The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Solar Power For Your Home, by Dan Ramsey With David Hughes
One of the more interesting aspects of this book is the way that the appeal of the subject matter of the book is somewhat at cross purposes with the reality of it. This book–like many-is littered with assumptions about anthropogenic climate change and the appeal of doing something about it by making one’s home a solar one, but then it includes as part of its material a great deal of discussion about the difficulty, legally as well as design-wise, of creating a solar powered or some other sort of renewable energy home in a way that does not involve government subsidy and significant regulatory headaches. And that is not even considering the way that active solar power depends on materials and processes, including battery storage and backup generators and wood stoves, that are not widely viewed as being environmentally friendly. In addition to that, it is a bit off-putting to see the way that the author focuses so much attention on political matters as well as the supposed desirability of increasing the use of solar power in the hope that it will induce more efficient processes to develop solar power for mass market consumers.
This book is between 250 and 300 pages and is divided into four part and a bit more than twenty chapters. The book begins with a discussion of how one can save energy (I), with chapters on looking to the sun (1), estimating one’s home energy needs (2), cutting energy bills right now (3), incentives and paybacks for switching to solar (4), financing a solar home (5), building a new solar home (6), retrofitting one’s home for solar power (7), as well as saving through solar landscaping (8). This is followed by a discussion of solar energy applications (II), including power generation and storage (9), wind and water power (10), solar water heating (11), and solar space heating (12). After this comes a discussion of solar power systems (III), including supplemental power systems (13), grid-tie systems (14), off-grid system (15), emergency power systems (16), and portable power systems (17). Finally, the main contents of the book end with a section on solar power projects (IV), including buying solar systems and components (18), hiring the brightest solar contractor (19), whether or not to do things for oneself (20), maintaining solar power (21), and making one’s life more energy efficient (22). The rest of the book consists of appendices on a solar glossary (i) and solar resources (ii) as well as an index.
This is by no means a bad book. The authors are honest enough that the savvy reader will likely have many questions about whether or not it is wide to engage in solar power to an entire degree, to depend on it as one’s power source. While the authors are clearly in favor of using solar power, they are realistic in their judgment of what is necessary for backup and what the trade-offs are as far as using it as a power source. It is difficult to properly manage such matters as electricity when one has to deal with matters of public policy and places where virtue signaling does not always match up with reality. A reader may find a book like this reinforces their desire to switch to or add solar power to their home despite all of the issues–and to take advantage of registered and licensed solar contractors who have a great deal of experience in dealing with the regulations and paperwork involved in working with the utilities when it comes to selling one’s excess power to a utility for fun and moderate profit. It is to the authors’ credit that the focus is so practical, even if little is less practical than the economics of alternative energy at the present time.