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Tips for Making an Old House More Eco-friendly

Last modified: 2022-08-09 | Approximate reading time 6 mins

As we turn our concerns towards the state of the earth’s environment, green-friendly construction and renovation projects continue to be on the rise, increasingly popular and in vogue. Of course, with some of us occupying homes built over 30 years ago, there are many aspects, systems, and appliances, that don’t function to an environmentally-friendly standard.

This can include old electrical and plumbing systems, as well as certain materials, both interior and exterior. So, what can we do to remedy this situation and make sure our house operates in a way that helps mother earth?

If you’re ready to take on a green renovation project and looking for what specific updates you should consider, then we’d suggest you keep reading!

Tips for making an old house more eco-friendly

Determine what needs an update

Interior with lots of plants

source: trendy mood

It’s important to start by determining which areas of your home aren’t performing to an energy-efficient standard and working from there. How can you do this exactly? Well, we’d recommend hiring a trained energy auditor to explain what to focus your attention on. They’ll walk around your home and let you know areas where you may be losing a lot of hot or cold air, or what materials are outdated, and thus, the aspects of your home that are wasting energy.  Suggestions could be some of the following:

  • Replacing or insulating water pipes around the home ;
  • Caulking or insulating windows, doors, baseboards and room corners ;
  • Insulating your attic or basement ;
  • Replacing or upgrading your roofing material or exterior siding.

Another option is to consult a green contractor who has experience with older homes. These contractors can offer further insight into the specific updates that will be energy-saving for an older home. 

Start with small changes

bathroom interior

source: Lolly Jane

Before making any drastic moves on turning your old home into an environmentally-friendly haven, consider these small steps you can take to make sure things are running in line with green efficiency efforts.

LED bulbs: Update all your current light bulbs to LEDs. These bulbs last 8 to 10 times longer than incandescent or CFL light bulbs and produce a small amount of heat in comparison. Not to mention, they use ⅓ to 1/30 the electricity to a regular bulb. 

Programmable thermostat: A home built over 30 years ago doesn't have a programmable thermostat. This small device can have a huge impact on your electricity bill as well as the environment, and thus, we’d suggest installing one. With the ability to regulate interior temperatures depending on when you’re home and when you’re out, this is a must for homes without.

Solar power: The use of solar power isn’t possible for every home. In scenarios where your home or property has access to plenty of natural light, this could be an excellent option. Now, solar power doesn’t necessitate replacing all of the electricity in your home but can be used for specific areas such as solar-powered water heating. This option will likely also need a tankless water heater to live alongside the solar-powered one, but both methods offer ample electricity savings.

Skylights: When it comes to green-efficient initiatives, you may not initially consider skylight installation. However, skylights are an excellent way to allow natural light into the home without the risk of heightened heating and cooling costs that sometimes occupy a new window installation, as well as avoiding turning lights on during the day and wasting energy. Do consider tubular skylights in place of older models, as these are the most energy-efficient of the bunch.

If you're curious about skylights, consider checking out our article why skylights are making a comeback!

Use green building materials 

cork floors

source: ghs products

Now, if you’re ready to tackle some larger renovations, you should consider green-friendly materials. If your home was built over 30 years ago, chances are some of the current materials in place may be quite outdated. 

When it comes to the walls of our home, many are insulated with the traditional gypsum drywall. This material requires a ton of energy to make and when disposed of, causes a lot of stress on our environment. Insulation is a crucial factor in our old homes. Many old houses are not properly insulated or could use a serious update in this regard. If you don’t have the time or budget to reinsulate your entire home, roof insulation will make a huge difference in terms of electrical performance, and thus, will lead to saving energy.  There are a few eco-friendly insulation options, and these include:

  • Plant-based insulation
  • Cork
  • Recycled materials such as cellulose wadding

If you’re undertaking a major transformation, and drywall happens to be a factor, consider using EcoRock, an eco-friendly drywall made from recycled materials. It takes less energy to make and it’s completely recyclable. Not to mention it’s mould resistant. 

For more information on these materials and this subject, take a look at our article Eco-friendly insulation materials.

Flooring is another important factor when it comes to materials, and many traditional flooring options aren’t considered green-friendly. If you’re redoing the floors of your old home, there are a few sustainable choices that may appeal to you. These include:

  • Cork
  • Bamboo
  • Tile
  • Laminate

Paint is another factor that must be considered when renovating an older home. Those built over 30 years ago may still have toxic paint on the walls, which is something to bear in mind. If you’re giving a fresh coat to some of the rooms of your home, do work with eco-friendly paint alternatives. The options on the market have been growing recently, with many companies now offering paints that are 100% free of VOC (volatile organic compound).

To look further into green-friendly renovation materials, have a gander at our article on the subject!

Renewable heating systems

wood burning stove

source: house beautiful

The way your home is heated has a direct impact on energy usage and the environment. Of course, you’re looking to use the least amount of energy possible. As previously mentioned, solar heating is an excellent option in place of more traditional home heating systems. Other options you may want to look into include heat pumps and wood-fueled heating systems.

Ground-source heat pumps extract heat from the earth by way of pipes, and this heat can be used for your home and water. Air-source heat pumps are also an option, using a similar method but extracting heat from the air instead of from the ground. These can be fitted to an external wall or roof.

Alternatively, wood-fueled heating systems use wood pellets or logs to power a central heating unit as well as your hot water. Think wood-burning stove but modern. These units can be fitted with a back boiler for water. 

Reduce and recycle your water usage

laundry room

source: the wild decoelis

How we use (and abuse) our planet's most precious natural resource is truly daunting. In our homes, we should always look for ways to conserve our water usage. The toilets and showers of older buildings may be expelling more water than we need. Consider low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads to replace outdated models. 

More involved water-saving methods include greywater systems as well as rainwater harvesting systems. Both offer a way to reuse water that’s already available to us in areas of the home where the quality of water is not so important. This can include in the toilet, the washing machine or even as a source of water for our gardens.

If you’re interested in the greywater system method, deep dive into the subject with our article everything to know about greywater systems.

For more detailed information about all the green-friendly renovation options you could consider, take a look at our very informative article eco-friendly and green-renovation guide. Happy renovating!

Still have some time? Why not take our personality quiz on renovating old houses! Find out which style of renovations would suit you best.

Get 3 renovation quotes for your eco-friendly renovation project can help you get quotes for your eco-friendly renovation project. If you submit your project to us, we’ll put you in contact with top-rated contractors. Fill in the form on the homepage (it only takes a few minutes), and you will get estimates from trusted professionals. 

Dial 1-844 828-1588 to speak with one of our customer service representatives


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