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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Guides for Greener Homes

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June 16, 2010

Book Roundup Wednesday: Guides for Greener Homes

Book reviewEvery Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week we’re recommending books about renovations to make homes more energy-efficient.

Toward a Zero Energy Home: A Complete Guide to Energy Self-Sufficiency at Home (by David Johnston and Scott Gibson, $25, Taunton Press, Apr. 2010): This book illustrates that zero-energy homes (those that produce and consume equal amounts of energy each year) are possible in any climate – from a super-solar detached dwelling in humid central Florida to an expertly ventilated high-rise in lower Manhattan. These case studies, plus the profusion of charts, graphs, and instructional photos, keep the book well out of the prosaic realm into which many how-tos fall.

The Green Home: A Decision Making Guide for Owners and Builders (by Lynn Underwood, $40, Delmar Cengage Learning, Sept. 2009): Though similar in subject matter to Toward a Zero Energy Home, Underwood's book goes beyond energy efficiency to discuss other green home topics, including waste management and indoor air quality. It’s technically a textbook, so the writing is nothing to, well, write home about, but it's chock-full of  information that anyone interested in greening their home is likely to find indispensable.

Green Restorations: Sustainable Building and Historic Homes (by Aaron Lubeck, $38, New Society Publishers, Mar. 2010): So you live in a historic home and want to turn it green while preserving its unique character? This book proffers tips (and secrets!) for rehabbing older homes, whether you just want to make a few adjustments or are looking to gut and renovate a decrepit domicile. After all, it's almost always greener to recycle and repurpose rather than to simply ditch something because it’s outdated.

The Hybrid House: Designing with Sun, Wind, Water, and Earth (by Catherine Wanek, $25, Gibbs Smith, May 2010): Catherine Wanek knows there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for eco-friendly houses, and explains that the defining element of a hybrid home is flexibility. So rather than providing step-by-step instructions, she employs beautifully photographed examples to illustrate the integration of green design and energy use. The tome, then, is more coffee-table book than how-to guide, but the message is clear: Not all green homes have to be made of corrugated steel and photovoltaic panels, and there’s no need to sacrifice aesthetics for the sake of the environment.

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits (by David S. Findley, $20, McGraw-Hill, Feb. 2010): Books about green homes are a dime a dozen, so it’s important for an author to find a niche, as David S. Findley has done. His book is about saving energy in practical ways that don’t require a total overhaul (though he does provide a chapter’s worth of tips if that’s your preferred path). Simpler solutions exist, such as planting trees and using a programmable thermostat. In this economy, that Findley’s advice help will protect the planet and save you money can only help matters.

--Sophie Matson

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