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Musings of an Energy Nerd

Three Books on PV-Equipped Homes

Two of these books focus on zero-energy homes, while the third tackles residential photovoltaic systems

The Power of Zero is published by Ecotone Publishing. The other two books—Home Sweet Energy Home and Solar Electricity Basics—are published by New Society Publishers. [Photo courtesy of Martin Holladay]

It’s time to review another batch of green building books. Three recent titles caught my attention: The Power of Zero by Brad Liljequist, Home Sweet Zero Energy Home by Barry Rehfeld, and Solar Electricity Basics by Dan Chiras.

The subtitle of The Power of Zero is “Learning from the world’s leading net zero-energy buildings.” At first, purchasers of this book might not realize a few important facts: the book is produced by the International Living Future Institute (meaning that the book focuses not on the general topic of net zero-energy buildings, but mostly on buildings that aim to meet the Living Building Challenge), and the publication of the book was made possible by a generous grant from the Packard Foundation (meaning that it’s somewhat of a vanity project).

Once those limitations are understood, readers will appreciate the book’s strengths:

The book begins with a discussion of the global climate crisis and an account of the destructive side effects of fossil fuel extraction and combustion. The explanations can get somewhat arcane—for example, in a section on the ocean, we are told: “Perhaps the most disconcerting current impact of ocean acidification is the loss of pteropods.” Well, perhaps.

The book includes several case studies, including five residential projects, five commercial buildings, and nine institutional buildings (mostly schools).

Two of the residential projects in the book—the zHome project in Issaqua, Washington, and the Mission Zero house in Ann Arbor, Michigan—have been covered in GBA articles (see the links in this paragraph).

Of the five residential case studies in “The Power of Zero,” only one (the house in Ann Arbor) can be considered a cold-climate building. The remaining four projects are in very mild climates: Issaqua, Washington; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Auckland, New Zealand. Needless…

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