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.


Confronting Collapse

Confronting Collapse

By Michael C. Ruppert

The book that inspired the movie Collapse.

The world is running short of energy-especially cheap, easy-to-find oil. Shortages, along with resulting price increases, threaten industrialized civilization, the global economy, and our entire way of life.

In Confronting Collapse, author Michael C. Ruppert, a former LAPD narcotics officer turned investigative journalist, details the intricate connections between money and energy, including the ways in which oil shortages and price spikes triggered the economic crash that began in September 2008. Given the 96 percent correlation between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions and the unlikelihood of economic growth without a spike in energy use, Ruppert argues that we are not, in fact, on the verge of economic recovery, but on the verge of complete collapse.

Ruppert's truth is not merely inconvenient. It is utterly devastating.

But there is still hope. Ruppert outlines a 25-point plan of action, including the creation of a second strategic petroleum reserve for the use of state and local governments, the immediate implementation of a national Feed-in Tariff mandating that electric utilities pay 3 percent above market rates for all surplus electricity generated from renewable sources, a thorough assessment of soil conditions nationwide, and an emergency action plan for soil restoration and sustainable agriculture.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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The New Ecological Home

The New Ecological Home

By Daniel D. Chiras

Shelter, like many other elements of human existence, comes at an extraordinary cost to our planet and its inhabitants. In the U.S. alone, construction of 1.2 million new homes a year results in a massive drain on Earth's natural resource base. Today, nearly 60 percent of all timber cut in the U.S. is used in building houses, not to mention construction wastes and the huge amounts of resources used in the day-to-day operation of the "modern" household. In addition to environmental costs, there are the personal economic costs—the thousands of dollars each homeowner spends each year to heat, cool, and power our homes.

Today, a new generation of architects and builders is emerging, intent on creating homes that meet human needs for shelter while causing only a fraction of the environmental impact of conventional housing. The New Ecological Home provides an overview of green building techniques, materials, products, and technologies that are either currently available or will be in the near future. Author Daniel Chiras provides a wealth of up-to-date, practical information for home buyers, owner-builders, and anyone interested in building for a sustainable future. Included are chapters on:

  • The Healthy House
  • Green Building Materials
  • Wood-Wise Construction
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Earth-Sheltered Architecture
  • Passive Solar Heating and Passive Cooling
  • Green Power: Electricity from the Sun and Wind
  • Water and Waste: Sustainable Approaches
  • Environmental Landscaping

Available in: eBook

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The New Ecological Home

Daniel D. Chiras

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The Straw Bale House

The Straw Bale House

By Athena Swentzell Steen and Bill Steen and David Bainbridge

Imagine building a house with superior seismic stability, fire resistance, and thermal insulation, using an annually renewable resource, for half the cost of a comparable conventional home. Welcome to the straw bale house! Whether you build an entire house or something more modest-a home office or studio, a retreat cabin or guest cottage-plastered straw bale construction is an exceptionally durable and inexpensive option. What's more, it's fun, because the technique is easy to learn and easy to do yourself. And the resulting living spaces are unusually quiet and comfortable.The Straw Bale Housedescribes the many benefits of building with straw bales:

  • super insulation, with R-values as high as R-50
  • good indoor air quality and noise reduction
  • a speedy construction process
  • construction costs as low as $10-per-square-foot
  • use of natural and abundant renewable resources
  • a better solution than burning agricultural waste straw, which creates tons of air pollutants

Available in: Paperback

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The Straw Bale House

Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill Steen, David Bainbridge

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Adobe Homes for All Climates

By Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree

The lay-up of adobe bricks is an easy, forgiving way to achieve a solid masonry-wall system. Contrary to stereotypes, adobe is perfectly adaptable for use in cold, wet climates as well as hot and dry ones, and for areas prone to earthquakes. With its efficient use of energy, natural resources for construction, and minimal effort for long-term maintenance, it’s clear that the humble adobe brick is an ideal option for constructing eco-friendly structures throughout the world.

The book is ideal both for first-time do-it-yourselfers and for experienced adobe builders seeking to improve their craft. Drawing on the experience of more than fifty major adobe projects since 1993, Adobe Homes for All Climates describes Adobe Building Systems’ patented reinforcement and scaffolding systems, showing readers how to construct adobe homes more easily and safely, and with superior strength, durability, structural integrity, and aesthetic appeal, as compared to earthen homes of the past.

All aspects of adobe construction are covered, including making and laying adobe bricks, installing lintels and arches, conduits and pipes, doors and windows, top plates and bondbeams, ideal wall dimensions, adobe finishes, and other adobe construction components, such as the inexpensive use of scaffolding. These methods will produce a premium product that will meet and often exceed inspection standards.

Equipped with this manual, you will be able to obtain a building permit, make adobe bricks swiftly, and confidently lay them up. You will be able to beautifully finish your adobe walls with earth plasters creating stunning colors and outstanding light effects and create a beautiful, energy-efficient home that will last for generations to come.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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