Chelsea Green Publishing

The Solar House

Pages:286 pages
Book Art:Black and white photos and illustrations
Size: 8 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781931498128
Pub. Date October 01, 2002

The Solar House

Passive Heating and Cooling

Building & Energy

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
October 01, 2002


Passive solar heating and passive cooling—approaches known as natural conditioning—provide comfort throughout the year by reducing, or eliminating, the need for fossil fuel. Yet while heat from sunlight and ventilation from breezes is free for the taking, few modern architects or builders really understand the principles involved.

Now Dan Chiras, author of the popular book The Natural House, brings those principles up to date for a new generation of solar enthusiasts.

The techniques required to heat and cool a building passively have been used for thousands of years. Early societies such as the Native American Anasazis and the ancient Greeks perfected designs that effectively exploited these natural processes. The Greeks considered anyone who didn't use passive solar to heat a home to be a barbarian!

In the United States, passive solar architecture experienced a major resurgence of interest in the 1970s in response to crippling oil embargoes. With grand enthusiasm but with scant knowledge (and sometimes little common sense), architects and builders created a wide variety of solar homes. Some worked pretty well, but looked more like laboratories than houses. Others performed poorly, overheating in the summer because of excessive or misplaced windows and skylights, and growing chilly in the colder months because of insufficient thermal mass and insulation and poor siting.

In The Solar House, Dan Chiras sets the record straight on the vast potential for passive heating and cooling. Acknowledging the good intentions of misguided solar designers in the past, he highlights certain egregious—and entirely avoidable—errors. More importantly, Chiras explains in methodical detail how today's home builders can succeed with solar designs.

Now that energy efficiency measures including higher levels of insulation and multi-layered glazing have become standard, it is easier than ever before to create a comfortable and affordable passive solar house that will provide year-round comfort in any climate.

Moreover, since modern building materials and airtight construction methods sometimes result in air-quality and even toxicity problems, Chiras explains state-of-the-art ventilation and filtering techniques that complement the ancient solar strategies of thermal mass and daylighting. Chiras also explains the new diagnostic aids available in printed worksheet or software formats, allowing readers to generate their own design schemes.


"An excellent guide for embracing ecologically-friendly living."--Midwest Book Review


Daniel D. Chiras

Dan Chiras paid his last electric bill in June of 1996. It is not that he has disavowed the use of electricity and modern conveniences, but rather that he has turned to the sun and wind to meet his family's needs.

In 1995, Dan, a former full-time college professor with years of experience in sustainable development, built a state-of-the-art rammed earth tire and straw bale home in Evergreen, Colorado. He installed solar electric panels on the roof; a year or so later he installed a small wind generator. Since that time, he has met nearly all of his electrical needs for his home and office from these clean, renewable sources.

Dan also heats his home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains 8000-feet above sea level with energy from the sun thanks to passive solar design. For backup heat on those cold winter nights, he burns a cord of wood a year, gathered free from his community. His annual gas bill, mostly for showers and cooking, runs about $120 a year - about $2 to $3 per month for natural gas and $10 per month to read the meter!

Dan has spent much of the past 30 years studying sustainability and applying what he has learned in solar energy, natural building, and green building to his residences, and most of the last ten years sharing the practical knowledge he has gained through writing, lectures, slide shows, and workshops.

Dan has published 21 books to date including several college and high school textbooks: Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future, Natural Resource Conservation, Human Biology, and Biology: The Web of Life. His high school environmental science text, Environmental Science, was selected as the official book of the U.S. Academic Decathlon's 1991 competition.

In the early 1990s, Dan published two trade books on environmental issues and sustainability for a general audience: Beyond the Fray: Reshaping America's Response and Lessons from Nature: Learning to Live Sustainably on the Earth.

Since 1995, Dan has focused most of his attention on residential green building. He has written extensively on the subject. His is books include: The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy Efficient, Environmental Homes; The Natural Plaster Book; The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling; Superbia! 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Suburbs; and The New Ecological Home.

