Conservation begins at home -- new ideas

Conserve Energy and Save Money, by John Elvans Smith. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. $8.95 (paperback). Few homeowners realize that heating their houses can be their biggest expense , sometimes exceeding their mortgage costs.

Mr. Smith provides a few examples. He posits that someone buys a house for $ 65,000, putting $15,000 down, and taking a $50,000 mortgage for 30 years at 15 percent. The principal and interest (not including taxes or insurance) amount to $632.23 per month, $7,587 per year. The beginning energy costs the first year are $1,200.

But there is a rotten apple in this barrel of costs. Inflation. Fuel costs may go up 12 percent a year, while the mortgage rate stays the same. At the end of 30 years, the total cost of the house would be $242,603. But fuel bills will have cost $289,599. Welcome to the Inflation Club.

But, suppose someone bought a smaller house for the same mortgage costs, and halved the heating costs. After 30 years the cost of the home would be the same: $242,603. But, the total cost of energy for the house would be $144,800.

Quite a difference!

Which is why Mr. Smith, chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo has written this book, to illustrate how you can take the latter course.

He has something mathematically and economically sensible to say about all the energy aspects of one's house, from the ins and outs of air infiltration, insulation, heating, water usage, appliances, lighting, air conditioning, and heat pumps, and a great many other compelling subjects.

Movable Insulation, by William K. Langdon. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press. $9.95 (paperback).

This is certainly a volume most homeowners should welcome.

It attacks the problem of heat loss through window areas, which can account for up to half of the warmth exiting from a house in wintertime.

It treats also the summer cooling aspects of covered windows.

Virtually any kind of window opening and covering one can think of has been given some treatment here:

Enhanced glazing systems (adding to existing glazing), pop-in shutters, thermal curtains, (blankets that fold), thermal shades (blankets that roll), thermal shutters and folding screens, insulation between glazing and interior louvers, all sorts of outside window insulation, and insulation ideas for skylights and clerestories, or greenhouses, for that matter.

The book is replete with information and suggestions on how do-it-yourselfers can make their windows more weather- tight. There are beautifully done drawings and illustrations, and ample lists of where to obtain materials, hardware, and blueprints of shading, curtain, and insulating designs.

Household Energy: Use and Conservation, by John Le Luetzelschwab. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, Inc. Hardcover. $19.95, paperback. $10.95.

At first glance, this appears to be a textbook, but appearances can be deceiving. It is really a technical manual for one's house, and can teach you to save hundreds of dollars per year, if you take some of the writer's hints.

There is humor, too. The author includes a few energy- saving suggestions from grammar school kids at the Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.

A sampling of their suggestions:

"Don't stay in more than one room at a time."

"Let birds fly around the house to keep the air circulating."

"Put more hot sauce in the food."

"Make it a rule that there has to be at least two people in every bed that uses an electric blanket."

The writer's suggestions are somewhat more logical, as he explores home heating, kitchen and laundry appliances, air conditioners, hair dryers, television sets.

He suggests:

When baking a cake, don't look in too often. Every time you open the oven door, you lose 20 percent of the heat.

Vent your clothes dryer into the house, instead of outside. But be sure to have a good lint filter. You can profitably add to the house's himidity, too.

Pressure cookers use less energy than regular pots and pans.

A toaster uses the same amount of energy toasting one slice of bread as it does in toasting two -- so if you need two pieces of toast, toast them together.

One-third of the book is made up of an appendix, chockfull of useful charts that can help you prepare an energy budget -- something few people are even aware of, but which could save you enough to keep you abreast of inflation.

Solar Houses for a Cold Climate, by Dan Carriere and Fraser Day. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. $20.

Twenty-six solar heated homes, five of them retrofits or rehabilitated houses , are examined in great detail here to explore what makes them tick, in solar terms that is. These structures are located in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.

The book is useful for those wanting, sometime in the future, to build a solar-heated house.

Dean Carriere, who interviewed the owners of these houses, and in some cases the builders, contractors or architects, has gone far beyond the solar aspects of the structures.

In one instance, for example, Carriere deals with the solar house of William Byrd, a well-established architect in Princeton, Mass., who liked his design well enough to have incorporated it with variations in several other houses he has designed for his clients.

Carriere deals with the location and orientation of the house (10 degrees west of south), size (40 by 22 feet), exterior walls, interior walls and ceilings, the roof, an insulation summary, doors, windows, solar heating system (a trickle-type water collector which handles two-thirds of the heating), auxiliary heating (a Jotul No. 4 combination wood-burning stove) cooling system, water supply (drilled well), water- conserving toilet, standard septic system, electric power system, food system, and costs ($55,000, including $7,500 for the land). Fraser Day, who jointly authored the book, took photographs which make it a visual feast as well.

The Hawkweed Passive Solar House Book, by Rodney and Sydney Wright, Bob Selby , and Larry Dieckmann. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co. $14.95.

This book is written by three architects and a city planner who have designed more than 300 passive solar-heated houses and units for one of the colder parts of the United States, the Midwest.

They know what they are doing. One of the four, Rodney Wright, designed his first passive solar home in 1961.

The effect of this book is to dispel the three most common misconceptions about solar heating: that it can't be carried off successfully in cold climates, that it costs more than traditional housing, or that the technology is not available or is too complex.

For someone planning on building a solar- heated house, or even for someone wanting simply to dabble in solar concepts, this is a good book to start with.

One can practice the early steps of site planning, considering whether to have a solar greenhouse added to the house, or planning a massive stone chimney that could heat most of the house by itself, Russians stove style, when the sun wasn't shining.

Home Heating with Coal, by Steve Sherman. Harrisburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books Inc. $8.95 (paperback).

Although woodburning stoves have been popular since the Arab oil embargo in 1973, there is an increasing trend toward the use of coal in stoves, furnaces, and forced hot water boilers.

Cord firewood that cost $30-$40 eight or nine years ago has jumped to $100- 140 a cord. Quite naturally, there has been a reactive shift to coal.

With due regard to pollution factors, which can be substantially reduced with correctly built stoves and the use of hard anthracite coal, Steve Sherman's handy book emphasizes the conveniences of coal:

A cord of wood takes up 128 cubic feet of space; coal, by the ton, which offers about twice the heat value of wood, takes up only 50 cubic feet.

One has to season wood before it can be burned.

Coal is ready to burn anytime.

But there are more coal ashes to carry away, yes, than wood ashes. The coal ashes are full of metals, and are no good for fertilizer. Wood ash, with its high amounts of potassium and lime, is excellent for the garden.

Sherman has, also, some excellent references to coal stokers which feed coal to the furnace, for those homeowners who want coal but don't want to shovel it.

Coal Comfort, An Alternative Way to Heat Your Home, by Peter Hotton. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. $7.95 (paperback).

Peter Hotton's volume deals not only with coal stoves, but with central heating as well. He goes into extensive detail about coal-burning furnaces, forced hot water boilers, dual or multi-fuel equipment, and add-ons, which you can set up beside your present oil burner and burn coal when you don't want to use the more expensive oil.

Hotton includes a richly illustrated listing of furnaces and boilers; it can serve as a convenient shopping guide. His lists and addresses of manufacturers are helpful, too.

Hotton discusses in detail how to build and maintain a coal fire. For him and other connoisseurs of the art, there is only one way. Since it takes 15 minutes for coal to ignite, one must start with a wood kindling fire that yields red hot wood embers. Then the coal can be applied.

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