Energy conservation vs. old homes: Is it zero sum?

There's an interesting conundrum among owners of old houses---notably those Victorian homes that are preserved for history. These houses may never make the energy conservation cut. Do we have to choose?

There's an interesting conundrum among owners of old houses---notably those Victorian homes that are preserved for history. These houses may never make the energy conservation cut. Do we have to choose?

Scientific American's George Musser is chronicling his efforts to install solar panels. He also happens to own a Victorian-era home.

The series is worth a read. Here's the conundrum that Musser lays out:

Our efforts last year reduced air leakage by just over 10 percent, which was deflatingly meager. After more weatherizing, the house is comfier, with fewer drafts, a more uniform temperature, and a slower cooling-off rate in winter. But I still dread the day of the month when we get our heating bill.

Even our energy auditor says he's running out of ideas for easyish steps we could take.

Indeed, new construction would be easier to make more efficient. It's easier to retrofit for energy conservation and could give you more bang for your green buck.

You can see where this is heading? Are old houses doomed? Should we raze these homes for more energy efficient ones? After all, the math just doesn't add up. You could argue, like preservationist Sally Zimmerman has, that energy conservation threatens old homes.

What a sad outcome that would be. Tearing down inefficient homes with loads of character and charm and replacing them with efficient yet likely cookie cutter homes isn't much of a solution. Musser doesn't have any immediate answers either. Any bright ideas?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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