Minimize Energy Use in Historic Buildings

Posted on: July 19th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna
  1. Change All Your Light Bulbs to CFLs
    Replacing just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Imagine how much carbon dioxide changing ALL your light bulbs will save. CFLs are significantly more expensive than incandescent up front, but they can last up to 10x longer. Lowe's has one of the best in-store collections of cfls but you can also buy them online at websites such as
  2. Use Less Hot Water
    It takes a lot of energy (coal, electricity, etc) to heat water. Install low flow showerheads, and do your wash in cold or warm water instead of hot water. Think twice the next time you go to turn on the hot water.
  3. Adjust Thermostats
    In any building or space where you do not have carefully monitored temperatures for collections (etc), move the thermostat down just 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer. You can save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year per building with this simple adjustment.
  4. Reduce Architectural Lighting
    Do you artificially light your buildings at night? While it's an affect we all like, it adds thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year to the environment. Turning the lighting off just one night a week will make a huge impact.
  5. Turn off Electric Devices
    Turning off your computers, lights, air conditioning when you're not using them will save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Even if you don't have the device turned on, but it is plugged into the outlet, it is drawing electricity. In fact, the energy used to keep display clocks lit and memory chips working accounts for 5 percent of total domestic energy consumption and spews 18 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year!
  6. Buy Energy Star Appliances
    Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances, light bulbs and equipment to help you choose the most energy-efficient models when making new purchases.
  7. Minimize Use of Equipment
    Try not to use large equipment during the peak hours of 3pm to 7pm. This can include lawn mowers, tractors, trucks outside and air conditioning and boilers inside. Why? Gas and oil expand the warmer it is, so you need more of it during the warmer times of the day. And power is more expensive at this time of day also.
  8. Switch to Green Power
    In many areas, you can switch to energy generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar. The Green Power Network is a good place to start to figure out what’s available.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at