Urban Home Renovation, Pt 2: Energy Efficiency

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In last week’s entry, guest writer Samantha Peters talked about the benefits of getting to know your neighbors when moving into an older urban home before your engage in a home renovation project. This week, she talks about the actual work itself. 

A big part of that is about managing costs in an era characterized by tough economic times. This era is also a time in which sensible home buyers are thinking about energy efficiency, too. Luckily, these two ideas very often go hand in hand …


Source: flickr.com by Greg Goodman  via Theresa on Pinterest

One of the most common problems recent buyers of older urban homes have to deal with is the lack of energy efficiency in these structures. After all, nobody was really too concerned with saving the environment a century ago, and a surplus of resources meant that energy conservation didn’t matter either. Flash forward to today, and these things matter a great deal to both our values, and our wallets.

In particular, steps to improve the energy efficiency of an urban living environment are for the most part easy to do on your own. Before paying someone else to do it for you, see if one or several, if not all, of the following checklist can’t be taken care of on your own.

Insulation and energy efficiency

Almost all homes built before 1950 include an attic or crawlspace. It’s imperative that you pad the floor of your attic or crawlspace with insulation material. But depending on the kind of climate you live in, one form of insulation may be better than the other. It all comes down to the  heat resistance-rating of each material and whether or not that much is truly necessary for your particular situation.

Older urban homes also have a tendency to have thin,  if not non-existent wall insulation.  To make sure that your home doesn’t leak heat or air conditioning, make sure to properly insulate your walls, as well as your attic.  Not to mention, that adding the additional insulation will also give you additional sound proofing as noise from shared walls or tight city living can often become a problem.

Door and window sealing in an older urban home

An older urban home has spent decades of a settling into its foundation. This can result in doors and windows not fitting into their frames as well as they used to. Before gutting and replacing these housing components, opt for some caulk and weather stripping instead. Not only is it less expensive of a solution, you preserve the original structure, which as far as homes located in historic neighborhoods are concerned is a value-booster.

However, if you have the additional budget to put in new windows and exterior doors on to your home, do so.  There are several new style options available to homeowners, some of which closely mirror vintage styled architecture.  These options will not only add to the beauty of your home, but will also provide better energy efficiency without the need of constant weatherstripping or caulking.

Padding pipes and water heaters

Anywhere that water pipes and air vents are running where there is no heating or cooling available, such as in the basement or in the attic, you need to keep them tightly wrapped in insulation. Otherwise you’ll be allowing the heat to escape into the cold of winter and the cold to escape into the heat of summer. In addition, making sure that old boiler is insulated is a great way to reduce energy costs at the source.

If you have exposed pipes on your main floors, however, padding isn’t necessary.  Not only do exposed pipes, much like an exposed brick wall, add to the modern urban feel of a home, but they can also help with general heating and cooling of those areas.  They can usually also be easily painted to add to blend better with a ceiling while still adding to the modern feel – which is a great way to build an aesthetic without spending a ton of money on installing a ceiling.

Source: organized-design.com via Berlyn on Pinterest



If you are lucky enough to have a flat top roof, which many older urban homes have, you have several options that are both green and design friendly.  To help reduce your carbon footprint, you can plant a rooftop garden which can dually serve as an entertainment or relaxation spot.  You can also paint it white to keep your home’s temperature easier to regulate as it will better reflect the sun’s rays.

Reducing your energy bills

If your old home has lots of exposure, take advantage of it to reduce dependency on lights. When you do use lights, make sure every light fixture in your home has a CFL in it (many moving companies these days are actually offering to unscrew and pack your efficiency bulbs for you, but you can do it yourself just as easily).  If the original fixture requires a traditional incandescent lamp, limit its usage as much as possible.

In addition to using large windows for natural lighting, opt to open them instead of running your air conditioner. Then in the winter, cover them with heat-insulating plastic sheeting. If you don’t like the idea of using plastic sheeting, you can always buy temperature regulating drapes which can easily help you regulate a room’s temperature without having to sacrifice style.

If you’ve recently bought an older urban home then chances are you’re the first resident to take energy efficiency seriously. But your seriousness does not necessarily have to equate to expense, as relatively inexpensive do-it-yourself fixes are easy to achieve. Considering the savings that will result, there’s no reason not to add to the value of your antique home by improving its energy efficiency as much as possible.


Thanks, Sam!



1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)


The BuildDirect Product Expert Team is here to support any questions you may have regarding your home improvement project.