Winter is coming and gas prices are going up. While writing this article, it was announced that several European governments are going to implement a cap on energy prices and hopefully heating costs will not be too bad. Still, times remain uncertain with the war in Ukraine and with climate change on the horizon, we need to adapt our lifestyles to these times. Especially people living in historic and poorly insulated homes.
Therefore, the editors of Dutch heritage news platform De Erfgoedstem spoke to three ‘people involved’ in historic country houses about their tips for this winter. These are Antoinette van Dorssen, director of Kasteel/Landgoed Duivenvoorde, Erica van Eeghen, board member of Stichting Berkenrode and René Dessing, resident and director of Stichting Erfgoed Landfort, which owns Huis Landfort. All three were already working on sustainability, but the news of rising gas prices put their measures into gear. Antoinette, Erica and René offer advice.
1. Tackle small chores
There are a lot of small and relatively cheap measures that can already make a difference when heating a historic building. For instance, you can stick foil behind central heathers, and install insulating windows and draught strips. For sliding windows, you can use brushes. And make sure the doors in your building can close properly.
2. Wear more clothes
People used to wear a lot more clothes in winter. We need to go back to that! “In winter, you can dress warmly inside too, a lot of people are not used to that anymore”, says Erica. “Wear lots of layers, they keep you warm.”
3. Replace hatches
One measure René has taken to make House Landfort more sustainable is to replace the interior shutters. He has done this for all 64 windows. In cold weather, these hatches can be closed and heat will not escape.
4. Dress up your room
Those tapestries in the rooms of fancy residencies weren’t just there for decoration; they also kept out the cold. Tapestries could be an idea for your decor, but if you are not a fan of them, thick curtains can also help to keep out the cold.
5. Search for tailor-made solutions
Every house is different and requires different measures. Seek advice from a specialised organisation. For example, Erica sought advice from the Groene Grachten and Antoinette from the Monuments Guard of South Holland and the Groene Grachten. They provide tailor-made tips and tell you what is and is not allowed. Maybe insulating the roof, a heat pump or glass insulation suits your property after all? For the larger measures at Duivenvoorde, such as insulating the attic, Antoinette is in talks with the Dutch Department for Cultural Heritage. At House Landfort, this was already carried out during the last restoration, and already saved a considerable amount of energy according to Réne.
6. Purchase your gas via a central purchase unit
In December, Duivenvoorde’s gas contract expires. Antoinette concludes a new contract via Collective Energy Purchasing, an initiative by the Dutch Association for homeowners. According to her, this saves a lot of money. Perhaps your country has a similar initiative?
7. Get other sources of heating
A while ago, René had a wood-burning stove installed in the carriage house for ‘cosiness’. But now he is extra happy with it. In other rooms, he uses ‘zibro heating’, which are petroleum-powered heaters. These can heat a room very well and you no longer need central heating.
8. Live in one room
Cosy together by the fireplace. Convenient, because heating in other parts of the house is no longer necessary in that case. Or visit friends, preferably that couple with a modern and well-insulated house, then you can leave the heating off completely.
9. Look for grants or loans
Unfortunately, making a monument is not a cheap task. It involves spending a considerable amount of money and effort. Look into whether your own province or local authority offers assistance for making monuments or historic buildings more sustainable. Erica tells us that the province of North Holland offers specific grants for preservation and sustainability. You can also apply for low-interest sustainability loans.
10. Accept that it’s winter
This last tip is from René. He explains that he once lived in a house that was incredibly difficult to heat. Gradually, he just got used to the cold. It doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s worth a try.
This article first appeared on De Erfgoedstem, and was translated from Dutch.