Two books that do a good job of explaining residential energy use issues to homeowners are Consumer Guide To Home Energy Savings and No-Regrets Remodeling. Both books have been around for years. Recently the publishers of these two books issued new editions, so I decided to give them a careful read.
Since 1990, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has published the Consumer Guide To Home Energy Savings. The current version is the tenth edition; its authors — Jennifer Thorne Amann, Alex Wilson, and Katie Ackerly — are the same as those of the ninth edition.
This book is an excellent homeowner’s guide to reducing home energy use. The authors make a stab at addressing basic building science concepts — for example, by explaining what a thermal envelope is, and by discussing the importance of air barriers. Most of the book’s information is accurate and helpful.
Yet the book is occasionally troubling and ultimately unsatisfying — both for its many errors and its fundamental failure to help homeowners focus on what matters most. The authors seem to lurch from topic to topic, in an apparent attempt to be comprehensive, without providing enough context to help homeowners distinguish between trivial and crucial issues.
Examples of misplaced emphasis abound:
Is adding insulation to your attic a simple job?
The authors advise, “Adding insulation to an unheated attic is usually a lot easier [than adding insulation to walls]. If there is no floor in the attic, simply add more insulation.” The adverb “simply” is irksome.
Unfortunately, this section of the book forgot an important sentence: “Before adding more attic insulation, make sure that you have sealed all of the air leaks in the ceiling below.” While the book mentions air sealing elsewhere, readers need…
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