Wednesday, February 27, 2013

REVIEW: Homeowner's Energy Handbook by Paul Scheckel


Are you looking for creative ways to lower your energy costs, generate more of your own power, or become less reliant on the grid? Energy expert Paul Scheckel offers practical solutions for adapting solar, wind, wood gasification, biogas, and micro hydro power systems for home use. Step-by-step instructions show you how to build a wood gasifier, a solar heat collector, a bicycle-powered generator, and other energy-saving equipment; make your own transportation fuels, including ethanol, wood gas methanol, and biodiesel; convert kitchen compost into renewable natural gas; and more. Whether you want to live completely off the grid or just save some money on your fuel bills, this guide has the knowledge and skills you need.

Paperback, 288 pages
Expected publication: March 12th 2013 by Storey Publishing
ISBN 1612120164 (ISBN13: 9781612120164)

My Thoughts

When deciding to read/review this book, I was looking to just pick up some ideas on solar power and such. You know-- ideas for energy efficiency is suburbia. Well, I got a lot more than I bargained for!

This book educates you on energy efficiency, takes you through the process of figuring out what you want and why, and then how to get you there.

There was one section of the book that I found especially interesting. At one point, the author profiles the "Energy Action in Cuba", and I learned a lot I didn't know. Here in the US, we tend to view Cuba in a very negative connotation. Yet the author, who spent a week in Cuba with other energy professionals, shows that there is a silver lining to everything. He outlines how Cuba and Russia had maintained a close import/export relationship, and when Russia's economy collapsed it caused the Cuban economy to likewise crash.
The government immediately invested in public transportation, purchased one million bicycles, mandated energy-efficient lighting and refrigeration, upgraded its power grid, expanded the use of renewable energy, and developed electric rate structures that provided affordable electricity to meet basic needs while discouraging overuse.

Out of economic and practical necessity Cuba reduced its energy consumption by half over a period of four years. They have now become global leaders in practical, innovative approaches to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and community energy solutions-- and on a very tight budget...

...Throughout these struggles, every citizen has been provided with health care, a home, and education. But I'm not trying to put a happy face on all of this. Change is always a struggle, and there was substantial change on many levels. Not everything tried has worked. Many of those bicycles are now rusting away; despite good intentions, there was no infrastructure for repairing or even riding bicycles in many places. Also, the bicycles chosen were frumpy, single-speed, utilitarian clunkers rather than something one would actually look forward to riding.

Energy advances in Cuba were the result of dire circumstances that lead to a quantum shift in awareness, policy, behavior, and community level action. (pages 27-28)
The book includes some illustrations and instructions, such as how to build a "Bicycle-Powered Battery Charger". He has checklists for things like how to do your own energy audit, everything you wanted to know about insulation, how to monitor the energy usage of your appliances, and lots of info on solar, hydro, wind and biodiesel alternatives.

My final word: This book is chock full of information, and if anything it was a little overwhelming at times for a modest single female homeowner like myself. I was just looking to pick up some tips on "going off the grid" and generating some of my own power through solar and the like. This book would be great for the person who is looking to really make some changes to an older house, or the person who is building a new home and wishes to make it more energy efficient. If you are looking to learn everything there is to learn about home energy improvements, grab this one! The author is very knowledgeable on the subject, and has contained the information in an easy-to-read format.

Buy Now:

Storey Publishing
My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ in the actual published version.

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