To some, old houses are just a magnet for the wrecking ball, money pits to be cleared away to make way for more profitable development. For others they are a cherished window into the issues, the charm, and the culture of the past…showing us who we are. But as costs rise and our knowledge of what's possible increases, taking care of them responsibly is a growing challenge.

According to certified energy and sustainability consultant, Edward Schwartz, of Englewood, NJ, finding contractors who respect older, historic homes is one of the key stumbling blocks to achieving greener, sustainably updated homes which take advantage of the ever increasing array of energy efficient, healthful new technologies. There are plenty of contractors out there who can rip out your walls, floors, boilers, heaters, pipes and roofs, he said, but few who understand how to replace or augment them within a fully integrated whole house plan that saves energy while loving and honoring old floor boards, ripply glass, and off-kilter corners, walls and doors. Older homes have their own special challenges.

Now in his third year of restoring his own historical pre-revolutionary home using energy saving methods and sustainable practices, Mr. Schwartz not only speaks from a wealth of professional knowledge, he speaks from personal experience as well.

The program was organized by South Orange Historical & Preservation Society (SOHPS) members, Joanne Douds and Nina M. Barszcz. Ms. Douds noted that "...America is finally catching up to the rest of the world in the area of energy efficiency. I recently received my GREEN designation in Real Estate and immediately wondered how to make my historic home more energy efficient," she said.

"I was given Ed Schwartz as a person to contact since he is both a historic preservationist as well as a BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) Scientist who works on energy and sustainability of structures. We hired him to do an energy audit of our home. We learned many new things about the "structure" of our home as well as how to save energy in simple ways and make several changes that would reduce our energy consumption by more than 50%. The investment is nominal in comparison to the savings we will recover in several years. We now have a formal energy audit accompanying our home and a plan to put in place step by step to make our home healthier and more energy efficient. An added bonus is that we have improved our home's re-sale value."

According to Nina Barszcz, director of the 2009 SOHPS-sponsored house tour, the lecture helped attendees to understand and prioritize steps such as improved insulation, air sealing, more efficient lighting and appliances in achieving both energy efficiency and in reducing their carbon footprints. The lecture took place at the South Orange Public Library, 65 Scotland Rd. at 7:00 p.m. It was free and open to the public. Visit the Historical Society's new Facebook page, "The Old Stone House - NJ's Oldest Dateable House" at