Home Efficiency: Present Day vs. The Time of President Lincoln



Life was a lot different while Lincoln was president, and this certainly applies to the typical American home. Energy saving luxuries and modern exterior materials certainly weren’t available some 150 years ago, and we’ve come a long way in terms of efficiently insulating homes.

Let’s look how home efficiency of the mid-1800s compares with homes in 2017:

1860s Homes Had Single Pane Windows

Back in Lincoln’s era, homeowners didn’t have the option to choose from dual or single pane windows—let alone argon gas or low-e glazing. In the 1860s, the only option available for windows was single pane glass with wood frames. Single pane glass doesn’t offer much at all in terms of insulation, which is why you won’t find many residential window companies offering this product today.

Windows have come a long way in the last century. Dual and triple pane options are available along with several gas fills, low-e glazing, materials, and countless styles to choose from.

Lincoln-Era Homes Weren’t Efficiently Insulated

Another major difference with these past vs. present homes is attic and wall insulation. Many homes in this era were made of wood, which is a natural insulator. Although it wasn’t known at the time, wood also has a high R-Value and natural thermal insulation properties.

Insulation was very slow to evolve. Some homes would have newspapers stuffed between the walls to help with insulation. Other homes would contain corncobs, wood shavings, and seaweed. The earliest attempts at insulation involved mud or straw.

Luckily, we don’t have to turn to straw or crumbled newspaper to keep our homes cozy. Foam insulation in your attic and walls is one of the best ways to keep energy bills low. 

In addition to insulation, we also have vinyl siding to further insulate our homes. This siding option didn’t become available until the 1950s, but it’s the most popular exterior in America today.

Roofing in the 1860s

Roofing was a lot different in the 1800s vs. present day. They had wood shingle roofs, slate roofs, and tin roofs just to name a few. Wood shingles allowed for homes to ventilate, but the downside is that they were prone to rot under excess moisture—which is a problem that remains with wood exterior today. Slate was a popular pick due to its durability, and those who lived in snow regions often turned to tin for their roofing.

Asphalt roofing is the go-to choice for many homeowners in 2017. It’s affordable, protective, and lasts for many years.

Inefficient Entry Doors

Wood was the go-to option for doors in the mid-1800s. As we mentioned earlier, wood is a natural insulator, However, wood on its own can only do so much for keeping your home comfortable. Today’s entry doors feature a polyurethane foam core to make your home feel warmer. Furthermore, there are many more options and styles to choose from.

We’re exceptionally fortunate to have highly efficient exterior products and materials at our fingertips. If your home feels like it’s stuck in the 1800s in terms of energy efficiency, contact us today for a consultation.