Chelsea Green Publishing

The Carbon-Free Home

eBook: 9781603580809
Pub. Date July 15, 2008

The Carbon-Free Home

36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit

Building & Energy

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
July 15, 2008

$35.00 $28.00

You probably know that energy used in your home produces more global-warming pollution than your car, but what can you do to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels? Maybe you daydream of starting from scratch, building a new, super-efficient, passive-solar, off-grid house—but in reality you’ve got a roof (and a mortgage) over your head already. How can you turn your existing house into an environmental asset? One that simultaneously saves you money on utilities and insulates you from the possible shocks of Peak Oil?

Read this book—then grab your handsaw, tape measure, and drill, and get started! A life powered by the sun is waiting for you. Meant as a guide for renovating existing homes, The Carbon-Free Home gives you the hands-on knowledge necessary to kick the fossil-fuel habit, with projects small and large listed by skill, time, cost, and energy saved. For every aspect of your life currently powered by fossil fuels, The Carbon-Free Home offers alternatives you can accomplish yourself to get started using renewable and sustainable sources of power.

Having weaned themselves completely from fossil fuels in their conventional 1930s urban house, Rebekah and Stephen Hren provide a map for others to do the same. Their book shows first how to reduce energy consumption, then to retrofit existing homes to obtain all heating, cooling, cooking, refrigeration, hot water, and electricity from renewable sources. The Hrens also provide advice on renewable methods of transportation and home gardening. These practical approaches fit anyone’s budget and can be implemented over time to progressively liberate a home from fossil-fuel dependency.


"It's hard to imagine a more comprehensive, and comprehensible, guide to making your home work for you and for the planet, inside and out. It's frugal, it's sensible, and it will help!"--Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy and Fight Global Warming Now

"The Carbon-Free Home is a wonderfully useful guide to reducing household reliance on fossil fuels. Most of us have very little idea how many hydrocarbons we're using--until we do a personal inventory. The harsh reality is that we have all become complicit in an energy system whose future is bleak and unsustainable. It's time to bail out, and this book tells us how."--Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and author of The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies

"This is the perfect book for people who want to roll up their sleeves to save the planet. It is informative, well researched, easy to follow, and inspiring. Our future depends on each of us reducing our carbon footprint. The Carbon-Free Home is a great resource to assist in this adventure of our time."--David Gershon, author of Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds and Green Living Handbook: A 6 Step Program to Create an Environmentally Sustainable Lifestyle

"This is an excellent resource for people committed to reducing their energy consumption and carbon emissions."--Joe Loper, Vice President for Policy and Research, Alliance to Save Energy

"We all know in our hearts, but shun the thought, that one day we must kick the fossil fuel habit. Stephen and Rebekah Hren have grasped the nettle and implemented simple and ingenious do-it-yourself technologies to achieve the goal of zero-carbon living. Their book offers a rich selection of options for all who desire to reduce their carbon footprint."--John Terborgh, Director of the Duke University Center for Tropical Conservation and author of Requiem for Nature

"If you want clean fingernails along with a clean conscience, then I can't recommend this book. If you believe that industrial capitalism is systematically silencing the divine voices of the biosphere, and you feel responsible enough to do something, then read it and heed it. We can't pontificate our way out of the awful mess we have, and we can't whine our way out either. We have to design our way out, and The Carbon-Free Home explains in plain language how to start designing-out in our own crawlspaces and attics. The measures we take now for our individual independence will soon enough be required for our collective survival. Stephen and Rebekah Hren have provided a practical education for tomorrow's most essential revolutionary cadres."--Stan Goff, author of Hideous Dream and Full Spectrum Disorder

"The Carbon-Free Home confronts the hard truth about reducing our carbon impact on the world. The Hrens share their broad experience to give us all the head start we need to move towards a sustainable lifestyle. If you're willing to do the work, this book will inspire you to squeeze every molecule out of your carbon budget."--Paul Scheckel, author of The Home Energy Diet

"The Hren's book provides an meaningful pathway to a carbon-free lifestyle--including everything from the latest in high-tech equipment to homemade solutions that will satisfy the earthiest of back-to-landers."--Michael Welch, Redwood Alliance

"Stephen and Rebekah's The Carbon-Free Home is a remarkable book. It's thorough, well researched, and a delight to read. Its many practical solutions offer hope for individual action in the face of daunting environmental crisis. Reading it made me want to go home and get started on projects for our house."--Lyle Estill, author of Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy

"It is now evident that we have come to the end of the first half of the Age of Oil, when the production of oil-based energy fueled an expanding economy in which consumers were encouraged to feed their appetites. In energy terms, current oil production is equivalent to 22 billion slaves working night and day, but it is a finite resource formed in the geological past and therefore subject to depletion. As every beer-drinker knows, the glass starts full and ends empty. The quicker he drinks it, the sooner it is gone. It is the same with oil. The second half of the Age of Oil, which now dawns, will be very different. The economy will have to contract in parallel with oil supply, and people will have to turn to new and more sustainable life-styles. This book is essential reading, giving a full spectrum of invaluable advice on how to adapt to the new conditions imposed by Nature. It is far from a doomsday message as it offers hope for a new, more benign age. The transition will be tough but this book explains how to plan and prepare."--Colin J. Campbell, Chairman of ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil)

"While not for the timid or tool-phobic, The Carbon-Free Home is a gold mine of inspiration and information for those hands-on people with more time and energy than money, and a passion to help save the planet."--Beth Sachs, Executive Director of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

