Considering an upgrade to your vintage or historic home? In this ongoing energy retrofit series, master craftsman Daniel Westbrook interviews industry expert Mark LaLiberte, founding partner and president of Construction Instruction. Mark has been educating the building industry on the science and physics of construction for more than 30 years, and is sharing the benefits of constructing durable, energy efficient, healthy homes in this series.

Here are a few things you’ll learn in this video:

Review your energy bill

When performing an energy audit, look at your utility statements. Oftentimes, utilities will help provide a baseline for energy consumption. That information can be converted into good ideas about how energy is being used in the building—because your utility bill essentially recognizes how the building is performing. Once you have this information, do a physical review of the building by checking for air tightness, evaluating the insulation, exploring the attic, looking for single-glazed windows, and more. Based on these findings and the general comfort level in the home, you can take next steps, starting with creating a budget and a progressive plan to improve both energy and comfort.

Know your goals for energy efficient upgrades

At the end of the day, the goal is to have a building that is healthy, durable, and safe. It’s customary to use a blower door test to depressurize the building and measure the level of air tightness in the building. People sometimes ask: Why would you ensure air tightness in a building and then put in ventilation? Why not leave it leaky? A leaky house uses phenomenal amounts of energy, is uncomfortable on windy days, and is not very good on calm days. A building should be tight, but it should also introduce fresh air as needed for the occupants. It's often best to seal an older building, then put in a simple ventilation system.

Conduct an energy audit 

Whether it's a remodeling contractor or an energy auditor, homeowners should consider working with a trained professional when exploring energy efficient upgrades. An infrared camera is an invaluable tool to have on hand during this process. Working together allows all parties to exchange ideas, concerns, and goals—and helps ensure the best possible outcome. 

Stay tuned for more on energy retrofitting from Daniel and Mark over the coming months.