his definitive homeowner’s guide to solar energy has arrived at just the right time. With the cost of heating oil and electricity fluctuating wildly, consumers are clamoring for information on alternative energy. This source book covers all the relevant technologies, including solar space and water heating, as well as photovoltaic electricity.It’s practical (with cost calculators, tips on taking advantage of rebates and tax incentives, and advice on finding specialized contractors). And it’s authoritative, written by a recognized expert in the field, Everett Barber, Jr., who has 30 years’ experience installing all kinds of solar energy systems. Co-author Joseph Provey has been writing about the topic for almost as long. Together, they cover every facet of planning, installing, operating, and maintaining a residential solar energy system.
- I am an engineer who has been interested in solar energy for many years. I enjoy adding to my library of solar books, but find that many of the books I get aren’t sufficiently interesting for me to actually read them cover to cover. Such was not the case with this book. The book is extremely readable and provides excellent coverage of the basics that a homeowner needs to know as well as information on applications that even a seasoned professional will find valuable.
I particularly enjoyed the presentation of the material in the book. The format is enjoyable to read, with interesting sidebar articles interspersed throughout the main text. The quality of the diagrams is excellent and the book is worth buying just for the many great photos of solar energy applications of every conceivable type. The book is printed on a very high quality paper that gives it a very nice feel.
It’s quite obvious that the author has extensive experience with real world solar applications. The coverage of “dos and don’ts” will be valuable to anyone embarking on a solar energy project. One thing I found especially refreshing is the balanced coverage of the various solar applications and technologies. I find many books overstate the value of certain technologies or applications. For a reader contemplating a solar energy application, perhaps the most important information that can be gained from a text like this is what represents the most cost effective application. This book does an excellent job of defining the basics that contribute to a good application and prioritizing the applications that make the most economic sense. It also cuts through many of the unsubstantiated claims made by manufacturers of specialized or proprietary equipment. The author does a good job of emphasizing what is often overlooked in the world of renewable energy – that conservation and energy efficiency almost always represent the best applications and should be the first step in any renewable energy project. The book has a wealth of information and tables that assist the prospective solar candidate in accurately and fairly evaluating the economics of a variety solar applications.
All in all I was very impressed with this book and I feel it provides a better overall treatment of residential solar applications that any other book I have seen published yet.
- When I saw an advertisement for this book in Solar Today, I immediately bought 4 copies. You see, I own a solar energy systems sales, engineering, design, and installation business and am always looking for good materials to use to train new staff. Convert Your Home to Solar Energy is the best one of the half-dozen or so introductory books I’ve read. (There are still several books I intend to read, such as “Power from the Sun” by Dan Chiras, which looks to be the perfect follow-up to “Convert Your Home…”.) This book is now our standard training guide for our Introduction to Solar Energy course, given to all new staff members, regardless of their experience or background. This works because the book is extremely friendly to newcomers and has plenty of breadth and specific detail so that a veteran solar energy professional can add significantly to their breadth of knowledge.
I especially love this book because it has all of the basic answers to questions that anyone new to the field inevitably has. Questions such as “How do you size a solar collector for pool heating” come up regularly and now we have a go-to reference for all of the common types of solar energy systems. This is super handy.
This review isn’t about me, but I think it would be helpful to know my background so you understand the viewpoint I applied while reading the book. I’m a mechanical and electrical engineer (degree in mechanical) and a certified energy professional holding a NABCEP certification. I’ve been selling, designing, and installing solar systems full time for over 3 years and founded a solar business with 6 employees with four more being hired as of this writing.
Now back to the book…
- After deciding to install some solar energy harvesting at my home, I came here and bought six books on the subject. “Convert Your Home to Solar Energy” is distributed by one of my favorite publishers – the Taunton Press, so it was natural to add this book to my list.
This book has quite a few characteristics going for it. It’s comprehensive without being verbose, with most of the information presented in an unbiased fashion. For an overview of the subject, you really can’t do better. It’s also sprinkled with lots of informative graphics and wonderful color pictures. You will learn a lot!
On the down side, this isn’t a book for DIYers. Home made components like water storage tanks are briefly mentioned, but plan on visiting builditsolar for all the info you need constructing your own solar energy systems. There was also a couple concepts I just didn’t get like how it’s less efficient to keep your thermal tanks at a lower temperature. Even after reading it a few times the understanding eluded me.
Worse, the book suffers from excessive cutesieness on the part of art directors and composition managers. For oldsters like myself, the font is needlessly too small and sometimes lost in colored backgrounds. The white type on orange background is the worst. Definitely get this book but swing by and up the magnification on your readers. You’ll need it!