Restoring old homes and historic homes has become something of a national pastime, thanks to the many home renovation reality television shows airing today. Fixing up old houses requires more than just cosmetic repairs. Much of an older home’s infrastructure, such as electrical and HVAC systems, will also need updating, as these changes can improve comfort, safety, and energy efficiency.
One of the more difficult—and important—changes property owners will need to make to restore an older home is choosing a heating system. Outdated HVAC equipment can result in sky-high energy bills and inefficient and ineffective heating. An updated furnace installed by a professional air conditioning service can drastically cut heating costs for older homes and ensure that they remain comfortable during the winter months.
Furnaces typically have a useful life of about 15 to 20 years. In many older homes, you may find furnaces that are decades older than this. These furnaces will likely be incredibly energy inefficient and will likely contribute to high energy and maintenance costs, especially if the older furnace is a gravity-type system.
Consider this: In most furnaces installed before the early 1990s, only about 65 percent of the fuel used by the furnace is converted into heat. Modern furnaces have much higher efficiency ratings, with about 80 to 97 percent of the fuel used being converted to heat.
Selecting a new furnace for your home can definitely improve energy costs and comfort, but there are a few special considerations you’ll need to take into account when installing a new furnace in an older home or historic building.
- Duct work and infrastructure – Technology and home design were likely quite different when your home’s original furnace and other HVAC components were installed. You may need to recruit a specialized air conditioner service company to help with installing a new furnace. Professional heating and air conditioning repair companies that specialize in furnace installation for older homes can make custom changes to furnaces or duct work to ensure everything is compatible and works properly.
- Fuel type – When choosing a new furnace for your home, you’ll want to consider the type fuel it uses. Older furnaces typically used oil for heat, but more efficient options may be available. For example, natural gas can often be much more cost-effective than oil for fueling furnaces.
- Speed options – Older furnaces usually only had a single-stage blower, which operates at only one speed. This often made getting just the right temperature difficult and resulted in higher energy bills. Modern furnaces have two-stage furnaces, which operate at full or half speed to better regulate the temperature in your home. Modulating furnaces offer even more speed options.
- Historic preservation rules – Some historically significant homes are governed by rules intended to maintain the home’s historic character. This means some upgrades and changes to the home will need approval by municipal authorities or historic preservation committees before they can go forward.
If your home is historically significant, or if you’re receiving government tax credits or grants, you definitely want to consult historic preservation authorities in your area before embarking on a major renovation, even for something like installing a new furnace.
Other Factors Impacting Older Home Heat Efficiency
The furnace itself may not be the only factor resulting in sky-high energy costs or uneven heating throughout an older home. Some other factors that may influence heating efficiency and efficacy in an older home include:
- Dirty furnace filters – Clogged filters can greatly reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system. Luckily, it’s an easy fix to install new filters.
- Obstructed duct work or duct leaks – Obstructed duct work can greatly impact the efficiency of any HVAC system. When ducts are clogged, air does not flow as it is designed to, causing some rooms to be warmer than others. It may also cause property owners to set thermostats higher to get the home to a comfortable temperature, causing the system to work harder and use more energy. Duct work clogged with contaminants may also contribute to poor indoor air quality.
Leaks in your home’s ductwork may also negatively impact the energy efficiency of your home. When air leaks from duct work, it does not reach its intended destination, causing the system to have to work harder to heat your home. Energy Star estimates that about leaky ducts can reduce HVAC system efficiency by as much as 20 percent, so it’s certainly worth your while to invest in having your ducts inspected and sealed.
- Lack of insulation – Many older homes, particularly those more than 50 years old, may not be well-insulated. Homes with older insulation may not be as efficient (or as safe) as homes with modern insulation materials. Having a contractor assess your home’s insulation and recommend necessary changes can help you save on energy costs.
Home Renovation Industry Booming
The home renovation industry has grown greatly, in recent years, recovering from a sharp decline caused by the Great Recession. According to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity, a study conducted by Harvard University, annual growth in home improvement and repair spending is expected to increase in 2017 before tapering off slightly. Spending is set to surpass $327 billion, this year, above its pre-recession peak in 2006.
Other than the satisfaction of restoring an older home to its former glory or updating it to make it more modern and efficient, there are also a few financial benefits for home restoration if your home is a historic property. There are a variety of tax breaks and government incentives available to property owners who restore historic homes.
Here are a few programs supporting the restoration of historic homes:
- The National Park Service, in partnership with the IRS, sponsors the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program. Getting your property listed on the National Register of Historic Places is your first step to getting lots of great tax breaks. You can also check the NRHP to see if the property you own is already registered.
If your property is registered, the federal government will reimburse you 20 percent of renovation costs, so long as the property is revenue generating.
About 31 states have adopted tax credit programs to reimburse property owners for costs related to restoring historic buildings. Many state incentives don’t require the property to be revenue generating. Some don’t even require listing on the NRHP.
- Easements may be available for some historic properties. Easements typically involve agreements between property owners and historical preservation societies that the property owner will maintain the property’s historic character in exchange for reduced, income, estate, or property taxes.
- If you’re looking for grant funding or tax benefits for restoring a historic property, it pays to get in contact with local and state historical preservation societies and governmental agencies tasked with historical preservation. They can help you find these tax breaks and financial opportunities.
Before embarking on a renovation project, including installing new furnaces or HVAC systems, it’s also helpful to communicate with historical preservation societies and local authorities to ensure your planned upgrade does not run afoul of any rules concerning historic properties.
For heating and air conditioning repair and renovation jobs in older homes, it pays to work with an HVAC company with experience in tackling the unique challenges posed by these buildings.
Kaiser Air Conditioning, a family-owned business, provides HVAC system installation and service to homes throughout Southern California. Kaiser Air Conditioning is well-suited for custom work such as HVAC installation and upgrades for older homes, thanks to the company’s highly trained staff and its sheet metal fabrication facility located in Oxford.
Established in 1981, the company has grown to a team of more than 20 employees, 12 trucks, and the 5,000-square-foot sheet metal fabrication facility in Oxnard.