His newest book, EcoKids: Raising Kids Who Care for the Earth will be published in the Spring of 2005 by New Society Publishers.

Dan also writes extensively for magazines, journals, newsletters, and newspapers. He has published nearly 250 articles on environmental issues, sustainability, natural building, natural plaster, green building, and passive solar heating and cooling. His articles appear regularly in Home Power, Mother Earth News, Natural Home, and The Last Straw.

Dan also writes frequently for World Book Encyclopedia (Science Year) and Encyclopedia Americana. He authored a 12-page article on the environment for Encyclopedia Americana. Dan has written environmental pollution section for World Book Encyclopedia's annual publication, Science Year, since 1993. In 1997, he wrote an extensive piece for World Book on population growth and its many implications. Dan also wrote the ecology and air pollution sections for Encyclopedia Americana.

In addition to his writing, Dan has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado in Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Washington, where he taught a course on environmental science. He currently is a Melon Visiting Professor at Colorado College where he teaches courses on renewable energy, ecological design, and sustainable development.

Through his writing and teaching in the 1980s and early 1990s, Dan played a leading role in promoting critical thinking, an understanding of the root causes of environmental issues, systemic solutions to environmental problems, sustainable development. He pioneered a systems approach to sustainable development and has played a lead role in articulating the principles, policies, and practices of sustainable development which seeks ways that business and society can prosper within a healthy environment. He is currently focusing most of his research and writing on sustainable building and sustainable communities.

Dan's free time is spent mountain biking, canoeing, playing music, and gardening.

For more information visit


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

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The Chelsea Green Reader

Ben Watson, Ian Baldwin

Paperback $15.00

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

By Stephen Hren and Rebekah Hren

Solar power, once a fringe effort limited to DIY enthusiasts, is now fast becoming mainstream. Many home and business owners are curious about solar electric and solar thermal systems, and wonder how to go about getting a clean energy generation system of their own. The vast majority will hire a professional installer to do the job. But what should they be asking of these installers? What system makes the most sense for their home or office: solar electric, solar hot water, solar heating, or some combination of these?

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office explains the options so that property owners can make the right choices both for their energy needs and their financial security. Understanding how solar power systems work will enable readers to be informed customers when dealing with professional installers-the book also provides advice on how to select a qualified installer and understand the expanding variety of tax credits and other incentives that are popping up around the country.

The market for solar systems has been growing at an exponential rate and strong tax credits ensure continued growth even in a sluggish economy. Many of those who would like to catch this undeniable wave of the future are held back by widespread confusion. A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office clears the air, allowing property owners to move forward with confidence to make their homes and offices more comfortable, environmentally sound, and secure against wild swings in energy prices.

Available in: Paperback

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A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

Stephen Hren, Rebekah Hren

Paperback $14.95

The Woodland Way

The Woodland Way

By Ben Law

A book for everyone who loves trees and woodlands. This 2015 edition of the 2001 classic is written from the heart by an innovative woodsman who is deeply committed to sustainability, this radical book presents an immensely practical alternative to conventional woodland management. Through his personal experience, Ben Law clearly demonstrates how you can create biodiverse, healthy environments, yield a great variety of value-added products, provide secure livelihoods for woodland workers and farmers, and benefit the local community. He argues the case for a new approach to planning, encouraging the creation of permaculture woodlands for the benefit of people, the local environment and the global climate.

Available in: Paperback

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The Woodland Way

Ben Law

Paperback $39.95

The Earth-Sheltered House

The Earth-Sheltered House

By Malcolm Wells

The Earth-Sheltered House is a classic in the annals of sustainable building books, written by a legend in the field of environmentally responsible architecture. Malcolm Wells has a fundamentally different way of looking at the design and building process, and his iconoclastic perspective has never been more apparent.

Wells's work is revolutionary, but readers will find his message to be pure common sense. Earth sheltering offers superior comfort with minimal energy input, and it is adaptable to diverse terrains as well as a variety of architectural aesthetics.

Available in: Paperback

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The Earth-Sheltered House

Malcolm Wells

Paperback $29.95