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Achieving Energy Independence - One Step at a Time

by Jeffrey R. Yago, published by Dunimis Technology (1999-11-15)

Buy now from Amazon.com for $29.95
Amazon rating of 4.5 out of 5, Amazon sales rank: 215529

Editor's Review:

A must have first text for any homeowner wanting to install a back up power system for their home or home business.

Addresses new ways to prepare for power outages including Y2K, brownouts, storm outages, and rolling blackouts.

Step by step guide to become independent of the utility grid.

Answers all installation questions about solar photovoltaic systems, generators, battery inverters, wind turbines, and battery banks, including wiring diagrams and safety issues.

Reader Reviews:

This book is great and a must read for anyone who wants to cut the wire and become energy independent of the energy grid. Everyone knows that the grid is a mony gobleing monster and that they will use any excuse to charge you more and more money for your electric bill and yes this includes the so called co-ops. Read this book and not only can you cut the wire but it shows you how to turn the tables on them and make them buy the excess electriscity that you don't use from you. Jeffrey Yago certainly has the credentials to write an authoritative book on energy independence; he's a professional engineer, a specialist in alternate energy applications, and - most importantly - he's done it himself; he lives in a large home that embodies his philosophy. The book reflects this wealth of knowledge and experience.

You should know that at least 90% of this book, and perhaps more, is centered around electricity production through the use of solar panels. Wind generators are mentioned, but only briefly - as in a few paragraphs, and one picture; and other important solar energy topics, such as the use of solar hot water systems, are barely mentioned. The importance of heat conservation through upgrading insulation and the use of triple pane, low-e argon filled windows is not mentioned at all. This is particularly disappointing, because for most climates in North America, ranging from the very cold to the very hot, reducing energy losses through passive insulation is one of the most cost effective things the average person can do. You get more bang for your buck through insulation - in most cases - than any other solar energy upgrade you can perform. But Yago doesn't mention this fact.

(Think you don't need insulation, because you live in Arizona? Well, more insulation keeps the heat out, and the cold in, better. Something to consider, when you next pay the electrical bill for running your air conditioner.)

I would like to have seen plans for a do it yourself domestic solar water heater; but they're not here. A solar oven can be easily constructed, and is a very inspiring and educational way to learn about the power of the sun; but there's nothing in this book on the topic. Solar showers can be easily constructed, or even inexpensively purchased commercially; but you won't find them mentioned here. There's no indication of how much insulation to use in your home's walls and ceilings, and there's no discussion of how much heat loss occurs through regular windows. There's nothing on passive solar gain through the use of Trombe walls, and no information on heat storage through the use of water or rock mass. Electricity generation through the use of small hydroelectric units is barely mentioned (as in, yeah, you can do it). But you won't find any discussion of height versus water pressure, or suppliers of hydro generation units, or cost/benefit ratios (how much water do I have to have flowing, from what height, before hydro units are a better value than solar panels?)

In short, the book confines itself to the topic of ELECTRICITY conservation, and ELECTRICITY generation - and that, primarily through the use of solar panels and gasoline generators, often connected to the grid through utility intertie systems.

For the beginner, this is a good book. The information, although very limited in scope, is correct; and Yago's experience in this small aspect of solar power is quite evident. His information regarding batteries - selection, housing, charging, equalization - is important for those new to solar power.

(One important point: Yago states that homeowners should replace their existing light bulbs with replacement florescent lighting. He's correct; the payback is dramatic. But Yago also states that hallways and rooms should be equipped with motion sensor switches, that turn on the lights when you enter and turn them off when you leave. The trouble is, most motion sensor switches of this type will not work with florescent tubes; and of the few that do, none will work with the electronic ballast, screw in replacement florescent bulbs most likely to be used by the consumer. They'll cause the switches to overheat, burn out, and represent a fire hazard. This is mentioned in the fine print on the switch; so, if you go this route, make CERTAIN that the motion detector switch is compatible with an ELECTRONIC ballast, florescent fixture. I don't know of any that are.)
(UPDATE: Scott Ermatinger found one at Smarthome - do a Google Search to locate their website. So finally, it is an option, although at $55 each it's a somewhat expensive one. Thanks, Scott, for the information!)

Other, more detailed books on solar electrical power have been written by David Smead, who runs a company called Ample Power. While Smead tends to center his books on the boating industry, most of the issues that face an off grid homeowner are the same as those faced by a cruising boat captain. Smead's texts provide a wealth of factual information on batteries and electrical generation, and should be read by anyone intent on doing solar power. They can be daunting, however; Smead is a very high level engineer, and has designed a few items for solar power which have become widely used - and copied - throughout the industry. You should familiarize yourself with his books and products.

For those looking for more general information on achieving energy independence through solar power, check out the many books written or published by Real Goods, and available through Amazon. Real Goods covers many more of the bases than this book does. Do keep in mind that Real Goods is a commercial retail mail order store; they sell stuff. Even so, I've found their information to be factual, and wide ranging. Becasue of their commercial orientation, I'm always concerned that their information will be designed to sell products, rather than educate consumers; but in truth, I have not found this to be the case.

Yago's book is NOT complete. You will NOT leave this book with all the information necessary to order and construct your own solar power system. It is more of a general, 30,000 foot overview of electrical energy conservation and production through the use of solar panels.

I would recommend this book to individuals new to the solar power movement, who are seeking a broad, non-detailed overview of power production and storage through solar panel usage. It is by no means a one stop shop; you'll need to read many other books to become a solar power guru. But Yagos' book is informative, fairly accurate, and factual - as far as it goes.

It just doesn't go very far.Book tells you how to "plan" a solar powered system by outlining the loads in your home. Easy to understand but not technical enough. Needs to list more products and where to get them. More pictures would be nice. All in all the book gives a great summary on how to start and plan a system that suits your needs. I recommend getting it for anyone interested in planing a solar powered system for you home or business.Jeff Yago's book is a great tool for solar experts to use when teaching homeowners or training electricians and solar contractors new to the business. My organization, the Maryland-DC-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association, uses Jeff's book as a text for Training Seminars and Workshops we conduct throughout the year. The book has been an invaluable aid in conveying the sometimes complex information in a user-friendly fashion to our Seminar participants. I highly recommend the book!Jeff Yago's book is a great tool for solar experts to use when teaching homeowners or training electricians and solar contractors new to the business. My organization, the Maryland-DC-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association, uses Jeff's book as a text for Training Seminars and Workshops we conduct throughout the year. The book has been an invaluable aid in conveying the sometimes complex information in a user-friendly fashion to our Seminar participants. I highly recommend the book!
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See also:
Renewable and Efficient Electric Power Systems

Wind Energy Basics: A Guide to Small and Micro Wind Systems (Real Goods Solar Living Book)

Backpack Gourmet: Good Hot Grub You Can Make at Home, Dehydrate, and Pack for Quick, Easy, and Healthy Eating on the Trail

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