ASK THE TIMES: Can My 50-Year-Old House Go GREEN?

In a comment to a recent story on green home construction, our reader Pat asked, “Is there a book, business or website that tells you the best bang for the buck in terms of energy efficiency upgrades with a 50+ year old Falls Church home?”

It’s a great question.  There are more of us with existing homes than people building new homes, so no reason to let them have all the fun.  And there is a lot of information available on the topic, much of it on the Web.

One of the best sites we found is the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy page of the U.S. Department of Energy,  There you will find information such as:

Elements of an Energy Efficient House (don’t miss the great bibliography at the end)

Energy Savers (including how to conduct an energy audit)

Energy efficiency tax incentives for consumers and businesses:

Another site I like is, which features videos and books on the topic.  Currently a feature article on the site is The Case for Green Retrofits in 2009:  A Call to Action.  Note that is supported by advertising from related products, so you should apply appropriate scrutiny, but there appears to be a lot of good information here.

Also take a look at, which has lots of individual how-to articles.  Like, this site is also supported by advertising from related products.

Finally, there is this advice from Mike Nichols, co-owner of the Falls Church Erdhaus.  “For existing homes, there are numerous steps homeowners can take to improve efficiency. The easiest is to replace old appliances with new ones that meet Energy Star ratings. The second easiest is to be very careful to turn off lights, unplug electrical equipment that still draws a current even when it’s supposedly turned off, etc.

“If money’s no object, and the writer is inquiring about insulation, windows, etc., the ideal way to improve is to know where the leaks are and to fix those. An energy audit that includes a blower door test is going to show where the problem areas are in that specific house, and the homeowner can then develop an appropriate plan of action to improve the efficiency.

“It might be as simple as using some cans of ‘Great Stuff’ expanding spray foam insulation, or it could be more involved to include replacing old, inefficient windows or adding insulation to an attic space. As you can imagine, each house presents its own unique challenges and that type of independent review can make a world of difference.”

Pat, hope that’s helpful.  If anyone else has good information sources on this topic, please feel free to share.

Have a question about the City that might be on fellow residents’ minds as well? Email your question here, and we’ll try to get an answer.

Previous ASK THE TIMES questions:
What’s Being Done About All the Graffiti?
Pay Property Tax with a Credit Card?
Why Are Purple Bows Tied to Trees?
Why Not Use the Old Red Light Cameras?
Rolling Carts for Heavy Recycling Loads?
Status of Hilton Garden Inn?
Questions about Northgate


One Response to “ASK THE TIMES: Can My 50-Year-Old House Go GREEN?”

  1. GoGreen on June 16th, 2009 3:18 am

    I think the key thing is not to let the age of the house put you off. The worst thing would be to leave the old systems in place for the heating and lighting, there is always a solution!

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