Similar to other energy efficiency improvement strategies for your home, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for upgrading mechanical systems in your older or historic home. Instead, a more holistic approach is recommended. One that is specific to your home or building, its use, and the needs of its occupants. Considering a combination of solutions and/or systems might also be the best solution. It may be necessary to think of your home as a collection of several systems working together, rather than a single system designed to maintain comfortable temperatures. Using a whole-house approach will save trouble and money in the long run.
Need help with your radiators?
- Reference books such as Greening Steam: How to Bring 19th Century Heating Systems in the 21st Century (and save lots of green!) by Dan Holohan
- Ask a question online at www.heatinghelp.com
The hot water heater is an energy intensive system in most homes—typically about 13 percent of your utility bill – reduce your bill with these low-cost actions:
- Insulate the unit and the hot water pipes, and to simply turn the thermostat down to 120°F. You will save 3-5 percent of your energy costs for every 10°F you reduce the water temperature of the tank. With additional investment, a next step would be to consider a tankless hot water system, often known as an “on-demand” system. Rather than pay to keep many gallons of water hot all the time, these tankless systems allow you to heat only as much water as you need when you need it.
- Consider a solar hot water system. These systems work in any climate and can be a cost-effective way to manage domestic hot water expenses – especially if water is heated by electricity and there are teenagers in the house! Typically, they can produce 65-85 percent of domestic hot water needs with just the power of the sun.
Geothermal heat pumps, also known as ground source heat pumps, might also be an option to reduce heating and cooling costs.
- Geothermal systems can typically be installed with minimal damage to historic fabric (provided the house has an existing ducted system) and reduce both heating and cooling loads.
- An increasing number of people are finding it cost effective to install these systems, although as with any major system investment, it is important to calculate all the associated costs in advance to determine if investing in geothermal is warranted.
- A property may need to be evaluated for possible archaeological resources or for important historic landscapes before the heat exchange system is installed. Check with your state historic preservation office to see what you may need to do before excavating.