This old house is green
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE ” There used to be an outhouse at Bryan and Anneliese Rooney’s home in Eagle, if that says anything.
Built in 1912, it’s one of the still standing grandpas of our valley’s rapidly growing family of condos and townhouses. Plumbing in this house didn’t show up until the 1950s.
But like your iron-pumping, marathon running grandpa, it found a way to stay healthy as it aged. It became energy efficient.
Old homes might seem to some people like hopeless cases in the increasingly popular world of green, but actually, they have the quickest, easiest and cheapest fixes, said Michelle Gilman, president of Active Energies, an Avon company that performs energy audits, solar design and provides consulting for contractors.
It doesn’t take a new home with a sod roof and geothermal heating to make a difference. You can begin simply with doing away with things farmers and ranchers also didn’t need decades ago.
When the Rooneys began home shopping in 2005, they were hoping to find something with character ” none of the same looking “cookie cutter” developments popping up around the valley. They found that much-sought character in a house on Howard Street that’s been around for what equates to an eternity in our continually developed community.
“It’s an old house through and through ” we weren’t interested in new construction,” Rooney said.”
What they didn’t expect to find was a house with a very modern approach to how it used and saved energy.
“The fact that there were green building practices in the home was really interesting to us, and kind of spurred our interest in that whole idea sustainable living,” Rooney said.
The house had previously been insulated with material no better than newspaper, Rooney said. This was replaced with top-grade insulation in the attic and walls. Single-pane aluminum windows were replaced with double paned, argon-filled windows.
The asphalt roof shingles were replaced with slate made from recycled rubber and plastics. An extended overhang was placed around the house to protect it from the blazing heat of the summer sun.
The house was filled with low-flow shower heads and Energy Star appliances. Lightbulbs were replaced with compact florescents. The old gas heater was replaced with a quiet and efficient floor-mounted stove with a programmable thermostat.
“During the winter, when it’s cold in the morning, we set it to go on half an hour before we wake up, and it shuts down when we leave,” Rooney said.
Really though, nothing over the top was done. The house seems pretty tame when compared to newer houses in the valley built with beetle-killed pine trees and plastered with solar panels. Still, it inspired the Rooneys to live a more sustainable life, a life where they keep lights off, unplug everything and watch their water use.
“It opened our eyes that little changes can make differences over time.”
Many energy efficiency upgrades are simple and easy to do, especially some of the basic ones that can be fitted to old homes. Gilman said. Surprisingly, some people are apprehensive about having their home checked for environmental weaknesses.
“People don’t want to know how bad it is, but they really have the easiest fixes of anyone, and they don’t have to spend much money to see a huge return,” Gilman said.
Most people can figure out how to install a new thermostat or a low-flow shower head for instance. Most people can do caulking and weather stripping. Most people can hunt down or order Energy Star appliances. Usually, it’s in these older houses that people see the biggest and quickest return on their investment in energy efficiency.
Other things like insulation can be more involved, but they can still help out enough to make it worth your while. With newer houses, investments in energy saving measures can be more costly if they aren’t done during construction, Gilman said.
Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or email@example.com.
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