s Preservation Brief #3, “Conserving Energy in Historic Buildings”.
• Regularly clean or replace filters in forced air systems and AC units.
• Replace radiator steam vents (1-pipe system) or steam traps (2-pipe system).
• Make sure heating ducts and pipes are well insulated and sealed.
• Place a reflector barrier between radiators and outside wall (particularly if wall is uninsulated).
• Have your furnace or boiler cleaned and serviced regularly.

Stop Air Leaks

• Weather-strip exterior doors and attach “sweeps” to the bottom.
• Caulk cracks and joints around door and window frames.
• Seal leaks in ductwork – that’s what REAL duct tape is for!
• Weather-strip or seal attic doorways and hatches.
• Use appropriate spray-foam to seal cracks in foundations and crawlspaces.
• Use foam backer rod to fill large gaps.


• Different types of insulation for different applications; Understand R-values
• Attics are the best place to start with insulation; it can give the best return on investment
and has the least potential to harm the historic fabric of your house.
• Plaster walls can be adequate – leave them alone unless other work is needed.


• Exterior storms – good investment for energy savings, but also to protect your wood windows!
• Interior “insulating panels” – lower cost alternative, doesn’t impact historic character of exterior facade, but beware of potential moisture issues.
• Most original wooden windows can be retained and repaired, resulting in a snug fit and increased energy savings. For more information see other tip sheets in this packet.

Information provided by the Collaborative for Common Sense Preservation :

Historic New England

Preserve RI

Newport Restoration Foundation

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