Tips To Help You Upgrade Mechanical Systems In Your Old House

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Some people just love the character of an older home. There's just something about running your hand on the intricately carved wood of a old staircase handrail. Living in an old house is like taking a step back in time… to a time in when energy efficiency was not a concern.

Houses that were built over a century ago were constructed with mechanical systems that may need to be replaced. After all, these systems don't last forever. But, this can be difficult because old houses and their mechanical systems were not designed for retrofitting. Here are a few tips that can help you upgrade the mechanical systems of your old house.  

Heating, Air Conditioning & Ventilation

A new HVAC system for an old house may require the installation of ducts that may be too large to fit in the walls and flooring of an old house. This may interfere with the old building materials and architectural elements that give the house character. You can hire a mechanical contractor to design ducts to fit.

However, it's a good idea to also hire a historical house preservation specialist as well. Why? Because the changes in the temperatures and humidity levels your new HVAC mechanical system will give your old house may damage the historical materials and architectural design elements that you love about the house. For example, the intricate wood carvings throughout the house may need to be refinished so the climate of the house will not cause it to rot.

Electrical Wiring

The electrical wiring of your old house can be a fire hazard. Between 20007 and 2011, electrical failure caused 47,820 house fires. Almost half of those fires were because of faulty wiring, which is a common problem in old houses. Old electrical wiring systems were not designed to handle the current loads of today. Your old house's electrical wiring system was not designed to handle the current loads for all your appliances, computers, televisions and other electronic gadgets.

Replacing the electrical wiring in your home may mean the removal of the plaster on the walls. Behind the plaster is a series of thin wood strips that hold the plaster in place. These strips of wood may become damaged when the plaster is removed. And, some of the strips may need to be removed to install the new wiring and electrical outlets. It can be challenging to achieve the same character and charm with replacement plaster walls.


The plumbing fixtures and pipes in your old house have probably already deteriorated to some extent. Corrosive materials were used in old plumbing systems, and they will need to be replaced. As you can imagine, this is also a large job that could cause damage to the architectural design elements of your home, such as the flooring and walls. However, it's a good idea to replace the plumbing before it corrodes further, or you could be faced with sewage leaking into your home or water damage from a ruptured pipe.

Since your plumbing system will likely get a major overhaul, it may be a good idea to install a gray water recovery system. This is a water recycling system in your home. This will allow you to recycle the water you use in your appliances, tubs and showers so the water can irrigate your lawn and/or flush your toilets. A mechanical contractor can design this type of system.

Your preservation specialist can work with the contractors to reduce the amount of damage to the historic building materials you wish to keep. These types of upgrades are necessary in older homes, because nothing lasts forever. Fortunately, your old house will not lose the charm and character that you love.