Techniques > Briefs > Conserving Energy in Historic Buildings

Explain how to: survey and quantify all aspects of energy usage, by evaluating the monies expended for electricity, gas, and fuel oil for a year and by surveying how and when each room is used.
Develop the bulleted material as part of a checklist.

Passive Measures

The first passive measures to utilize are operational controls; that is, controlling how and when a building is used. These controls incorporate programmatic planning and scheduling efforts by the owner to minimize usage of energy-consuming equipment. A building owner should survey and quantify all aspects of energy usage, by evaluating the monies expended for electricity, gas, and fuel oil for a year and by surveying how and when each room is used. This will identify ways of conserving energy by initiating operational controls such as:

  • lowering the thermostat in the winter, raising it in the summer
  • controlling the temperature in those rooms actually used
  • reducing the level of illumination and number of lights (maximize natural light)
  • using operable windows, shutters, awnings and vents as originally intended to control interior environment (maximize fresh air)
  • having mechanical equipment serviced regularly to ensure maximum efficiency
  • cleaning radiators and forced air registers to ensure proper operation

The passive measures outlined above can save as much as 30% of the energy used in a building. They should be the first undertakings to save energy in any existing building and are particularly appropriate for historic buildings because they do not necessitate building alterations or the introduction of new materials that may cause damage. Passive measures make energy sense, common sense, and preservation sense!

For Rhode Island climate, the most important step to take is:
  • Making sure chimney flue vents are closed when not in use,
  • Use curtains and drapes in the winter months: open during the day for solar energy; close at night to keep heat in,
  • Put plastic on windows for winter months if storm windows are beyond your budget.
  • Others...