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Source: New Hampshire Preservation Alliance

Living or working in an older building doesn’t have to mean cold drafts and high energy bills. With appropriate weatherization retrofits, these structures can be comfortable, warm and energy efficient.

Weatherization is currently being promoted by hundreds of agencies, businesses, and organizations. Millions of federal “stimulus” dollars are available to help low-income homeowners, municipalities, non-profits, and business owners make their buildings more energy efficient. But with all the offers of funding , and the barrage of new “green” products being advertised, property owners may have trouble finding reliable information on how to appropriately retrofit a historic building.

Basic preservation principles can be followed by anyone with an appreciation for their historic building – save original windows and other materials, keep reversibility in mind, and repair rather than replace. Start with an energy audit performed by a qualified auditor experienced with historic structures. The audit will help identify problem areas in the home and recommend work that can be done by the homeowner as well as what needs to be handled by a weatherization professional who is sensitive to older buildings.

Weatherization upgrades should be addressed as follows:

  • Seal all air leaks around doors, windows, chimneys, attic hatches and basement doors. This will help tighten the building envelope and control moisture issues before adding insulation.
  • Insulate attic, crawlspaces and basement ceilings (in unheated basements) with appropriate insulation. Understand insulation types and choose the best type and R-value for each area of your house. Use blown-in insulation as a last resort in walls with no vapor barrier. Moisture can build up in walls and saturate the insulation, greatly reducing the insulation’s R-value and damaging wall framing.
  • Make every effort to retain historic wood windows by restoring them and not replacing them. Add quality storm windows to reach energy efficient levels equivalent to new replacement windows.
  • Make sure the attic is properly ventilated to help keep unheated attics cool, reducing the potential for ice dams.

Every building is different and needs an individualized approach, and these strategies can save energy and money while protecting irreplaceable features of older buildings.