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.


Build Your Own Earth Oven

Build Your Own Earth Oven

By Kiko Denzer and Hannah Field

Earth ovens combine the utility of a wood-fired, retained-heat oven with the ease and timeless beauty of earthen construction. Building one will appeal to bakers, builders, and beginners of all kinds, from:

    •    the serious or aspiring baker who wants the best low-cost
bread oven, to
    •    gardeners who want a centerpiece for a beautiful
outdoor kitchen, to
    •    outdoor chefs, to
    •    creative people interested in low-cost materials and
simple technology, to
    •    teachers who want a multi-faceted, experiential project for students of all ages (the book has been successful  with
 everyone from third-graders to adults).

Build Your Own Earth Oven is fully illustrated with step-by-step directions, including how to tend the fire, and how to make perfect sourdough hearth loaves in the artisan tradition. The average do-it-yourselfer with a few tools and a scrap pile can build an oven for free, or close to it. Otherwise, $30 should cover all your materials--less than the price of a fancy "baking stone." Good building soil is often right in your back yard, under your feet. Build the simplest oven in a day! With a bit more time and imagination, you can make a permanent foundation and a fire-breathing dragon-oven or any other shape you can dream up.

Earth ovens are familiar to many that have seen a southwestern "horno" or a European "bee-hive" oven. The idea, pioneered by Egyptian bakers in the second millennium BCE, is simplicity itself: fill the oven with wood, light a fire, and let it burn down to ashes. The dense, 3- to 12-inch-thick earthen walls hold and store the heat of the fire, the baker sweeps the floor clean, and the hot oven walls radiate steady, intense heat for hours.

Home bakers who can't afford a fancy, steam-injected bread oven will be delighted to find that a simple earth oven can produce loaves to equal the fanciest "artisan" bakery. It also makes delicious roast meats, cakes, pies, pizzas, and other creations. Pizza cooks to perfection in three minutes or less. Vegetables, herbs, and potatoes drizzled with olive oil roast up in minutes for a simple, elegant, and delicious meal. Efficient cooks will find the residual heat useful for slow-baked dishes, and even for drying surplus produce, or incubating homemade yogurt.

Available in: Paperback

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Build Your Own Earth Oven

Alan Scott, Kiko Denzer, Hannah Field

Paperback $17.95

The Greened House Effect

The Greened House Effect

By Jeff Wilson

With greater public awareness of the need for energy independence, the issue of how we can make our existing homes more resource efficient is becoming ever more critical. Residential buildings make up a large fraction of our energy needs, largely due to heating and air-conditioning. So it's no longer enough to simply do the small stuff, like switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, or turning down the thermostat at night.

In The Greened-House Effect, author Jeff Wilson brings his twenty-five years of construction experience and knowledge of home building to bear on making our current houses cleaner, greener, and healthier. Think of a deep-energy retrofit (DER) as a "home makeover" - one that represents a significant investment, but that saves money from the get-go by capturing the energy you "drop on the ground" every month, every year, through inefficiency, poor design, or simply living in a typical older home.

Using his own family's DER of their 1942 home as a prime example, Wilson weaves a readable narrative at a practical, hammer-and-nail level. He presents the solutions to our building and energy problems, making them seem possible for average homeowners and small contractors by offering the right set of information, skills, and materials.

More technical information is presented in sidebars and graphs, and numerous color photos illustrate the process, including:

  • Testing the energy efficiency of your home and learning where improvements need to be made
  • Issues of local building codes and regulations
  • Financing and paying for a DER
  • Major components of the DER, such as roofs, exterior walls, basements, and home systems

Wilson's building experience, along with his lifelong passion for energy issues, all come together to form an inspirational, can-do approach to making our neighborhood, our community, our nation, and our world a better place - one home at a time.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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The Greened House Effect

Jeff Wilson

Paperback $29.95

The Chelsea Green Reader

The Chelsea Green Reader

Chelsea Green, the Vermont-based independent publisher, has always had a nose for authors and subjects that are way ahead of the cultural curve, as is evident in this new anthology celebrating the company’s first thirty years in publishing.

The more than one hundred books represented in this collection reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published–from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects–all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: "The politics and practice of sustainable living." The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher–something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.
From the beginning, Chelsea Green's books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years–often decades–beyond their original publication date.

"Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed," writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book's foreword. Today, craft continues to inform all aspects of our work–design, illustration, production, sales, promotion, and beyond. It has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green's books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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The Chelsea Green Reader

Ben Watson, Ian Baldwin

Paperback $15.00



By Greg Pahl

For anyone who is trying to keep up with the extremely rapid developments in the biodiesel industry, the second edition of Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy is an invaluable aid. The breathtaking speed with which biodiesel has gained acceptance in the marketplace in the past few years has been exceeded only by the proliferation of biodiesel production facilities around the United States--and the world--only to confront new social and environmental challenges and criticisms.

The international survey of the biodiesel industry has been expanded from 40 to more than 80 countries, reflecting the spectacular growth of the industry around the world. This section also tracks the dramatic shifts in the fortunes of the industry that have taken place in some of these nations. The detailed chapters that cover the industry in the United States have also been substantially rewritten to keep abreast of its many new developments and explosive domestic growth.

An expanded section on small-scale, local biodiesel production has been added to better represent this small but growing part of the industry. Another new section has been added to more fully explore the increasingly controversial issues of deforestation and food versus fuel, as well as GMO crops. The second edition concludes with updated views on where the industry is headed in the years to come from some of its key players.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Greg Pahl, Bill McKibben

Paperback $19.95