Cooling an old house in the summer is tough! You can upgrade the HVAC, insulate the attic and walls, add solar screens, or even just replace all of the windows. But, all of this comes at a price. Usually, a hefty one!
Upgrading an old house HVAC system
When buying an old house, it is important to pay attention to the heating and cooling system, or the lack thereof. You might find that the old house doesn’t have central AC or central heat. It might have window units, old radiators, a gas furnace, none of these, or all of these.
One thing I try to make sure of is to buy a house with a central AC and heating system. The costs of adding duct-work in an old house is very expensive. Depending on the size of the house, the cost can be enormous. Upgrading an already existing HVAC system is definitely more cost effective than completely ADDING a system.
For an upgrade, expect to pay anywhere from $5500 to more than $10,000 depending on the brand, installer and size of the unit. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include the cost of any duct-work or other charges. This is often the first part of renovating any fixer-upper, regardless of flipping or keeping it. WARNING – If you buy a house with an older AC unit that’s around 15-25 years old, and are going to keep it as a rental, you will end up replacing it. If you have multiple properties, it can easily eat away any profits.
Insulating an Old House
Typically, old houses didn’t have much insulation. Electricity or gas was not as expensive in the past, and you could just run your AC or furnace as much as you wanted to maintain the temperature you desired. Today, we are all aware of the soaring cost of running an AC or furnace. So, we need more insulation!
Insulating is definitely a job for the DIYer. It’s tedious and can be tough, but the money saved on doing the job yourself is enormous. You can buy all the materials needed at the local big box store and the machine to “blow” the insulation in is usually included in the purchase price. I
Start with the attic, since this is where most of your heat loss or cool air loss is going to occur. According to EnergyStar, insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attics is to insulate to R-38 or about 10 to 14 inches, depending on insulation type.
There are many different types of insulation, including “blow” in, rolls and even foam. Most DIY people are going to be using the blow-in kind that is pink or green in color. Check out the different options available and consider all costs before attempting the job. Also, don’t try insulating your attic in the middle of summer! It can get pretty hot in the attic…
Replacing Old House Windows
Many old house enthusiasts will tell you keep the old windows. They can be repaired and sealed, and will fit the aesthetic of the house. If you decide to replace them, you need to know they can be quite expensive. Consider each window to be around $300 – $1000 per window, not including installation. You can buy metal, vinyl, wood, and many more different variations, depending on costs and the “rating” of the window.
Adding solar screens to an Old House
One thing you can do to help a little bit is too add solar screens, or even shutters to your old house. The sun hitting windows in the middle of the summer can make the temperature of that part of the house rise significatnly. Think about it. Your bedroom is hot so you crank your AC, and at the same time, you crank up the cost of your electric bill.
There are many different ways to keep an old house cool, or warm, depending on the season. You can add fans, insulation, new windows, a new system, and much more. All of these come at a price!