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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fore-runner in the race for domestic energy self-sufficency, 21 Mar 2010
R. F. Stevens "richard23491" (Ickenham UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Autonomous House: Planning for Self-sufficiency in Energy (Paperback)
The Autonomous House is a detailed, and (in 1975) revolutionary book on how to make the most out of your house with the least impact on the environment while aiming for the least cost. It does not always hit the target, and the writing can often be dense with very long paragraphs, but all the information is there, all the first principles, and all the most useful solutions. The drawings are crystal clear and to the point, the tables and graphs are typical of what might be produced by official bodies and salesmen, but here are clearly explained and useful, so we will be able to understand them when we meet them again in a different context.

I've always been interested in energy efficiency, having grown up in Africa with a father who was a leading meteorologist, a highly cost-effective cloud-seeder, and a pioneer of energy efficient building design and the use of solar energy. His projects of the 1950s and 1960s turned out to be warm in winter, cool in summer, and with almost no utility company power usage.

So back in the 1970s I was very pleased to find this book, and also the Solar Home Book: Heating, Cooling and Designing with the Sun by Bruce Anderson and Michael Riordan, when considering how to improve the energy efficiency of my standard English house built in the 1920s. They enabled me to build experimental designs of solar collectors and storage systems, and work out their cost effectiveness in my application. I ended up implementing none of their suggested schemes, too much capital cost was involved, but I learned a lot and ended up with a practical alternative.

Since the late 1970s my house has benefited from an air heat-exchanger which paid for itself in the first three years, and currently costs about fifteen pounds a year to run but saves about five thousand kilowatt hours (KWh) a year, worth about one hundred and fifty pounds, in recovered heat (winter) and cooling (summer). It is only background heat, and we still have an A* condensing gas boiler for high-grade heat, but my gas consumption in 2010 is less than twenty-five thousand KWh compared with nearly fifty thousand in 1972, even though the house has grown to double its original size. Of course the house needs to be draught proof and well insulated, but with the positive circulation system we always have fresh pollen-filtered air, and all damp, stale and smelly air is removed, and the house is secure because the windows can stay shut. I would never have thought of this, nor attempted to install it if I had not been given the confidence to do so by the information and ideas in these two books.

This book is now more relevant than ever with the high costs of energy, and all the principles still apply. Read it to be better informed and be more able to differentiate between the many expensive scams and the genuine green energy savers.

The Vales have produced a later edition, The New Autonomous House: Design and Planning for Sustainability but I have not read that so cannot comment on it.
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The Autonomous House: Planning for Self-sufficiency in Energy
The Autonomous House: Planning for Self-sufficiency in Energy by Robert Vale (Paperback - 21 July 1975)
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