Recently, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, a high-level overview of each state’s overall energy efficiency according to the council’s rigorous standards.
“Every year, ACEEE ranks states on their energy efficiency policy and program efforts and provides recommendations for ways that states can improve their performance in a variety of policy areas,” says the ACEE’s annual report.
This year, the top ten states for energy efficiency were Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut, Washington, New York, Minnesota and Maryland. The fives states on the least-efficient end of the spectrum were North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas and West Virginia.
But not matter what state you reside in, there are small and large habits and actions you can implement in your family’s home to make less of an impact on the environment. Whether it’s choosing an energy efficient appliance, like an ENERGY STAR rated appliance, making energy efficient upgrades to your home, or having an emergency backup option for cooling like a small room AC, there are steps you can take to wean yourself and family off heavy energy use. You can even qualify for a energy-efficiency mortgage (EEM), which allows you financing options for energy efficiency home updates and renovations.
Below, you’ll find some of our favorite books on energy efficiency for homeowners and the sustainable design and construction industry.
“Although the energy performance of new American homes has been dismal for decades, things are slowly starting to change,” writes Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd. “New homes are getting tighter. And the best American homes – those built by a small subset of builders who strive to build very tight, superinsulated homes – are among the best performing homes in the world.”
That’s the good news! In the rest of his book, Holladay goes through many topics, from energy basics and sustainable living concepts to specific parts of the home, like windows and insulation. He talks about energy misconceptions, and includes many notable discussions and points from his popular blog, of which this book is a compendium.
Holladay is a self-proclaimed energy nerd, and that’s exactly who this book is written for. If that’s you, you’ll love the depth, personality and wit Holladay uses in his writing, and you’ll get a lot of practical, actionable tips in addition to high-level conceptual stuff. This is one of the top selling energy efficiency book on Amazon, and you don’t have to read far to understand why.
“McDonough and Braungart want to turn on its head our very understanding of the human role on earth: Instead of protecting the planet from human impact, why not redesign our activity to improve the environment?” asks the book’s summary on Amazon.
The Upcycle is a lofty, ambitious look at sustainability and the future of our ability to change the way we live and interact with our environments. It’s the follow-up to Cradle to Cradle, a book that begged readers to redefine and reevaluate the way recycling – through reducing and reusing – really works.
Written by an architect (McDonough) and a chemist (Braungart), The Upcycle has the makings of work that can really make a difference, especially if its main tenets can be put into place at a mass scale. Overall, it gives readers, businesses and world leaders the idea that we can adapt our personal and business ways into sustainable – nay, even beneficial – modes of living.
Where the first two books on this list cover higher-level concepts and theory, this book is a down-to-earth look at what you can do to make your home more energy efficient, no matter what your living situation.
The authors cover topics from renewable energy to solar design and implementation; from zero-energy life to HVAC efficiency and performance. Along the way, the authors offer plenty of compelling evidence and illustrations that not only prove the benefits of energy efficiency, but explain things in a way that makes this type of living seem not only completely doable, but necessary.
This is a great read for new and seasoned homeowners alike – especially for those looking to build a new home in the near future.
Here, Jeff Wilson explains deep-energy retrofit (DER) changes, or the idea of doing a home makeover in the name of energy. He does a great job of explaining why small changes that have become the status quo – keep cooling costs down by keeping your home warmer at night, etc. – simply won’t cut it in the future.
Instead, he goes over a few major and minor changes you can make to your home that will turn existing residential buildings into energy efficient machines. He goes over in-depth ways to do this on your home, and outlines the pros and cons of such renovations. In the end, it’s clear that making these changes now, even if they can be costly, is a great idea in the long run not only for your finances, but for the environment at large.
Written by homesteader Paul Scheckel, The Homeowner’s Energy Handbook is a look at how to build or manage processes, systems and contraptions around the home that will help reduce your energy footprint. And despite the name of the book, it’s great for those who want to still technically stay on the grid, but want to use less energy while doing so.
Like Toward a Zero Energy Home, this book offers practical things you can do immediately, whether it’s updating appliances, retrofitting new water collection systems in your home, or simply avoiding the use of energy-sucking things and processes around the home.
Scheckel does a great job of explaining home energy efficiency in layman’s terms, and makes it easy for the average reader to believe he or she can tackle many of these projects with confidence.