The charm of historic southern homes goes far beyond their aesthetic appeal – and for reasons that are a bit surprising. These homes provided residents with comfortable shelter all based on well thought-out, time-tested design feature – Cross Ventilation. They rewarding design that encourages internal cross breezes, that can be enhanced with strategic fan placement, window shade management, and upward air movement were the key principles.
However, nowadays most modern southern homes are no longer built using this sustainable design feature of their historic siblings. What happened? What is really meant when we talk about the sustainability of older homes?
For many years, especially before the invention of air conditioning, homes were specifically designed to best take advantage of their environment. That practice changed around 50 years ago with improvements to both heating and cooling systems. The popularity of air conditioning and heating systems allowed for builders to construct homes without considering the local environment.
In terms of home building, this was the decline of sustainability. The shift in building construction has led to homes that are pretty on the eyes and have curb-appeal but are a burden to the environment (and your utility bills). The mindset shift put pressure of the sustainability of older homes. Suddenly they were out of fashion, all the rage was newly built central air conditioned homes.
Whether you’re an owner of a historic or modern southern home, there are many steps you can take to decrease your home’s energy usage. The Energy Star website has an online measuring stick to help you gauge where your home stands relative to others in your zip code.
Hire a professional energy auditor. Your state or local government energy or weatherization office may help you identify a local company or organization that performs audits. Energy.gov has some helpful background information. Check out their Energy Saver 101 home energy audit infographic to get an idea of what energy auditors look for and the special tools they use.
Professional auditors go through your home to find out how your home uses energy what ways you can save money by making corrections to the home.
Auditors check for typical problem areas such as doors, windows, and improper thermostat use.
Or, if you’re game, conduct an energy audit yourself, try one of these infrared thermeters.
Though professionals have many methods of judging a home’s energy usage, you can go through your home and make a list of the major issues and areas with air-leakage problems.
Some baseline specific items to check for include:
- Attic hatches
- Electrical outlets
- Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.
- Window frames
- Weather stripping around doors
The decline in sustainable home designs does not need to lead to a decline in sustainable home living. If you own an older home (20years plus) look around and you’ll be sure to find areas for improvement and ways to reduce your families carbon footprint.