Making an Old House Green

Making an Old House Green

(We live in SoCal so this is about Energy Efficiency and home improvement/ not a Glass House for tender plants)

Our home was built in early 1944, during WWII, as housing for the influx of workers down the street at Douglas.  As a result, it was very modest in size and construction materials.  When the neighborhood was developed, construction materials were so scarce that foundations were poured for the garages, but no framing or structures were put up.  All the home owners built them in the subsequent years after the war, once materials were easier to come by.  The house did have a fair sized city lot, .14 of an acre, since homeowners were encouraged to maintain “Victory Gardens.”  Purchasing 50+ years later, we still had a bare bones house to work with, with few to no improvements, and nothing but a couple of trees and grass in the yard.

We are slowly working our way through energy efficient home improvement projects and we try to leave as gentle of a impact with our lifestyle as possible.  We have made as many decisions as possible to support this effort, however, we are a bit limited by our income and time.  We have chosen not to go into debt to do these things and have to save up for each project as we tackle it.  We also are trying to make any permanent design choices,  quietly blend in with the era of the house, not what I consider dis-imporovements, that look like they belong in a newly constructed home or the latest trends that will soon go out of style.

Removing the aluminum window and installing the milgard insulated windows on the old 1940s house
Replacement of the old aluminum windows that were added in the 1970’s

Projects to date so far:

Programmable Thermostat

Low Flow Shower Head

Low Flow Faucets

Double paned e coated windows.

Milgard Window installed in 2004. The trellis around it is original to the house.

Blown in Insulation in the walls, made from recycled newspaper.

Insulated the attic.

Energy Star Refrigerator

Energy Star Dishwasher

Front Load Washer Machine – Energy Star (we are on our second set, our first set was purchased when we bought the house and replaced with a  Samsung that had vibration reduction to keep it from shaking the house like the kenmore did.

Tankless Water heater-the Noritz works fine with our energy star Samsung WF328 front load washer.  I read lots of complaints about LG front load washers not being compatible with tankless water heaters because LG fills the wash in spurts never allowing the hot water to stay on long enough to supply the hot water.   However, our Samsung does not have the same issue.  In addition, the Samsung washer has an option to do a cold water sanitizing wash using a “silvercare” setting.

Noritz tankless water heater with skirt installed outdoors near our driveway

Solar Tube Light in the interior bathroom.

No Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Paint and other Low VOC Paint throughout the house

Refinished the original 1944 hardwood floors, rather than installing carpet or virgin wood materials

Florescent Bulbs

Gray water irrigation from the clothes washer in ornamental flower beds in the backyard.

Homemade greywater bin. Not for storage. Precaution for preventing a blockage from damaging the washer machine pump.

Drought Tolerant Plantings with a few  natives

Programmable Irrigation system

We have converted a significant amount of our yard to edible gardening.  I am one of those folks that feel if you have to water it, you might as well eat it.


DoggieDo Composter/ digestor (yuck)

* Some of the future projects we have discussed include a solar water heater or solar electricity, whole house attic fan, another gray water system-attached to the shower drain, and a porous cement driveway. We also plan to only add enough space to add a closet into our back bedroom.  By keeping the house small it helps reduce the total energy we use as a family to heat and cool the house.  We do not have air conditioning due to the large back yard tree shading a large portion of the house.

Other Lifestyle Choices we have made:

Eliminated junk mail delivery by “opting out”

Electric Lawn mover and yard equipment

Grow and raise a portion of our food to reduce the distance it travels

Buy organic over conventional whenever possible and not cost prohibitive ( I always buy these organic: strawberries, peaches, grapes, celery, lettuce, apples, milk, corn, soy products, bell peppers, cherries, potatoes)  We have yet to find a good source for grass fed beef.

Eat only seasonal and local produce (sorry Chileans)

Use wash cloths to clean up spills and launder them, instead of always using paper towels

Cloth Napkins, not paper

Make a portion of our own cleaning supplies with vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, gentle soaps

No store bought bottled water/ instead use reusable aluminum bottles when traveling

Decorate with vintage furniture

1953 Click back sofa. Reuphulstered with vintage fabric from the period found in an old fabric warehouse.

Cooking from scratch and eating take out food less

Biking for short trips

Drying clothes on the line (arbors in the driveway.) We do still use a gas dryer for a lot of clothes, but I hope to install a larger line so I can do more line drying easier

When we purchase things, we try to find “made in America,” as well as support smaller local retailers, rather than large corperations like Walmart.

We try not to eat at chain restaurants when we go out to eat, and instead support local small business owners, thus keeping our dollars in the community as much as possible.  (We do love In n Out and make an exception for it.)

Soaker Hoses in the veggie garden, rather than hand watering

I don’t dye my hair with chemicals, well, I just don’t dye my hair and instead am going grey gracefully.

When buying a new car, gas mileage is always at the top of list of our priorities, even 9 years ago when gas was much cheaper.  One day we dream of installing solar on the garage and use it to power an electric car.  We will have to win the lottery first probably, or have the cost drop dramatically.

Keeping Chickens

Composting kitchen and yard scraps

When the backyard tree is trimmed, I have the debris shredded and use it as mulch in the flower beds.


Re-purpose as much as possible, rather than throwing away

2 thoughts on “Making an Old House Green

  1. Hi Lianne – found your website when looking for info on keeping chickens. My husband and I live in a similar home in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have also been trying to do many of the things you are to reduce our “footprint” on the environment. We have two large dogs and are interested in your experience with the DoggieDo Composter. I’m concerned about the smell bothering the neighbors (and us!). Also, how is your dog with the chickens around?

  2. Hi Lianne,
    I found your blog from BYC. We are thinking of raising chickens and was initially looking at your coop design. After that I just could not stop reading your entire blog. My husband, who was skepital at first about raising chickens now it pretty interested. We love what you have done with your garden and your grey water system. We are trying to be as self sufficent as possible, but you are much further down the road then we are. Your blog and information is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your projects and lifestyle online.

I would love to know what you think about this.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.