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Historic Preservation and Weatherization Tool Kit

Your Old House Was Designed to be Energy Efficient and Was Built to Last!

Click here to download as a PDF

We've all heard about old, leaky buildings that waste energy but, in fact, builders of yesteryear relied on durable natural materials and architectural features that required minimal, but routine, maintenance. For example, roof overhangs and open decorative porches were designed to provide shade; operable windows and doors to allow for daylighting and natural ventilation; wood windows, siding and trim were fabricated from dense, old growth species not only to resist rot, but also to facilitate simple repair.

You will be surprised how cost-effective combining historic preservation and new technology can be, and how much work you can do yourself or with the assistance of a skilled contractor! Think of your house as a long-term project; allocate a number of dollars and hours for work each month. Our toolkit offers an overview of what can be done, and recommends resources to help you evaluate the most economical approach in terms of short– and long-term payback of energy dollars.

Preservation and energy efficiency are compatible goals. Energy saving priorities include:

Priority #1: Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Be sure that your equipment is working as efficiently as possible. If you need to select a new system, consider how its installation will impact the building’s historic fabric, and ask your local preservation experts for guidance. A number of NYS agencies have programs to assist with upgrading mechanical equipment and energy audits.
Visit: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_index

Priority #2: Insulation The best return on your investment in conserving energy is to insulate your attic. Over 30% of heat loss occurs through your roof! A layer of insulation in your attic can reduce that heat loss significantly.

Priority #3: Windows Despite the fact that they get a bad rap, windows account for only 5-10% of energy lost, primarily by air infiltration. Be sure your windows fit tightly by repairing them and adding weatherstripping, interior or exterior storms and interior window treatments.


Open porches, deep roof overhangs, and operable windows were built so that continued operation was possible by following simple maintenance practices.

Simple measures will retain the qualities found in historic materials and features, unlike some modern replacement materials which often fail within 20-30 years after installation. Roof overhangs and decorative porches provide shade, operable windows and doors provide light and ventilation, and siding and trim were fabricated from durable natural materials that required little maintenance.

ENERGY AUDIT To understand how to improve your heating and cooling systems, contact the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) office or a local auditor with historic building experience. The results will determine the payback while retaining the features of your home.

CHIMNEY 14% of air escapes from the house through the fireplace. A wood fire will help reduce your heating costs. Be sure to close the damper when the fireplace is not in use!

FURNACE Is your furnace original to the house? Upgrade and take advantage of state and Federal grants and tax incentives!

WINDOWS & DOORS Retain & Renovate: Don’t Replace! Windows are character-defining elements. 10% of air leakage occurs at windows. Improve the performance of your windows by re-glazing and adding weather-stripping to reduce air exchange. The average window replacement project lasts 20 years at a cost of $4,000.

Summer Cooling Employ window and door screens during the warmer months. During the day, close windows and curtains. Overnight, open the windows and doors. If you have double hung windows, open both the bottom and top sashes.

Air Infiltration & Insulation Heat loss occurs at doors, windows, and cracks in the building. Add weatherstripping to doors and windows and caulk cracks. A good place to start is where the exterior walls meet the foundation walls.

Storm Windows Install storm windows to preserve your historic windows. Interior or exterior storm windows will increase the thermal performance of your home.

Doors Install door sweeps on the bottom of your doors to lock out the cold air.


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Historic Elmira, Inc.
PO Box 252, Elmira, NY 14902