Customer Reviews: The Home Energy Diet: How to Save Money by Making Your House Energy-Smart (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series)
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This book is a clearly written guide to saving money on energy around the home while simultaneously achieving greater comfort levels. As summed up in the introduction, Scheckel argues that following his "Triple A" approach to home energy usage will make you healthier, happier and wealthier. This approach involves: Awareness of the ways your home uses and loses energy, Assessment of your home's energy requirements, and Action taken to reduce energy consumption to a minimum. Scheckel, a career energy efficiency auditor, writes from experience. Over the years, he has visited thousands of homes and businesses and learned from observation and interviews how we use and waste our energy. In this book, he explains where energy comes from and how advanced technologies can help us use less of it while creating a more comfortable home environment.

Topics discussed in the book include energy literacy, electricity as a means of transporting energy, electrical appliances, hot water, heating and air conditioning, insulation and windows, and purchasing new appliances. Appendices include forms for calculating total energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and home heat load, as well as a list of household appliances with average energy requirements. You don't need to be an electrical engineer or have a degree in physics to follow the text. Scheckel provides clear examples of energy calculations that anyone with a hand calculator should be able to follow. The only real math prerequisite that would be useful is an ability to read and interpret pie charts, since Scheckel relies on them extensively in his discussions of energy sources and usage.

In the text, Scheckel writes about a fictional family who has called him to do an energy audit. He writes that many families contact their electrical companies for audits because their bills are high so they figure there must be something wrong with the meter. He notes that faulty meters are very rarely to blame for high bills; instead, he provides a long list of energy-wasters that he commonly finds in people's homes. Some families are so aggravated by high electric bills that they want to go solar. Scheckel has to point out to these families that with their current energy usage, they would need gigantic solar systems that would be prohibitively expensive. If they truly want to go solar, they will probably need to cut energy usage down to 3-5 kilowatt hours per day (depending on their location) in order to be able to get by on a reasonably sized solar installation. This book provides plenty of ideas for approaching such a goal without compromising on quality of life. But even so, without subsidies, solar systems still won't make economic sense-unless energy prices happen to go a lot higher.

Seven years ago, our family electrical usage was averaging 20 kW hours per day. We've tried out many of the ideas Scheckel recommends in this book, and we're now down to 5-6 kW hours per day, but still not satisfied with our savings. We're going to implement a few more of Scheckel's suggestions to see if we can get down to 3 kW hours to day or better. We're also going to work with some of the other ideas that Scheckel provides for saving money through more efficient water heating, insulation, and windows.
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VINE VOICEon November 4, 2006
This author goes into detailed explanations that are easy to understand. I learned MANY reasons why my 1950's brick house was still air leaky after replacing HVAC system, windows, exterior steel doors, roof and adding insulation-the "professional" installers (Temp-A-Tech, Window World, Lowes, roof installer, and the handyman)-simply I bought good products but they were improperly/inadequately installed. Needless to say after paying the rather pricey installation charges, I'm not too happy. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone purchasing a home or having remodeling done. If I had only known about this book before I had the costly replacements done I would have a much better energy efficient home.
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on December 8, 2005
The Home Energy Diet should be required reading of every home owner in the United States. For a variety of reasons -- aging heating system, concern over potential fuel costs, and other reason's -- started looking into what I could be doing to improve my home's energy efficiency. I bumped into Home Energy Diet in the library ... and started to learn a lot and much of that learning has direct relevance to my own home. For example, Scheckel's material and explanations highlighted to me some serious problems in my attic insulation and ventilation that I simply was not aware of -- previously, I thought that it was reasonably well insulated. This drove me to a trip to the hardware store and an afternoon of work. With the first snow of the season, the 'roof' is proving that this work changed how my house is operating just how Scheckel's description said it would.

Of great interest was the opening section, which provides a discussion of the 'energy system' in the United States, which is important background for understanding how one's home links into the large system. As part of that, roughly 20% of the nation's energy use is in homes. If every American home owner read this book and made minimal investments based on it, the nation could see a rapid cut in energy use -- through efficiency rather than any reduction in lifestyle.

While everything in this book can be found elsewhere, this is a clear and relatively comprehensive discussion of key household energy issues. (And, if necessary, one can quickly track down more detail on other issues.) I've already recommended this book to over 50 people directly ... And, while I originally got this from the library, I find it of such use that I've bought a copy to have around as reference material ...
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on September 18, 2007
The first third of the book is general information about energy, how it is made, how to count it, how to work the numbers. It should be a required class textbook for High School seniors. This background information is very well written and easy to understand. But, that is not why folks should buy this book.

The real meat starts at about page 93 with some very important electrical power safety tips, followed by an appliance-by-appliance list of items that use energy in a typical North American home. It is alphabetical and organized like an index.

Each item listed includes information about the amount of energy it uses and tips on how to save money using it. The "what to do" information is very specific and easy to put into practice. It starts with Air Cleaners and goes right through to Well Pumps.

Some items get just a sentence or two and others get a whole chapter. The biggest energy users get the most page space. Hot water, heating and air conditioning get their own chapters, as they should.

Like most grouchy old engineers, I read the book looking for details to disagree with. That approach was rewarded with frustration. In fact, there is so much good stuff in this book that I put it on the shelf next to my desk where it will be a handy reference.

