If you're a do-it-yourselfer with ideas about solarizing your own home, there are a few common-sense rules to follow. Anyone who is going to install an active solar system - solder pipes, hook up pumps, install solenoid valves, and so forth - should be either an engineer, a plumber, a carpenter, or at least have the talents and skills of some of these trades.
It would also be wise to consult an architect, although if you have read and studied some of the books reviewed here, you might possibly know more than the architect. Not all of them are acquainted with solar technology, though they ought to be aware of solar principles. They may have to consult books just as you do, although happily the architectural field is becoming populated with more and more solar-informed designers.
And, if you have a friend in the solar-collector installation business, try to arrange for some professional consultation time, especially if you are planning a complex installation. Then, with some basic skills and good professional advice at your disposal, a number of current books can be helpful.
''How to Solarize Your House'' is one of the newer titles on installation procedures for active water-heating systems. It is soundly written by a competent team, a professor of engineering and architecture and an editor informed about energy conservation. They are convinced that by the late '80s or early '90s, everyone will have some form of solar-energy devices built into his home. So they have detailed, step by step, how to design, construct, and install into new or existing housing liquid-cooled flat-plate solar collectors for space and water heating. If you have the plumbing and carpenter skills, it should be easy to do.
''Solarizing Your Present Home'' will, no doubt, become a favorite textbook for thousands and thousands of homeowners wanting to apply solar principles to their homes, much as an earlier book also published by the Rodale Press, ''The Passive Solar Energy Book'' by Edward Mazria, has indeed become a textbook for design of new homes.
The current book is written with the attitude that ''the sky's the limit'' when it comes to the amount of fuel and energy one can save. If your house has a satisfactory southern exposure, you can very likely achieve a high degree of energy savings - even more than 50 percent of current costs - using one or another method described here. The Rodale staff writers make it possible for the reader to diagnose house heat losses and find solar cures. One thing to be careful about in all applications of solar principles to existing houses is to find ways to use them without violating or destroying the aesthetics of the home. It can be done tastefully.
There are over a hundred pages alone that clarify the mysteries of domestic water-heating collectors. As for space heating, there are many paths to the goal of getting the sun inside, through insulated glazing, a south-facing glass addition, skylights, clerestories. The writing staff includes more than a dozen ways of adding window insulation by making pop-in panels or using hinged shutters or insulated roller shades. One can also solarize a porch, or possibly make one's own air-heating collectors.
''Passive Solar Energy: The Homeowners Guide to Natural Heating and Cooling, '' written by two of the better-known practitioners of the solar arts, is primarily about passive systems ''that have few, if any, moving parts and work effortlessly and quietly without any mechanical or electrical assistance.'' Thus the emphasis is on large areas of strategically placed windows, radiant heat collected from large passive collecting surfaces (brick or tile floors on which the sun shines, or Trombe walls), shading, reflectors, such movable insulation as insulating curtains, shutters, and shades.
There is adequate treatment of heat-of-fusion materials; solar chimneys, which conduct warm air through or into a residence; solar walls; solar roofs; and solar rooms, such as greenhouse-type sun spaces. The book is not as formally written as Bruce Anderson's earlier volume, ''The Solar House Book,'' which has sold over 200,000 copies since it appeared in 1976, when solar awareness on the part of the general public was limited and needed nourishment.
The new book is well illustrated by Malcolm Wells, a solar architect and a specialist in underground-building design. He lives in an earth-sheltered house in Brewster, Mass. Their chapter on solar cooling is a bit short in light of the considerable interest being shown in the subject, but it includes a number of good bibliographical references on the subject.
The special emphasis of ''Solar Retrofit: Adding Solar to Your Home'' is on how to revise or add on to older houses that were designed with no thought to solar heating. Directions for building a variety of systems are detailed here. For readability by solar amateurs, this book ranks very high, without sacrificing necessary technical information. There are quite good details and illustrations for planning a direct-gain sun porch, a thermo-siphoning air panel , an attached solar greenhouse, and a horizontal-airflow solar collector that uses a fan to circulate warm air through the house.