Saturday, April 18, 2009
Reviewing: "The Homeowner's Handbook to Energy Efficiency" by John Krigger and Chris Dorsi
With the way the economy is these days, saving money takes new importance. One of the ways to do that is by making smart choices about energy efficient appliances and making your home more energy efficient. This book, designed for homeowners aims to just that and argues that any home can be improved from an energy standpoint.
After a two page introduction that touts the benefits of making your home more energy efficient, the book opens with the idea that you need to develop an energy use plan for your home. Chapter One discusses the differences between energy consumption and carbon emissions, the energy costs in the building materials, and how both big and small changes/fixes are important. Everything adds up and adding it all up is the key to determining how much energy you are using whether it is electrical, gas, propane or oil. Basic math is illustrated along with a couple of case studies before ten obvious choices are briefly discussed such as installing programmable thermostats, changing appliances, adding insulation, upgrading windows and doors ,etc.
Chapter Two is all about "Lighting and Appliances" and delves into the topic by explaining what the "Energy Star" program really means, different types of lighting, what you can do with appliances up to and including replacing them. Along with the text, there are plenty of small sidebar tips and illustrations.
"Water Heating" is the theme of Chapter Three which explains different basic terms as well as how to adjust your habits as well as your water heater. Along with what to look for if you want to replace your water heater, how to insulate the tank and/or water lines is covered along with replacing shower heads and how to go about creating a solar water heating system.
"Heating and Cooling First Steps" is the title of Chapter Four. The basics of airflow, humidity, temperature, comfort zones, etc is covered along with the uses of programmable thermostats, ceiling fans, natural ventilation and whole house fans. Also mentioned are solar screens, reflective films, Venetian blinds and how to improve your roof reflectivity among other topics. Illustrations in black and white are included in this chapter as well as throughout the book along with various relevant tables.
Chapter Five, "Landscaping" moves the focus to what you can do with plants and trees. Beyond knowing what your general climate is you need to know your own home's personal microclimate. Which side gets afternoon sun, which side gets that bone breaking north wind in winter, etc. Once you know that, they suggest various ways to create shade, wind breaks, etc. Along with explaining the basic tree forms (columnar, pyramidal, spreading, among others) as well as how to plant and mulch the book guides readers as to the types of plants and trees might fit best in your particular microclimate. The book does not make specific tree recommendations at all and instead gives you the tools to consider what type of tree you need or want before heading down to your local nursery or landscape center to talk specifics.
"Finding and Sealing Air Leaks" is the theme of Chapter Six. Finding the leaks and determining how had they are begins the chapter before an explanation of various materials available to seal the leaks. Black and white pictures and illustrations help with the basic as does the text which also looks at various issues in walls, attics, and ductwork.
Chapter Seven delves into "Insulation" using the same format of defining the topic, determining what is needed. Along with tables and helpful information, the black and white illustrations showing the right and wrong way to install insulation and black and white photographs showing different types of insulation in various types of attics.
"Windows and Doors" and what to do about them is the topic of Chapter Eight. They may be the biggest heat and cooling loss from your home as the authors note. After explaining types of windows and window ratings, types of window treatments and if necessary, window replacement they follow the same format in their discussion of doors.
"Cooling Systems" is the theme of Chapter Nine. After cheerfully noting that "air-conditioning
Systems are expensive and environmentally destructive to operate" they suggest various ways to improve the efficiency of your current ac system such as having the system professionally serviced, cleaning the coils, making sure your filters are changed and the system is charged correctly and appropriate for the home. Room ac units also discussed along with the installation and use of an evaporative cooler.
Chapter Ten moves the focus to "Heating Systems" and looks at the same basic issues in the same format. Improving your duct work along with having your system professionally serviced as well as possible replacement systems are key components of this chapter.
"Photovoltaic Systems" such as solar cells, a solar array, etc is the theme of Chapter Eleven. Not every home site is suitable for a solar panel, array or system and this chapter walks you through how to determine if it is a good idea and then how to go about having something installed.
Chapter Twelve has the title of "Moisture Management and Ventilation." Basically, you don’t want mold or mildew in your home and this chapter tells you all the horrible ways moisture (mold/mildew, etc) can wreck your home and how to avoid it, find it if you have it, and deal with it.
Finally, if you are "Building a New Home" then Chapter Thirteen is for you. It discusses various construction and design methods you can use to make sure your new home is the best it can be from an energy use and emission stand point.
A list of various resources, a list of suggested internet keyword topic searches relating to each chapter and a four page index bring this helpful and informative book to a close.
While color pictures and illustrations would have been nice, this 180 page book published last year more than adequately address the topic. Filled with highly technical information simplified but never dumbed down for the reader, plenty of photographs and illustrations, this book provides a guidepost to helping the environment and saving the homeowner money in the long run. Everything in the book is doable by most people and the ideas presented are practical and worthwhile. This might not be the only book you would ever need on the subject, but it is a very good book.
The Homeowners Handbook to Energy Efficiency
John Krigger and Chris Dorsi
Saturn Resource Management
This book was provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2009