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The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving Energy Independence Through Solar, Wind, Biomass, and Hydropower [Paperback]

by Dan Chiras
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 5, 2011 0865716862 978-0865716865 Second Edition

Energy bills have skyrocketed in the United States, and traditional energy sources can be as damaging to the environment as they are to your pocketbook. The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy will show you how to slash your home energy costs while dramatically reducing your carbon footprint.

Completely revised and updated, this new edition describes the most practical and affordable methods for making significant improvements in home energy efficiency and tapping into clean, affordable, renewable energy resources. If implemented, these measures will save the average homeowner tens of thousands of dollars over the coming decades.

Focusing on the latest technological advances in residential renewable energy, this guide examines each alternative energy option available including:

  • Solar hot water and solar hot air systems
  • Passive and active solar retrofits for heating and cooling
  • Electricity from solar, wind, and microhydro
  • Hydrogen, fuel cells, methane digesters, and biodiesel

This well-illustrated and accessible guide is an essential resource for those wanting to enter the renewable energy field. Packed with practical tips and guidelines, it gives readers sufficient knowledge to hire and communicate effectively with contractors and is a must-read for anyone interested in saving money and achieving energy independence.

Dan Chiras is the author of twenty-nine books on residential renewable energy and green building and the director of The Evergreen Institute's Center for Renewable Energy and Green Building, where he teaches workshops on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green building.

Frequently Bought Together

The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving Energy Independence Through Solar, Wind, Biomass, and Hydropower + Solar Electricity Handbook - 2014 Edition: A Simple Practical Guide to Solar Energy - Designing and Installing Photovoltaic Solar Electric Systems
Price for both: $33.58

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dan Chiras is a respected educator and the author of 29 books on residential renewable energy and green building including Power from the Sun and Power from the Wind. He has studied and worked with renewable energy and energy efficiency for over 30 years. Dan is the director of and lead instructor at The Evergreen Institute's Center for Renewable Energy and Green Building (, where he teaches workshops on energy efficiency, solar electricity, solar hot water, small wind energy, green building, natural plasters, and natural building.

Product Details

  • Series: Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers; Second Edition edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865716862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716865
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Chiras paid his last electric bill in June of 1996. It is not that he has disavowed the use
of electricity and modern conveniences, but rather that he has turned to the sun and wind
to meet his family's needs.

In 1995, Dan, a former full-time college professor with years of experience in sustainable
development, built a state-of-the-art rammed earth tire and straw bale home in
Evergreen, Colorado. He installed solar electric panels on the roof; a year or so later he
installed a small wind generator. Since that time, he has met nearly all of his electrical
needs for his home and office from these clean, renewable sources.

Dan also heats his home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains 8000-feet above sea level
with energy from the sun thanks to passive solar design. For backup heat on those cold
winter nights, he burns a cord of wood a year, gathered free from his community. His
annual gas bill, mostly for showers and cooking, runs about $120 a year - about $2 to $3
per month for natural gas and $10 per month to read the meter!

Dan has spent much of the past 30 years studying sustainability and applying what he has
learned in solar energy, natural building, and green building to his residences, and most of
the last ten years sharing the practical knowledge he has gained through writing, lectures,
slide shows, and workshops.

Dan has published 21 books to date including several college and high school textbooks:
Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future, Natural Resource Conservation,
Human Biology, and Biology: The Web of Life. His high school environmental
science text, Environmental Science, was selected as the official book of the U.S.
Academic Decathlon's 1991 competition.

In the early 1990s, Dan published two trade books on environmental issues and
sustainability for a general audience: Beyond the Fray: Reshaping America's
Response and Lessons from Nature: Learning to Live Sustainably on the

Since 1995, Dan has focused most of his attention on residential green building. He
has written extensively on the subject. His is books include: The Natural House: A
Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy Efficient, Environmental Homes; The Natural Plaster
Book; The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling; Superbia! 31 Ways to Create
Sustainable Suburbs; and The New Ecological Home.

His newest book, EcoKids: Raising Kids Who Care for the Earth will be
published in the Spring of 2005 by New Society Publishers.

Dan also writes extensively for magazines, journals, newsletters, and newspapers. He
has published nearly 250 articles on environmental issues, sustainability, natural building,
natural plaster, green building, and passive solar heating and cooling. His articles appear
regularly in Home Power, Mother Earth News, Natural Home, and The Last

Dan also writes frequently for World Book Encyclopedia (Science Year) and
Encyclopedia Americana. He authored a 12-page article on the environment for
Encyclopedia Americana. Dan has written environmental pollution section for
World Book Encyclopedia's annual publication, Science Year, since 1993.
In 1997, he wrote an extensive piece for World Book on population growth and its
many implications. Dan also wrote the ecology and air pollution sections for
Encyclopedia Americana.

In addition to his writing, Dan has served as an adjunct professor at the University of
Colorado in Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver. He has been a visiting
professor at the University of Washington, where he taught a course on environmental
science. He currently is a Melon Visiting Professor at Colorado College where he teaches
courses on renewable energy, ecological design, and sustainable development.

Through his writing and teaching in the 1980s and early 1990s, Dan played a leading
role in promoting critical thinking, an understanding of the root causes of environmental
issues, systemic solutions to environmental problems, sustainable development. He
pioneered a systems approach to sustainable development and has played a lead role in
articulating the principles, policies, and practices of sustainable development which seeks
ways that business and society can prosper within a healthy environment. He is currently
focusing most of his research and writing on sustainable building and sustainable

Dan's free time is spent mountain biking, canoeing, playing music, and gardening.

