Michael Hackleman has a fascination for the acronym TANSTAAFL -- There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Lunch. What he is saying is that to obtain "free" energy from the sun, wind, water, wood, and methane, you have to work for it. After that, it's relatively free.
Hackleman has written here not one of the "how to" books, of which he says his readers are tired, but a "why to" book, or a "which way" book that gives one the choice of a multiplicity of methods to obtain energy that won't cost too much. And shows which methods can be adapted to the region in which one lives.
His attention to solar greenhouses, while sympathetic, is too brief in a day when these systems, if properly designed, can collect enough warmth in the winter to lower one's heating bills by some 20 percent.
His detailing of cooling techniques for hot summer weather is gratifying, for the general public is quite ignorant about how to keep a house cool on a hot summer day, without, that is, resorting to expensive, energy- wasting air conditioning.
Such simple ideas as roof venting, shading, and evaporative cooling are suggested, along with night-sky radiation (venting heat off to the sky at night, thereby cooling a refrigerator or house). He touches on heat pumps, which heat in the winter and cool in the summer, and which, though expensive to start with, are a coming product on the heating and cooling front.
Hackleman, who has written whole books on reaping energy from the wind, treats the subject thoroughly, giving it almost as much attention as solar energy.
The last quarter of the book is devoted to wood, water power, and methane, with enough details to get one started thinking about these mysteries of hydroelectricity and power from gases.
Hackleman's attitude on some energy problem is signaled in another of his abbreviations -- YCHE, short for You Can't Have Everything.
But to submit one of my own , TNLT -- There's Nothing Like Trying!