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Musings of an Energy Nerd

How To Do Everything

The Energy Nerd explains (almost) everything you need to know to build a green, energy-efficient home


Image Credit: Karyn Patno

UPDATED on July 26, 2019

A collection of links to dozens of “How To” articles, culled from Martin Holladay’s Energy Nerd blogs

Here are links to two other useful indexes:

How to Begin Learning About Green Building

How to Design a New Home

How to Design a Pretty Good House

How to Design a Superinsulated House

How to Design a Net-Zero-Energy House

How to Design a Low-Cost Net-Zero-Energy House

How to Design a House for a Hot Climate

How to Design a PERSIST House

How to Apply Passive Solar Design Principles

How to Design an Attic

How to Design a Kitchen

How to Design a Bathroom

How to Plan a Deep Energy Retrofit

How to Plan Energy Upgrades for an Older House

How to Calculate Payback for Energy-Efficiency Improvements

How to Decide Whether to Use Energy Modeling Software

How to Decide Whether to Use Manual J Software

How to Decide Whether Your Wall Needs a Vapor Barrier — Part 1

How to Decide Whether Your Wall Needs a Vapor Barrier — Part 2

How to Decide Whether Your Roof or Walls Need a Smart Vapor Retarder

How to Decide Whether Your Roof or Walls Need a Radiant Barrier

How to Decide Whether Your House Needs Extra Thermal Mass

How to Plan Ahead for Insulation

How to Perform Dew-Point Calculations

How to Avoid Problems With Inward Solar Vapor Drive

How to Understand the HERS Index

How to Decide Whether to Install a Swimming Pool

How to Design Lighting for Your Home

How to Design for Aging In Place and Universal Access

How to Use the Psychrometric Chart

How to Prevent Cold Floors

How to Design an Off-Grid House

How to Design Stairs

How to Prevent Lightning Damage

How to Plan for a Home That Promotes Health

How to Choose What Type of Foundation to Install

How…

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28 Comments

  1. 5C8rvfuWev | | #1

    Good Grief
    Martin, why on earth isn't this a book?

  2. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    Response to Joe
    Joe,
    Talk to Taunton Publishers -- put in a word for the idea!

    At their last book editors' meeting, the idea was shelved. I guess the bankruptcy of Borders Books has publishers wondering how books can be marketed these days.

  3. Troy Farwell | | #3

    Great Resource
    Thanks

  4. Gordon Taylor | | #4

    Good Grief indeed
    God knows I'd buy it.

  5. Keith Gustafson | | #5

    re:
    The book I would like to see him write is:

    "Replacing the Hippie House"

    subtitled 'what I am going to do with the millions you pay me for writing this book'

    Seriously, without all of the 'well you could do this' or 'you might choose to do this' that is required of Martin in this online job of his.

    I think it would be a good read.

  6. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    Response to Keith
    Keith,
    Trust me -- there will never be "millions" for writers who advise builders on construction methods. It's not a lucrative field. So if you have kids in college wondering about what subject to major in, I don't recommend journalism or English literature -- especially if they seek "millions."

    So, am I reading you correctly: you are tired of advice that explains that there are always two or three solutions to every problem? Instead, would you rather hear me voice a strong opinion stating, "This is the way to build a house"?

  7. Keith Gustafson | | #7

    RE Martin
    tongue was firmly in cheek regarding the millions.

    I think it is interesting to see what smart people do regarding choices and trade-offs. I think the personal decision making is sometimes more interesting than general advice. It is a very different thing, educational in a different way.

  8. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #8

    Response to Keith
    Keith,
    Here's the short answer: I try to plug a few more air leaks every year, and I burn firewood that I cut myself. I don't anticipate building myself another home in my lifetime.

  9. John Brooks | | #9

    This is the way.....
    Martin,
    I think that Keith asked a very good question.
    It is a question that you usually seem to dodge.
    Perhaps you do not need or want another home....
    What construction method would you suggest if a close friend or family member wanted to duplicate your hippie house in Vermont?

    Joe Lstiburek's "perfect" (outside insulation) ?
    or a "Double Wall with cellulose" AKA Turd ?

  10. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #10

    Response to John Brooks
    John,
    Believe it or not, I'm being honest when I say there are a lot of ways to build energy-efficient walls, and they all work. I am in favor of double-stud walls filled with cellulose, and I also like walls with thick exterior polyisocyanurate insulation. Both work well.

    I recently had an exchange of e-mails with architect Jesse Thompson, who says he is getting tired of the endless discussions about walls. I may be putting words into his mouth, but I get the impression that he is thinking, "Enough already! Who cares?"

