Energy Efficiency in Old Homes: Begin in the Basement

Topic: Green

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On days like today–Blizzard II–it’s easy to think about energy. I can feel the cold air drifting from my windows and the draft emanating from the basement.

Pascale Maslin, the founder of Energy Efficiency Experts and one of two featured speakers at Historic Mount Pleasant’s recent event on saving energy in historic homes, has something to say about plugging the holes to eliminate some of those drafts. Maslin’s firm performs energy audits to reduce energy costs, and her main message for old-home owners (or would that be owners of old homes?) is, in essence: spend more time in your basement.

Maslin notes that many old homes were built before central heating so the heating systems were something of an afterthought. There are gaps in piping, around exhaust holes, and in walls. According to, in housing with forced-air heating and cooling systems, “about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. The result is higher utility bills and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.”

The government suggests that “exposed ducts in attics, basements, crawlspaces, and garages can be repaired by sealing the leaks with duct sealant (also called duct mastic). In addition, insulating ducts that run through spaces that get hot in summer or cold in winter (like attics, garages, or crawlspaces) can save significant energy.”

Maslin agrees, and notes that more recent additions can have some of the same energy-losing problems. While contractors attend to exterior holes that might admit air (or vermin), they neglect to seal the interior spaces in basements or crawl spaces, so air is drawn through the walls and out through the roof. You can see an illustration of air movement in and out of a house and read more on how to seal and insulate your home at the Energy Star link above.

Maslin also posts energy saving tips at You can schedule a $350 energy efficiency audit by calling her at 202-557-9200.

The District of Columbia Department of the Environment also sponsors free energy audits for homeowners in single family homes or in townhouses (not condos or co-ops) up to 4000 square feet. You can learn more about these and apply online at,a,1209,q,492761.asp. There is a link to more information on energy efficiency tax credits on the same page.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Thrilled on February 10, 2010 5:57 pm

    I needed this article to get off my . . . seat . . and get an energy audit. Great! Now I have to find someone make all the recommended repairs.

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