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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.

A photo-filled book from the people who developed the Living Building Challenge

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:

  • It includes a generous number of inspiring color photos;
  • It does a good job of reporting project costs;
  • It does a fairly good job of reporting actual energy use data; and
  • For some projects, it includes a “lessons learned” section detailing aspects of the project that could have been done differently.

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…

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