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


A Handmade Life

A Handmade Life

By William Coperthwaite and John Saltmarsh

William Coperthwaite is a teacher, builder, designer, and writer who for many years hasexplored the possibilities of true simplicity on a homestead on the north coast of Maine. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Helen and Scott Nearing, Coperthwaite has fashioned a livelihood of integrity and completeness-buying almost nothing, providing for his own needs, and serving as a guide and companion to hundreds of apprentices drawn to his unique way of being.

A Handmade Life carries Coperthwaite's ongoing experiments with hand tools, hand-grown and gathered food, and handmade shelter, clothing, and furnishings out into the world to challenge and inspire. His writing is both philosophical and practical, exploring themes of beauty, work, education, and design while giving instruction on the hand-crafting of the necessities of life. Richly illustrated with luminous color photographs by Peter Forbes, the book is a moving and inspirational testament to a new practice of old ways of life.

Available in: Paperback

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A Handmade Life

William Coperthwaite, Peter Forbes, John Saltmarsh

Paperback $25.00

Compact Living

Compact Living

By Michael Guerra

Compact Living opens our eyes to the possibilities of living a compact and low-impact urban life.

It is about learning how to live happily with less clutter and embrace the joys in life. Most of our society is struggling to pay the bills while chasing the ideal of a "bigger" lifestyle. Compact Living is the perfect antidote to this, teaching us how to make the most of what we already have through assessing and designing our spaces to suit our needs, as well as future proofing for change.

This is a book of design solutions for small spaces, ideally suited to compact urban dwellings, with each chapter providing useful, basic tools for organizing an entire house and garden no matter what kind of space we live in.

In an insecure economy, smaller mortgages and less social mobility will be a reality, especially in premium areas of the cities. Compact Living is the perfect practical guide for people interested in the Voluntary Simplicity, Tiny Homes, and Downsizing movements, and anyone who wants to rationalize the space in which they live in an ergonomic and aesthetic way.

A powerful perspective to anyone who wishes to live with less debt and more freedom!


Available in: Paperback

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Compact Living

Michael Guerra

Paperback $14.95

Energy Revolution

Energy Revolution

By Howard Johns

We need a global energy revolution. In developed nations we are wasting massive quantities of energy providing heat and light to our homes and businesses while one and a half billion people have no access to electricity at all. The existing central-power-station model is based on old technology that spews carbon, energy, and money straight up the chimney.

Energy Revolution shows us how we can change all of this. Telling stories from around the world of the change that’s already happening and drawing on two decades of his own unique experience, Howard Johns demonstrates how we can develop our own renewable-energy projects to provide local energy and create a new fleet of businesses.

He shows us how communities can build local energy solutions—renewable-power stations that will be a new form of building society where we come together to develop, finance, and construct the infrastructure that we and future generations so desperately need.

Howard Johns explains how to design, set up, and fund community energy systems, citing examples from countries that already have cut the amount of energy they use and supply their needs from renewable energy. These new systems will create new jobs and businesses, reduce energy imports, and create new local-investment models.

This handbook contains the map we need to change the system from the bottom up and make the next great leap forward to achieving clean, affordable energy. It covers everything needed to structure your community power company—the technology, site assessment, legal and business planning, fundraising and financial modeling, and putting people at the heart of your strategy. It’s time to take control, re-localize, reduce costs and carbon emissions, and join the energy revolution.

Available in: Paperback

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Energy Revolution

Howard Johns

Paperback $29.95

The Complete Yurt Handbook

The Complete Yurt Handbook

By Paul King

The yurt or ger is a low-impact structure that causes no permanent damage to the land on which it is pitched. It is easy to erect and can be taken down in an hour. It is cool in summer and, with a stove, warm in winter. For centuries, people throughout central Asia have made yurts their homes. Robust and versatile, the yurt has evolved into the ultimate portable dwelling.

Yurts are perfect for offices, summer houses, meditation spaces, spare rooms, or just beautifully satisfying spaces to be in! Join the thousands of North Americans who are discovering the many virtues of the yurt.

Part One of the book delves into the history of the yurt and the principles behind its construction, and explores modern life in a Mongolian ger and the culture and etiquette of ger living.

Part Two gives fully illustrated and detailed instructions on how to make several of the most popular types of yurt, including the "weekend yurt." With a few common wood-working tools, even an absolute beginner could build the frame for this simple, elegant structure.

Available in: Paperback

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The Complete Yurt Handbook

Paul King

Paperback $25.00