Aging Homes May Be Greener Than You Think!

by Christopher Barrow 4. June 2010 04:37

There are a few surprising facts about the relationship of some of Marin’s older homes to Mother Earth, Over and above the altruistic reasons for seeking to conserve the planet’s limited resources, everybody, no matter how green-minded, is keenly aware of the practical dollars-and-cents reasons to monitor the energy our homes require.

The problem is, some of us who covet older homes -- especially the true antiques -- have begun to think we ought to feel a little guilty about that preference. Especially when we read about some of the new ultra-green, ecologically-advanced housing projects…or hear from their unabashedly vocal boosters.

But take heart, ye owners of aging homes! There may yet be a reason or two for you to stop cowering in the shadows. Here in Marin, especially in areas like Kentfield, Belvedere and Ross where home were originally built as summer homes for San Francisco's elite, homes that have been around for a while commonly incorporate a host of built-in energy conservation features that even the newest homes could be hard-put to match.

Energy efficiency in older residences did not come about by accident. Some of the most basic structural elements in traditional homes were developed over centuries as practical features that saved costly fuel or maximized the comfort of the inhabitants.

The white-painted clapboard or board-and-batten siding on standard colonial or federal homes, for instance, uses the high reflectivity the light color to hold down the interior heat during the summer. Mature trees, planted where they will provide maximum shade value, are evidence of a landscaping solution common in the days before air conditioning.

Homes in modern housing developments are often designed to take advantage of the cost and production efficiencies of multiple unit construction – definite plusses in the campaign for sustainability. But there are some eco-downsides, too. Because they are designed for duplication on multiple sites, the positioning of any home on its lot is likely to be made in consideration of practical aesthetic considerations. Older homes, on the other hand, are commonly oriented to make the most of that land’s available sunlight. You can see how its windows are positioned to gather the greatest amount of solar energy during winter’s short daylight hours.

Likewise, it’s not uncommon to find the rooms and windows in older homes specifically positioned to maximize the cross-ventilation available from that lot’s prevailing afternoon breezes. Studies have shown that many older windows perform as well as modern vinyl replacements, especially when they have been properly weather-stripped and caulked. And of course the heavyweight construction materials built into homes which have stood up to the elements through the years are a considerable asset in energy conservation.

Many homes with traditional radiator systems find out that their antique fixtures are worth maintaining because of their superiority to modern lighter-weight replacements. Although any truly ancient boiler can’t match a modern replacement’s core efficiency, some of the newly-developed electronic add-on governors are relatively inexpensive yet can provide fuel savings of as much as 30%.

In an ever more green-conscious world, where recycling and reuse are prized as key ingredients in the movement toward sustainability, one major characteristic of older homes is perhaps the most eco-friendly of all. It is the underlying fact that the greenest home is, after all, the home that’s already built!

Interested in chatting more about homes or homes for rent in Marin?  My team and I specialize in the Marin Rental market and would love to help.  Contact me on my mobile anytime: (415) 637-8934.  Cheers, Christopher


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About the author

Born in San Francisco and raised in Marin, broker Christopher Barrow comes from an educational background in communications, with previous work experience in sales and client management.  Together with partner/wife, Darcy Alkus Barrow, the two run Foundation Rentals and Relocation servicing all of Marin County's rental property needs.

Even as the owner of the company, Christopher works every end of the Marin rental spectrum from one bedroom apartments for $1,000 to high-end, executive-style rentals renting anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000+ a month.  A working relationship with Christopher brings round the clock dedication and true client focus.  

When not working--which is rare if you ask his friends and family--Christopher spends his time at the Bay Club in Corte Madera, or at home in San Rafael with his wife and their two dogs and cat, enjoying all the great outdoor life Marin has to offer.

Contact Christopher anytime at

CA DRE Lic# 01722834

Areas served include: Sausalito rentals, CA, USA - Mill Valley rentals, CA, USA - Tiburon rentals, CA, USA - Belvedere rentals, CA, USA - Corte Madera rentals, CA, USA - Larkspur rentals, CA, USA - Greenbrae rentals, CA 94904, USA - Kentfield rentals, CA, USA - Ross rentals, CA, USA - San Anselmo rentals, CA, USA - San Rafael rentals, CA, USA - Novato rentals, CA, USA - San Francisco rentals, CA, USA‎ Rentals


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