Enhancing Energy Efficiency and Historic Charm

by Lacy Stockton | Oct 09, 2020

Mark Kacmarcik and Thea Appleton admit they have a “thing” for old homes. So, they were naturally drawn to a classic 1920s craftsman charmer in the heart of Wenatchee’s Grandview Historic District when they looked to purchase a home a few years ago. 

They envisioned remodeling the home to better fit their needs and wanted to improve the home’s comfort and efficiency while still honoring its classic character. 

Mark and Thea wave in front of their energy efficient historic home

Thea and Mark wave in front of their historic home, recently renovated with energy efficient upgrades throughout.

Finding the Big Improvements

The couple started with a home energy audit. Josh Mitchell, residential energy adviser at Chelan PUD, walked through the house with them to find ways to save energy and improve comfort.

“The energy audit really helped us prioritize,” Mark says. “We mostly knew what needed to be repaired and upgraded, but the audit revealed other hidden issues and helped us decide where to start.”

“Take the blower door test,” which determines how airtight a home is, Mark continued. “The fan wasn’t even able to pressurize the house because it was so leaky! So, we knew air sealing would be an important improvement for us. It also showed us areas in the walls where insulation was lacking.” 

Schedule a free virtual energy audit of your home and learn new ways to save money while improving comfort.

Getting in the Flow with HVAC

The couple first revisited the heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) system. When they moved in, the heat pump had failed and the ducting was part of a heat-only system with multiple ad hoc additions to reach the upper floor.

“We called it the Medusa,” Mark said laughing. “It was quite a mess.”

To improve the airflow and comfort of the upstairs bedrooms, Mark and Thea re-ducted the home and added supply and return vents from upstairs. The air circulation greatly improved. They also replaced the heat pump for efficient heating and cooling. Heat pumps are eligible for up to $1,400 in rebates from Chelan PUD.

Mark and Thea purchase insulation from a local hardware store

Mark gives Thea a lift while purchasing insulation.

Blown Away with New Insulation

Improving insulation was next on the list. But, as it goes with many home remodels, there were some unexpected surprises. The attic had vermiculite insulation that needed professional asbestos removal, knob-and-tube electrical work needed upgrading, and structural concerns meant some of the ceilings had to be replaced.

By contrast, the insulation was easy. After air sealing and making sure the attic had proper ventilation, insulation was blown in, “and it’s just incredible!” Mark says, “After sweltering through two summers with no attic insulation, we really understand the value of the insulation. I was surprised that even on hot days, our upstairs is comfortable with our HVAC just circulating air on Eco Mode.” 

Eco Mode is a setting on their smart thermostat, which makes controlling the temperature (and saving energy) easy. The couple received cash back from Chelan PUD for their insulation improvements and smart thermostat.

DIY blown-in insulation in Mark and Thea's historic home

Insulation can be blown into attics and other areas of the home. Check with your local hardware store for DIY kits and equipment rentals.

Weatherizing with Modern Classics

The couple changed the layout of the main floor, opening it up while still keeping its craftsman character. They made sure that every exterior wall they touched was insulated and well-sealed. 

“In retrospect, gutting the whole house might have been faster, but we wanted to do it right and preserve the charm of the house as much as possible,” Mark says. “We also lived here while we did most of the work, so we had to make things workable.”

Thea and Mark replaced several single-pane aluminum windows that dated back to the 1960s. The Historic District approved the beautiful, new, energy-efficient wood windows and a reproduction insulated fiberglass door, which kept the original style of the house and saved energy. Chelan PUD provided rebates for the windows and door.

Finishing Touches

With ENERGY STAR appliances and efficient LED lighting installed, the couple is done with their remodel…almost. 

“We’ve still got some work to do. We plan insulate the floor in the crawlspace and the basement rim joist, and do a little more weatherization” to improve home sealing, Mark notes. “We’d also like to take advantage of the PUD rebate for storm windows on the original wood windows. But for now we’re enjoying some time away from remodeling projects!”

Saving Year After Year

Thea and Mark’s work highlights the best of new meets old. They honored the style of their historical home and kept to their tenant of environmental responsibility. Their improvements are beautiful and enhance their comfort. Plus, the energy efficient upgrades will save them about 13% on energy and their electric bills for many years to come. (Add the savings of their new heat pump, and they would save closer to 50% over their original home heated by a resistance furnace!)

Great work, Thea and Mark. And thanks for sharing your adventure with us!



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