I am forever getting questions from folks wanting to know how much they save when they shut off the item in question. The book has a handy chart, as appendix C, which does a good job answering that question.

More importantly, it provides focus for action by letting you identify the big energy users in your home. I get too many questions from people worried about the cost of running a computer when they should be focused on their heating, cooling and kitchen energy use.

The book is targeted at folks who own a house, but renters should read it too. If you pay the energy bill at your home this book will pay back the cover price many times over.
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on October 6, 2005
Paul Scheckel has come to guide us. His new book tells how houses work, where energy comes from, how heat moves, why certain appliances are best, and how to get the most bang for your energy buck. Scheckel provides the blueprint to convert your home from a Hummer to a hybrid Prius.

Paul Scheckel is eminently qualified to give us this information. A self-admitted "energy geek," he is a Vermonter who lives in a solar-powered house in Calais and drives a car powered by vegetable oil. By profession an energy auditor, he has visited literally thousands of homes, assisting owners in cutting energy bills, increasing comfort, improving the air quality, and making the planet livable for the next generation.

In The Home Energy Diet Scheckel takes us through the home from cellar to attic, giving us big and little picture perspectives on the actions to take to control our energy future. Each chapter has an "Awareness" section that gives the "why" of our energy situation. (It also has a lot of impressive statistics in case you would like to impress people at your next cocktail party. Suddenly, there's a cachet in being the local energy geek.)

Other features are the "Math Box" that shows you how to quantify your activities, and a "Diet Box" that is a bulleted laundry list of the specific actions you can take to reduce your energy consumption. Get a yellow highlighting pen and prepare to save money.
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on March 30, 2009
The book is much too thorough in some ways and not thorough enough in others. It is too through because the author will go on for pages about Ohms and Btus and Watt hours to the point where my eyes glazed over and I found it a very good sleep aid. He doesn't know how to get to the point and put his suggestions in an easy to understand synopsis. Other topics are covered in an almost off hand way or not at all, for example, we own a house built in 1912, and for us this book was nearly completely irrelevant. There is no discussion of the issues facing a homeowner with an older home. So if your looking for an easy to understand, easy to apply book that will help you make your home more efficient and save money, look elsewhere. There is certainly lots of information in this book, if you like sitting down at night with your hot water heater's manual, this book is ideal - but I didn't find it easily understandable or useful and can't recommend it.
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on September 28, 2007
This is the best book I've read on the subject of improving household energy efficiency. Many of the books I've read in the past go through the basic things that homeowners can do to improve efficience, but this book explains the hows AND the whys.

The book surprised me when I first started reading it. I expected another "easy reader" on the subject. I was pleasantly surprised to find detailed explanations on why things should be done, situations where a particular improvement may not be the best, and how to approach the many different systems in a house - air heating and cooling, envelope, insulation, water heating, ventilation, etc. It was also refreshing to find different ways of examining the same system - for example, amount of fuel used for different heating systems, amount of heat generated for a particular type of fuel, and all the relationships between them.

As you start reading, you will find a lot of sidebars and short stories to highlight the discussion in the chapter. One thing I found slightly annoying is the number of Math Boxes that interrupt the flow of the book early on. These are sidebars that present sample calculations for the various topics, e.g. efficiency, fuel used for different heating systems, etc. I'd prefer the Math Boxes to be contained in an appendix with references in the main body of the book, but that's just me. Other readers may not find this annoying, and it's certainly not enough for me to reduce my rating of the book.

I highly recommend this book if you are serious about exploring ways to improve your house's efficiency. It's not an "easy reader", but it's well worth the time to read through it.
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VINE VOICEon January 3, 2006
Ways to change your habits of energy use while learning to quantify energy consumption and it's true cost. This book helps you make informed decisions in ways to make your home more cost-effective durning the cold winter months. I recommend this book to any house owner or for those looking to buy an older home.
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on November 4, 2007
Consider starting with "Insulate and Weatherize: Expert Advice from Start to Finish" by Bruce Harley instead which is a more practical "Go Do It" book with lots of photographs.
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VINE VOICEon November 17, 2012
I think the key thing to know before you decide whether or not to buy this book is that according to the author, Paul Scheckel, the average American household consumes about 30 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. Mr. Scheckel lives in a 1,500 sq foot house with his wife and child, complete with normal size appliances, and uses 4 kilowatt hours of electricity a day. Before I started reading this book we were above 30 kw a day usage and even getting to 10 kw a day seemed like a pipe dream. Now we are dipping below 20 kw usage some days for a house with four people and we haven't even implemented half the suggestions in the book yet or done anything major like adding insulation. Mr. Scheckel states in the book that with energy efficient appliances and low energy lighting, no one really needs to be using 30 kw of electricity a day any more. This does seem to be holding true for us. I do not think we will ever get to 4 kw a day, but 10 - 15 kw is looking very doable. Because our electricity usage is price tiered, and we are eliminating usage in the most expensive tiers, cost-wise our electric bill should be cut in half or more before too long. I have found this book very helpful and have saved many times over what I paid for the book in reduced energy bills. If you get this book it also really helps to buy a Kill A Watt or some similar wattage measuring device so you can go around the house measuring the power usage of every light and appliance that plugs into a 110 volt wall outlet.
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