Book Review by Jennifer Barker:
HOMEOWNER'S ENERGY HANDBOOK
Guide to Getting off the Grid
by Paul Scheckel
Storey Publishing. 2013. 288 pages.
"An incredible resource for anyone who wants to take
responsibility for their energy use and production."
Founder and Director of
Appropriate Development Solutions
Some people have the irrepressible urge to try everything,
just to see if they can make it work. When the "tweeker"
lives off-grid, as Paul Scheckel does, the result can be a book that
is an inspiration to everyone who wants to devote their life to
Paul bought his first solar panel 25 years ago and set up an
off-grid room in the rental house he shared. The thrilling feeling of
independence that he got from that experiment sent him down the path
of exploring renewable energy and energy efficiency, as both a
vocation and avocation.
In The Homeowner's Energy Handbook, Paul gives you information
and links to figure "payback" right up front. Then, he
tells you that even though energy efficiency upgrades and renewable
energy systems are among the few things you can buy that will
actually pay for themselves over time, saving energy and producing
your own is about more than money. He lists many "value
propositions" (over and above saving money), some of which will
ring true for each of us.
Some chapters offer a do-it yourself project that can give you
a feel for how things work. I really loved the bike trainer battery
charger, the home-made solar and wood-fired water heaters, and the
wood gasification cook stove! The illustrations in the book are
well-chosen to share information about project instructions and
The Energy Handbook is written in a straight-forward,
common-sense, conversational tone, with the information made
accessible by clear, concise explanations. The author's
"awareness - assessment - action" strategy will appeal to
practical-minded people. The book is crammed with information gleaned
from the personal experiences (Paul's, and others he interviewed),
and information to help the reader avoid pitfalls.
I like all the stuff in the sidebars -- nuggets of wisdom from
personal experience, definitions, facts that reveal our dependence as
a society on excessive use of dirty energy, and stories in which you
will recognize yourself and see your options for improving the way
you view and use energy.
I've long known that the value of a Watt-hour depends on
whether it's available at the time you need it. Paul's discussion of
the cost-effectiveness of various measures and energy systems always
pays tribute to that essential fact of off-grid life.
Even an energy geek like me (I became a Certified Energy
Auditor in 2002) can learn a thing or two from this book! I think
that it's a useful manual for almost anyone interested in being a
combination of knowledgeable consumer, and hands-on owner.
While the book is written at an introductory level (and Paul
admits that each chapter could be expanded to an entire in-depth book
by itself), it's a worthwhile read whatever your level of expertise.
The eleven pages of resources alone are probably worth the price of
There are lots of "overview" books out there, but
this one is full of "added value" in the form of personal
stories and tips gained from experience. There's even more value in
the fact that he goes beyond the normal solar-wind-hydro, and covers
esoteric (and useful) energy sources like biogas and wood gasification.
Paul says he's an energy geek mostly because it's fun, but
also because he wants to wean himself (and his family) off "the
myopic, destructive, and often corrupt global power structure of
energy addiction." It sounds like he'll be right at home in the
SolWest community this summer.
Resources from SolWest 2012:
Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, on Alternative
Energy eMagazine, April 2011.
Interview - Living Off The Grid, on EarthToys
Emagazine, June 2008.
PV Pioneers (PDF, 524KB), from Home
Power Magazine #120, Aug/Sep07.
for Responsible Wood Burning (PDF, 268KB), from the
Blue Mountain Eagle, Feb. 28, 2007
Many Energy Slaves Do We Employ?, on EarthToys
Emagazine, August 2006.
a Little Energy Homework Before Investing in RE Production,
on EarthToys Emagazine,
an Energy-Efficient Refrigerator (PDF, 773KB),
from Home Power Magazine
RE Fair Hosts 2,000 Visitors (PDF, 137KB), from
the 2003-4 Grant County Visitors' Guide.
Water Pumping Makes Sense (PFF, 178KB), from Home
Power Magazine #97, Oct/Nov03.
Fair Scrapbook (PDF, 517KB), from Home
Power Magazine #92, Dec02/Jan03.
RE Fair 2001 (PDF, 146KB), from Home
Power Magazine #86, Dec01/Jan02.
that Office off the Grid! (PDF,
146KB), from Home Power Magazine #86,
in Electrathon & Grease Power at SolWest
(PDF, 111KB), from Home Power Magazine #80,
Renewable Energy Fair 2000 (PDF, 108KB), from Home
Power Magazine #80, Dec00/Jan01.
PV Workshop (PDF, 242KB), from Home
Power Magazine #80, Dec00/Jan01.