For more information visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 72 people found the following review helpful
This is a great introduction to essentially all the renewable energy resources available. Chiras takes a sensible, realistic look at a number of options for both reducing your dependence on fossil fuels as well as saving money. He talks about which solutions work best in which climates and gives tips on where to begin wading into renewable energy.

I originally bought the book as a resource to help us select which renewable energy options were viable in our new home design. It served that purpose well but I will also keep it handy as we move forward as Chiras goes beyond the typical introduction and gives planning suggestions and some detailed discussions on sizing and maintenance of a few systems.

Note that this book is targeted at home owners wishing to retrofit their EXISTING homes for renewable energy. Repeatedly throughout the book, Chiras recommended his book "The Solar House" for those of us designing new homes. I plan to read that book before building but still found a lot of useful information in this book.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent overview; left me wanting more details. September 4, 2007
I read this book cover-to-cover over the course of a couple of weeks. I'm new to the field of renewable energy, so you'll have to take my criticisms for what they are, a critique of the writing:

1) The author frequently repeats himself, and sometimes goes so far to state that he is repeating himself, and that the reader should refer back to a previous section.

2) Many of the references are "so and so claims such and such" or references to the Home Power magazine. It's great that the author cites his sources, but it often left me wondering if the author placed any stock in the claim being reported.

3) The author frequently refers to his own house, which was designed from the ground up to use renewable energy. While this is neat, it doesn't seem applicable to readers who already own houses (with a 99% chance that they're not nearly as efficient, and that it's not possible to convert them).

4) I would have enjoyed more information on solar power, since it seems to be the most applicable in urban and suburban areas. Instead, it received basically equal treatment alongside micro-hydroelectric and wind power.

Still, it's a good book - 3.5 stars - and contains a number of references to other sources of information on the topic.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Renewable Energy for the Masses November 14, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a good book for people who want a better understanding of what can be achieved using renewable energy in a residential application. It only gets 4 stars from me because the author gets a bit preachy at times about his opinions on fossil fuels and future scarcity, high price, etc. He does practice what he preaches and uses personal examples in much of the book.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate book on Renewable Energy August 17, 2006
By M. Hall
If you only intend to buy one book about renewable energy this is the one for you. It clearly explains all the different RE technologies and gives you all the information to decide which technologies fit your individual situation. For people more familiar with RE, it acts as a great reference book. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good review to renewable energy November 4, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be more satisfying that the author's more popular book, "The Solar House". Of course, they aren't functional substitutes for each other. This book goes deeper into renewable energy systems available to address the energy needs of residential buildings and related topics. I appreciate his discussion on conservation, the breakdown of the energy consumption of a 'typical' residence, etc. This book goes deeper into energy than "The Solar House" goes into passive design, providing almost enough information to evaluate and size some systems. The amount of information presented varies by system, as solar photovoltaic and wind power get a more detailed treatment than biomass. For someone wanting enough information to select, size and/or design systems -- or more realistically to evaluate the proposals generated by a systems provider -- supplemental information will probably be required.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book!!! August 22, 2006
we are looking at building an underground home and getting off the grid...this book has a wealth of helpful info to help us...we would highly recommend it to all!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bible of renewable energy for the home. November 30, 2008
This is an outstanding, readable, comprehensive presentation of the subject of renewable energy for the homeowner. For each topic the author presents the principles, salient facts and a range of projects from the simplest do-it-yourself to that which would require a professional installation. Illustrations are excellent. In solar hot water for example he presents projects which range from a mini batch system consisting of a coiled black hose to a professionally installed all weather solar collector, storage with on-demand gas supplement. Based on this reading I plan to build a freestanding outdoor thermosiphon solar shower using cast off materials and to replace an inefficient hot water tank with a propane on-demand all season hot water heater. Chiras educates the homeowner to think broadly and to plan very manageable projects suited to his/her needs. Superb!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok book. January 7, 2009
Could have used more content on solar theory and techniques, and less on what is available commercially...

More DIY info would be better.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Homeowner's Guide
It was a gift for my son-in-law. He had told me that he wanted it;, so I gave it 5 stars.
I am a very old lady, and the book would not have been appropriate for me.
Published 16 days ago by Carol Roberta Wise
5.0 out of 5 stars easy to read and enjoyable writing style
I pre-read on my kindle about 20 books on renewable energy before I settled on Dan Chiras's book. He is an accessible and easy read and therefore the extensive information he is... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Si
4.0 out of 5 stars Good starting point
This book isn't going to be your bible to getting 'off-grid', but it is a fantastic introduction to anyone who isn't already very well-read on the subject. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Carlo Selman
5.0 out of 5 stars worth a read cover to cover
This book will make you an expert in nothing, but rather it will give you a sufficient overview of basically all the renewable energy and efficiency subjects regarding your... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Stuart Matthews
3.0 out of 5 stars Are you rich?
Great intel but the cost of the ideas in here are way to high for the gains.
Published on July 12, 2010 by J. Bolczak
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST HAVE homeowner's guide for renewable & energy efficiency
This is a must have book for anyone wanting to read up on how to improve your environmental footprint. Good Source of information for both renewable energy and energy efficiency. Read more
Published on August 16, 2009 by J. Godard
4.0 out of 5 stars Very user friendly, informative.
This is very good review of renewable options. You don't have to be an engineer yet it is more than you've read in the newspapers and such. I saw some things I hadn't heard of. Read more
Published on May 25, 2009 by DanC
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and readable book
Not only did I find this book useful, I enjoyed reading this book. I am not a techy science person, nor do I usually seek out nonfiction, but I found that this book was written... Read more
Published on June 4, 2008 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative book.
I found this book to be very informative. It provides a wealth of knowledge about being self-sufficient. Read more
Published on July 19, 2007 by Patricia A. Richey
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