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Firstly, do you know if you live in a 'traditional building' – also referred to as an 'older home'? A bit like the term 'older woman', it is probably best avoided with grander term of 'traditional' being preferable – at least in house-speak! The term 'historic' can also be applied: useful if you live in a castle.

As a rule of thumb, traditional buildings will usually have solid-wall construction, bay or sash windows (single glazed), no damp proof course, and is likely to have been built before 1919.

When you decide to consider either improving or installing energy conservation for traditional homes, it is important to remember that these buildings perform very differently from modern buildings and you must give great thought to the process of cutting your energy bills before you take action. For instance, bear in mind:

> Your home's construction, to avoid damage to the fabric of the house
> The importance of moisture movement in historic buildings
> Minimising disturbance to the very fibre of the building
> Reversing any changes without causing further damage
> Whether perhaps your home is of such quality that it should not be altered at all

The fabric of a traditional building needs to 'breathe' and must be able to release and absorb moisture. For example this could be from rising damp, driving rain, as well as defects and condensation. Moisture can move through permeable building materials until it eventually evaporates. If you use modern impermeable building products in your quest to save energy you will obstruct this process. This can result in you trapping moisture in and thus accelerating the decay process of the fabric of the building.

The main risks to traditional buildings are:

> Condensation gathering within unheated areas of the building
> Ventilation and heating not powerful enough to remove moisture
> Moisture trapped within the building materials
> So what can you do before you install expensive trappings in order to save on your utility spend?

Look at the basics:

> Adequate ventilation – don't attempt to hermetically seal the property!
> Use building materials which are 'hygroscopic' which allows moisture to flow in and out of the building materials without becoming damp or mildewed
> Minimise the barriers to moisture flow

Whilst not advocating that howling drafts are left to roam free, make sure that when you think about energy conservation you start with the basics mentioned above. Like our skin, the fabric of your house needs to breathe, and so take advice on the products you use. Go on, you kno

Posted on 23rd March, 2010