Renewable Energy Fair (PDF, 116KB), from Home
Power Magazine #73, Oct/Nov99.
and lesson plans for young people:
papers, adult education:
and audio material:
(2.5MB) SolWest Preview, Lake County is a Solar Hotbed, Homeowner's
Energy Handbook review, News from the Sun,
(2.0MB) Fourteen Years of EORenew, Getting More out of Your Lighting
Upgrade, Annual Report to our Members and Friends
Fall 12 (2.3MB)
SolWest 2012 Summary & Future, Solar Poetry, John Day Solar Tour,
Venus EV, Fairgrounds Solar History
(1.3MB) SolWest Preview, News from the Sun, Energy in your Food,
EORenew Members Make Transportation News
(2.5MB) EORenew Annual Report, Lime Wind, NABCEP Solar Thermal,
Getting to Net-zero
Fall 11 (4.2MB)
SolWest 2011 summary, Solar Poetry, Zero-net Energy Home at John Day
Fossil Beds NM
2011 program guide (7MB) Keynote Philip Ackerman-Leist,
"John Day or Bust" EV Convergence
(7.4MB) SolWest Fair, Pre-SolWest Workshops, Oregon Energy News,
Solar Takes Wind, EV Infrastructure
(3.7MB) EORenew Annual Report, Heat Cost Analysis: Comparing Apples
Fall 10 (3.4MB)
SolWest 2010 summary, New Oregon RETC Rules, John Day Dolar Tour,
(1.4MB) SolWest Preview, Leading the Way to a Low-Energy Future,
EORenew News, Footprint review
(2.0MB) EORenew Annual Report, Grant Co Historical Museum, The
Navigator, Solar Decision-Making Guide
Fall 09 (3.9MB)
SolWest 2009, Workshops, The Electric Raptor Project, Northwest News,
Fall Projects at EORenew
(1.7MB) Solwest Preview, Alternative School, Dealing with Urban Heat
Islands, Pedaling Revolution review
(13.0 MB) EORenew Annual Report, Solar Tour, Change the World
Challenge, Tire Rolling Resistance
Fall 08 (8.4 MB)
SolWest 2008, Installation Workshop, Solar Poetry, John Day Solar
Tour, Karmen Goes to Mali
Spring 08 (5.8
MB) Solwest Preview, Alternative School, Alcohol Can Be a Gas
review, Portland Business Gets Energy from Sun
(5.8MB) Annual report, John Day Solar Tour, Opportunities in
Renewable Energy, Q&A about CFLs
Fall07 (6.3 MB)
Solwest 2007, Solar Poetry, Solar Careers, Oregon Open for Solar
Business, National Solar Tour
(2.8MB) SolWest Workshops Inspire Curriculum, SolarWorld, Groups &
(2.2 MB) SolWest Has Wide Influence, Franklin Building Energy
Makover, Oregon Projects in Mass. & Pakistan
SolWest 2006, Billy & Bobby & Betty McGee, Solar Drag Race,
Rural Development Grants
MB) SolWest preview, Tax Credits & Incentives, Energy Slaves,
Oregon Apollo program, Sustainable Schools
(2MB) Annual report, Buying Biodiesel in the Inland NW,
Energy-effiicent and Solar Windows, OTEC candidates
SolWest 2005, Ode to a Sunflower, Jim Slater, energy bills,
Pre-SolWest Hands-on Workshop Installs System
(2.2MB) Powering the Good Life with RE, White Buffalo & Solar
Collectors, New Solar Food Drying Book
(1.2 MB) Peak Oil: Why Should We Care?, News from EORenew, End of the
Age of Oil
Fall04 (1.4 MB)
SolWest Summary, Teachers' Resource CD-ROM, Summer Intern, 2004 Solar
MB) SolWest Preview, Gov's RE Action Plan, Hydrogen News, Business
Incentives for RE
(1.2 MB) Our solar-powered office, Visit to a Classroom, Tour of
OutBack Power HQ
Fall03 (1.2 MB)
SolWest Summary, Photo Album, National Solar Tour
MB) Classroom Visits, Refrigerator Energy Use
MB) Solar Cookery, EORenew Energy Services, Tour of a Wood-fired Co-Gen
Fall 02 (1.6 MB)
SolWest Summary, Electrathon Results, Solar Water Pumping Installation
MB) Financial Incentives for RE, Energy Audit Your Own Home
(1.3 MB) Passive Solar House in Sandy, How much Does Solar Cost?
Fall01 (1.5 MB)
SolWest Summary, EORenew Off-grid Office Workshop, OTEC PV Incentives
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