Historic buildings are beautiful, sure. But they're also notoriously drafty, leaky and difficult to heat or cool. Not good for the planet.
If you're looking for help making an older home more energy-efficient, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has launched an online guide chock full of information about what to do and how to do it without ruining the character of your home, or, in many cases, spending an attic-load of money to do it.
The guide includes discussion - and tons of photos - about what to do with older windows, from replacing them to adding things like interior storm windows to retain the home's character. It also gives tips on general weatherization, roofing and insulation.
Mechanical systems - heating and cooling, for instance - are another big challenge. Among other tips, the guide suggests using closets and nonworking fireplaces to hide duct work and electrical boards. Unlike new homes, older ones also have cavity walls and false floors to hide all those modern wires.
The guide includes nearly 200 links to Web sites, articles, reports, case studies and do-it-yourself checklists. It can be found at www.PreservationNation.org//weatherization
A LIGHTER APPROACH TO GOING GREEN
Joshua Piven has diagnosed many of us with a case of eco-anxiety.
It's a fear of making the wrong choices, brought on by the complexity of environmental issues and the intimidation wrought by well-meaning but strident eco-activists. It can make us afraid to do anything at all, he says.
But Piven thinks Earth's fate is too important to give up on. So instead of preaching, he seeks to bring humor and creativity to environmentalism in "This Green House: Home Improvements for the Eco-Smart, the Thrifty, and the Do-It-Yourselfer."
The book offers practical, doable and mostly inexpensive methods for living lighter on the Earth.
Readers learn everything from green cleaning methods to making charcoal from coffee grounds. Some tips are effortless - using less dishwasher detergent, for example - while others require more work, such as using a plunger to agitate laundry in a human-powered clothes washer.
Piven's point is that you can pick the projects and tips that are achievable for you, but that every change is an improvement.
"This Green House" is published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang and sells for $15.95 in softcover.
CASH FOR CLUNKY APPLIANCES
In the spirit of the "cash for clunkers" program the government is once again trotting out a cash-for concept.
This time it's all about appliances, and it's the Department of Energy that's providing nearly $300 million in stimulus funds for consumers who ditch their sputtering old fridges, freezers, washers, you name it, for spanking-new, energy-efficient appliances.
You needn't actually haul in your old appliance - it's technically a rebate not a trade-in program. And any brand-new appliance with the Energy Star logo is covered. Rebates should begin rolling by the end of this year or early next year, an Energy Department spokeswoman says, with rebates ranging from $50 to $250 per appliance.
For more information, check out energysav-ers.gov//financial//index.cfm, click on "Appliance Rebates."