    After all, if you build a good, tight, well-designed high-R wall, it's going to work. So let's stop arguing. There are other aspects of houses to discuss: attic insulation, windows, airtightness, house size, orientation, passive solar features, and heating systems. If anyone of us builds a house with very low energy bills, let's just say, "Bravo!" and move on.

  11. User avater
    Albert Rooks | | #11

    Almost complete but needs one more...
    Martin,

    Can you help us with:

    "How to survive the recession"?

  12. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #12

    Response to Albert
    Albert,
    Ask your grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles who remember the 1930s. Here are a few reminders:

    1. Have a vegetable garden.

    2. Turn out the light when you're not in the room.

    3. Invite the extended family to live together in the same house.

    4. Barter with your neighbors.

    5. Cook more grits, oatmeal, rice, and beans. Cook a big pot and it will last for several days.

    6. Patch your clothes.

    7. Walk and bicycle to get around.

    8. It's never too cold to cut firewood when you are all out.

  13. JEFF LANGSTAFF | | #13

    ICF Construction
    I don't know, maybe I missed something but I didn't read one 'How To' title which even made a reference to ICF house construction. You go on and on about fancy framing, vapor barriers, thermal bridging, and so forth up the ying yang but for my construction dollar nothing beats ICF to deal with all those issues in one fell swoop. End of story and of my rant.

  14. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #14

    Response to Jeff
    Jeff,
    Although I haven't written a blog about ICF construction, plenty of other GBA authors have.

    If you search our website using the search terms "insulated concrete form" or "ICF," you'll get lots of links, and have plenty of articles to read and videos to view.

  15. Brian Carter | | #15

    surviving
    Martin,
    I live in Hew Hampshire,but I'm ready to break camp and relocate.I would be a good neighbor.How is the real-estate market in your neighborhood?

  16. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #16

    Brian - about the real estate market
    Brian,
    I don't know much about real estate. I think it's fair to say that real estate prices everywhere have dropped from two or three years ago.

  17. Mojave Disaster, 3B | | #17

    top post
    May I suggest permanently and prominently linking to this digest at the top of the Q&A page?

  18. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #18

    Thanks, MD
    MD,
    Glad to hear that you find that the page is useful.

  19. Greg Smith | | #19

    Thanks Martin!
    I would order this book right now, if it was a book.

    Taunton Press pay attention, please!!

  20. W. Timothy Ward | | #20

    Martin
    I have followed GBA

    Martin
    I have followed GBA for the last few years. Your blogs are always interesting, balanced, and well written. You are fundamentally an educator who will have a lasting effect in your field. Making millions is not generally part of being an educator but respect from people who may have millions is not uncommon.

  21. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #21

    Response to W. Timothy Ward
    Timothy,
    Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad that you find the articles to be useful.

  22. Bob Holodinsky | | #22

    Maybe an E-Book ?
    Possibly put all the articles together in an E-PUB format and make it downloadable for a fee ...I know I would want it just to reference articles more easily..thanks,Martin for all your research...Bob

  23. Jason Burk | | #23

    You need a DONATE button!
    Sounds to me like a lot of folks would be willing to pay for this, whether it was a legitimate book, fee-based e-book, or just a button to click "buying you a cup of coffee" through Paypal. Take note! And great work...

  24. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #24

    Response to Jason Burk
    Jason,
    If you or any other readers want to contact Taunton Press with any suggestions for a book which you are interested in seeing published, you can contact Taunton via this e-mail address: [email protected]

  25. Ben Rush | | #25

    Thank you
    Martin,
    Thanks for putting all these links in one place. Very helpful.
    Ben

  26. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #26

    Yes, Taunton will publish a book
    Taunton Press will soon publish my book, titled Musings of an Energy Nerd.

    [Later edit] The book is now available from the Taunton Press web site. Here is the link: Musings of an Energy Nerd.

    .

  27. Lloyd Brown | | #27

    GBA Prime Annotation
    Martin,

    Any chance you could put a small "GBA Prime" symbol next to the links to articles that are behind the paywall? It would save a lot of frustration.

    Lloyd

  28. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #28

    Response to Lloyd Brown
    Lloyd,
    We'll consider your suggestion. Thanks.

    In the meantime, there's another way to reduce your frustration. If you subscribe for a month for $15, you can read all of the articles listed on this page. And your $15 will help pay for the salaries that make this site possible. Without revenue, there would be no GBA.

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