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Passive Solar House: The Complete Guide to Heating and Cooling Your Home Hardcover – September 15, 2006
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About the Author
James Kachadorian is a civil engineer with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He is the founder of Green Mountain Homes, a company which gained national recognition as the first provider of innovative, manufactured solar homes. He has built more than 300 passive solar homes. Kachadorian resides in Woodstock, Vermont.
Top customer reviews
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"The knowledge imparted in this book has been accumulated from over 30 years of data gathered from several hundred solar homes located in the northern tier of the United States, from North Carolina to and including Canada and west to the mountain states. These are locations that are primarily focused on heating."
I live near the gulf coast, and was interested in learning about passive means to cool my home, in addition to heating. (As I write this just after midnight, at the end of November, my Air Conditioner is necessarily on!) This is probably a 4 to 5 star book for those living in the cooler regions of the country, and I do not intend to discourage those living in such areas from reading this book. And, if I move to a cooler region after retiring, I will probably pull this book out and review it.
I've been involved with building houses for several decades, and I've been thinking passive solar for quite some time too. In fact many of the ideas in this book are very similar to ideas I've developed independently.
I've seen everything on thousands of jobs from everyday homes to ultra gigantic mansions. One thing I've learned from the BEST builders is to avoid the experimental. Avoid extravagant shapes. Build simple buildings. Put your money into quality material and hardware... unless you want problems. And please keep the place neat. Nobody likes tripping over or cleaning up garbage the last guy left. Call your subs BEFORE you need them and ask them what drives them nuts, instead of finding out you made the same goof everyone makes, after you've spent a bunch of TIME and MONEY building it wrong.
I have to say the slab thing, and the ideas about the Sun's inclination etc are ingenious. They've changed my thinking considerably.
WHY THEN ONLY 3 STARS?
Well mainly some small, but galling, typos, and the lack of a website, or at least an obvious website. James needs to get feedback on these problems and the revisions need to be posted somewhere so they don't keep driving people nuts:
1) on page 76, Table 6-10 it says "see appendix 4." If you use appendix 4, like I did, it will totally confuse you and give you a headache. It SHOULD read appendix 5. The data on appendix 4 LOOKS like it MIGHT work which makes the problem worse. This one took me almost an hour to figure out.
2) The book has many pictures and come with even more on a CD, many useless, like a picture of a truck delivering stuff. I've seen trucks on roads before James. This is no help. However there is no CLEAR picture of HOW the slab is CONNECTED to the foundation walls. I'd like to see a close up. The diagrams are not clear enough on this issue. I don't have that much experience in this area and I'd like an answer. It seems to me that if the slab is in contact with the foundation wall there will be heat loss thought transmission from the slab to the foundation wall. Isn't that why the wall is insulated on the inside? If the slab does not contact the wall it seems to me that it's free floating which makes me nervous. In the diagram it looks like plywood ties the slab and wall together which make me think termites. Poured concrete slabs are usually tied together using rebar or similar. What is the secret?
3) on page 67 he goes though a series of equations to derive the elegant end equation I=Btus/hr·ºF. However you don't need the last equation to derive the information on the next pages. You need the NEXT to the last equation. It took me half and hour to get past that confusion. I kept looking for the LAST equation. Where oh where was it? The math is moderately difficult for us non engineer people but this typo made my head hurt. Ouch!
4) the diagram on page 46 appears to have a stud that makes a 45 degree turn and then another 45 degree turn??? I really don't think it does this, but I'll be durned if I can figure what they are trying to illustrate.
Anyway James, if you see this please put up a little tiny website with your email address please, so we can contact you about errors. A web appendix with corrected typos would be nice too. Websites are cheap and easy now days and you don't need much of a website really.
Otherwise great ideas.
Basically he designed a large mass of concrete that acts as a big heat sink. That is, when the house is warmer than the concrete, heat flows into the concrete, cooling the house. When the house is cooler. Heat flows out from the concrete, warming the house.
There are a lot of solar systems that work this way, the advantage of his is that it uses standard, i.e. cheap, concrete blocks and a poured slab. He further designs the layout of this concrete so that air would flow through passages in the concrete blocks without the necessity of having blowers to force the air through.
All in all, the book contains some very clever ideas, and has both simple explanations of how it works with enough theory and mathematics to enable you to design your own house. This is made easier through using the software contained on the CD supplied with the book. Here is a fairly complete, fairly simple design tool that will allow you to do a lot of the basic design work of your own solar home. This is not the style of your home, it is the design of the solar aspects.
Anyone thinking of a solar home would be foolish to not spend the few dollars this book costs to get and understand Mr. Kachadorian's concepts.