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Improving the Efficiency of Older Homes

Updated on December 29, 2009

Building codes have changed dramatically over the past 50 years and so has energy efficiency technology for the home. If you own an older home, say pre-1980’s, there are a number of energy efficiency improvements you can consider.

Attics and basement areas in older homes represent up to 70% of total heat loss. A single paned window may allow as much as 20 times more heat to escape than the walls around it. Non-insulated ceilings or roofs may take a third of all the heat consumed. Even small cracks around the siding, chimney or foundation can result in 10% of the total heat loss in a home.

In short, the more energy efficient you make to your older home, the more you will: save on heat costs, conserve on water, enjoy better air quality in the home, find it comfortable in both hot and cold weather and improve the home’s resale value.

Many home owners in warmer climates scrimp on these factors as they figure it's just for the snowy latitudes and they are completely wrong. If they have central air conditioning, it is even more critical as it costs more to drop a temperature inside a house than it does to increase it. Temperature loss from a house works the same way as temperature gain, so all you suntanned tropical denizens, get to your DIY store and pick up some caulking and weatherstripping!

Plan your improvements where you will get the best return on your investment. An excellent place to start is to identify the areas in your older home where “air leakage” is most significant.

Inspecting for Air Leakage

Excessive air leakage in your home means higher heat costs and less comfort. Check your home in the following areas for signs of significant air leaks.

Windows & Doors

Window Panes - Replace or improve thermal quality by adding panes
Window Sills - Replace, use paint-able caulk and/or weatherstrip
Doors - Replace or weatherstrip
Door Jambs - Replace, weather-strip or use high quality sealant
Door Sills - Use weather-stripping for door bottoms or sweeps

Exterior Walls

Electrical switches and outlets - With electricity off, use UL/CSA approved foam gaskets
Junction of floor and exterior walls - Use clear or paint-able caulking in any gaps
Wall cavity - Add insulation through attic access
Fireplace damper
Fireplace/wall joint


Cracks in foundation - Use polysulfide caulking or polyurethane sealant for small cracks. For cracks larger than 3/8" that allow for leakage get professional advice
Floor drain - Install a solid drain cover with a trap
Junction of joists & basement wall - Caulk or use expanding foam
Around wires, pipes or ducts that penetrate the basement wall - Caulk, for large gaps use expanding foam or backing

Attic Areas

Around plumbing stack - Seal with acoustical sealant, heavy plastic wrap & clamp
Around attic hatch - Weather-strip
Around chimney - Seal with non-flammable product i.e. stove cement
Around ducting, fans or vents - Use duct tape on joints, wrap with 4" of insulation
At ceiling light fixtures - Seal with acoustical sealant, heavy plastic wrap & clamp
At top of interior walls - Caulk or insulate


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    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 6 years ago from India

      Very informative hub .. thanks

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks, dude. :)

    • profile image

      archie langomez 7 years ago