February 18th, 2019

Tips to Making Your Old Home More Efficient

Building codes in Snohomish County. Overkill? Guess what, they’re not.

Throughout the years we have added more and more rules to the building codes that make our homes safer. These codes have touched every aspect of the homes we live in. Lamb Real Estate realtor, Matt Kearney, actually lives in an old Seattle home with his wife Selena and cat Gunther. With all his experience working as a contractor and home inspector in the past, I asked him to give some tips on how to make our old homes more efficient and safe!

As always. Safety first!

  • Have an electrician add a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) to all ungrounded circuits.  This is a simple technique that isn’t nearly as expensive as adding a modern 3-wire line to the receptacles. While the electrician is in there they can address other simple issues in the panel like multiple neutrals lugged together at the bus bar. (Bus Bar being a great name for an electrician/mass transit themed pub.)
  • Beware of large panes of non-tempered glass window within striking distance of the kids. There are plastic films you can use that are an inexpensive way to make these windows a bit safer.
  • Paint over, or “encapsulate” peeling lead paint, or exposed asbestos fiber tape on old HVAC systems.  

Poor insulation & energy efficiency:

  • There are techniques where an insulation company can drill holes in the wall and fill the stud bays with loose-fill cellulose insulation. This can be accomplished with little disruption to the walls and can make a big difference on the efficiency of the wall. The cellulose packs tight and does a good job stopping air flow which also limits moisture problems!
  • Air sealing leaky doors and windows can also have good bang for the buck in an old drafty home! On the flip side, something we’ve discovered is, a drafty home is a durable home because it tends to dry out moisture issues inside wall cavities. We generally don’t experience the same mildew problems in older homes that we do in newer, tighter, more efficient homes.
  • Consider replacing electric registers with a mini split “ductless” heat pump.

Good ol’ fixer-upper:

  • Galvanized pipes—these will get ya. They rust from the inside and eventually you won’t get satisfactory flow. At that point the only thing to do is replace them.
  • Older homes tend to have a lot of little penetrations (holes) in the exterior envelope that can allow critters and insects in. Pro-tip: Use of stainless-steel steel wool. Tuck this into the hole to fill them. Critters hate the stuff and won’t mess with it. It must be stainless though—regular steel wool will rust out the first winter season it’s in place and then you’ll have red stains on your siding.

Keep up with Matt on his social media profiles—he provides tons of advice for all different types of home in our area that you won’t want to miss out on! If you not only want to make your old home safer but smarter check out our blog post on that here.

– Dallas Moreno