Publishers Weekly -
With an endearing mix of down-to-earth practical solutions and funky DIY projects, this book provides readers with much-needed information on how to renovate habits and home to move closer to a zero-carbon existence. The Hrens, respectively a carpenter and a photovoltaic installer living in Durham, N.C., give specific and technical advice, based on their own experience, on how to lower energy use within and outside the house, with 36 projects ranging from simple and inexpensive activities like sealing drafts, resetting the water heater thermostat and planting potatoes in a barrel to more heavy-duty and costly tasks such as installing a green roof or a solar hot-water heater and replacing a lawn with a permaculture garden. Some projects, such as building an outdoor cob oven--which the authors themselves describe as time-consuming with low energy savings--will be of little interest to any but devoted backyard hobbyists. Converting from a flush toilet to humanure, which involves lugging five-gallon buckets of human waste to a compost pile on a weekly basis, is even less likely to be adopted by the urban dwellers the Hrens hope to influence. But just about anyone will find something useful to do in this book, and the detailed, clear and enlightening chapter on understanding home energy use is, alone, almost worth the purchase price.


  • Winner - ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award: Home & Garden - 2008


Stephen & Rebekah Hren

Stephen and Rebekah Hren live in Durham, North Carolina, where they are both actively involved with renewable energy, natural building, and edible urban gardening.  Rebekah works with Honey Electric Solar, Inc. as a professional designer/installer of photovoltaic systems and domestic solar hot water systems. She is a NABCEP-certified solar photovoltaic installer, licensed electrical contractor, and ISPQ-certified solar instructor for Solar Energy International.  Stephen is a professional restoration carpenter, focusing on antebellum houses. He teaches natural building classes and workshops at the local community college, and in any spare time works with Bountiful Backyards, an edible landscaping cooperative. They are the authors of The Carbon-Free Home.


Energy: Use Less-Save More

Energy: Use Less-Save More

By Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert

100 energy saving tips for everything in your home or business!

Did you know . . .

  • Heating and cooling account for about 56% of the energy use in a typical home
  • Energy-efficient light bulbs last about 12 times longer than ordinary bulbs, and consume about 1/5 of the energy
  • If we all turned off our TVs and other gadgets that are kept on stand-by, we could shut down a couple of power stations in the United States, with huge reductions in CO2 emissions
  • Our energy use is projected to increase 17% from 1995-2015
  • Our homes produce even more CO2 emissions than our cars

This book gives you 100 energy-saving tips for the home—from simple things like switching off unnecessary lights and having a shower instead of a bath, to more drastic measures such as installing a condensing boiler. If each one of us acts on just a few of these suggestions, we can save money—and help slow down climate change.



Available in: eBook

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Energy: Use Less-Save More

Amanda Cuthbert, Jon Clift

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The Toilet Papers

The Toilet Papers

By Sim Van Der Ryn

A classic is back in print! One of the favorite books of 1970s back-to-the-landers, The Toilet Papers is an informative, inspiring, and irreverent look at how people have dealt with their wastes through the centuries. In a historical survey, Van der Ryn provides the basic facts concerning human wastes, and describes safe designs for toilets that reduce water consumption and avert the necessity for expensive and unreliable treatment systems. The Toilet Papers provides do-it-yourself plans for a basic compost privy and a variety of graywater systems.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Sim Van Der Ryn, Wendell Berry

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Serious Straw Bale

Serious Straw Bale

By Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron

In 1994, when Chelsea Green published The Straw Bale House, the response from many people was a loud, "Huh?!"

Those days are gone. With more than 100,000 copies sold, and straw bale projects underway in most regions of North America, we've entered a new era. Even building-code officials and insurance companies now look favorably upon straw bale buildings, with their extraordinary energy efficiency and wise use of agricultural waste for construction materials.

Bergeron and Lacinski's new book Serious Straw Bale is the first to look carefully at the specific design considerations critical to success with a straw bale building in more extreme climates-where seasonal changes in temperature, precipitation, and humidity create special stresses that builders must understand and address. The authors draw upon years of experience with natural materials and experimental techniques, and present a compelling rationale for building with straw-one of nature's most resilient, available, and affordable byproducts.

For skeptics and true believers, this book will prove to be the latest word.

  • Thorough explanations of how moisture and temperature affect buildings in seasonal climates, with descriptions of the unique capacities of straw and other natural materials to provide warmth, quiet, and comfort year-round.
  • Comprehensive comparison of the two main approaches to straw bale construction: "Nebraska-style," where bales bear the weight of the roof, and framed structures, where bales provide insulation.
  • Detailed advice-including many well-considered cautions-for contractors, owner-builders, and designers, following each stage of a bale-building process.

This is a second-generation straw bale book, for those seeking serious information to meet serious challenges while adventuring in the most fun form of construction to come along in several centuries.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Paul Lacinski, Michel Bergeron

Paperback $34.95

The Woodland House

The Woodland House

By Ben Law

Designed as a dual-purpose book, The Woodland House is both a volume for the armchair enthusiast and an inspirational guide for those wishing to build a similar structure. Beautifully illustrated with more than 100 color photos, this step-by-step guide shows how Ben built his home, hewn from his own woodland, for under $45,000. It covers the basics of self-building and gives full details of the evolving design process, the identifying of materials, costs, project management, and the actual building stages, from foundations and frames, through to interior features. Includes a seven-year update detailing the extension of the house, natural insulation trials, and round-wood engineering calculations.

The building of Ben’s house was filmed for the Grand Design television series and has proved to be the most popular program of the series. He has also been featured on the Discovery Channel and Home & Garden Network’s The World’s Most Extreme Homes.

Available in: Paperback

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Ben Law, Kevin McCloud

Paperback $29.95