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Retrofit right.

The continuing rise of home energy costs is motivating many homeowners to find ways to cut back energy use--preferably without sacrificing comfort. Recently, a spate of books on this subject has appeared. Here are five for remodelers. For the older house

Just published is a thoroughly detailed manual, Retrofit Right, prepared for the city of Oakland's Planning Department of Sedway Cooke Associates (with assistance from Sol-Arc architects). Whether you own a postwar tract, a Craftsman bungalow, a Victorian, or any older house, you will find applicable advice here. The manual is designed to help you understand how an older house uses energy and then take steps to lower your utility bills without compromising architectural character.

Insulating your older house, for example, may be easier than you think. Though the 1885 Victorian above needed a complete energy overhaul, it had a major built-in asset: its balloon frame. In this common framing system of late 19th-century wood houses, the wall studs run as continuous strips from the foundation to the attic, so there's continuous air space between them. This means that the wall cavities can easily be filled with insulation from the attic, without the necessity of breaking into walls.

As author Fred Etzel and editor Helaine Kaplan Prentice state, "Old houses are extremely adaptable to energy conservation and renewable resources when the technology is applied in a manner that respects their architecture."

The book identifies four types of retrofit: upgrading the weatherization, installing more efficient equipment, substituting the use of renewable (solar or winde energy, and modifying residents' habits to reduce energy consumption. Strategies for each kind of retrofit were developed with a new computer program created by research scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Which plan you choose depends on the type of construction of your house and your own life style.

The book helps you determine what category you're in, then leads you to tables listing retrofit measures in descending priority according to a ratio of net savings to cost (see sample table on page 120). You might discover, for example, that installing a low-flow shower head would create a higher net savings to cost ratio than installing attic insulation.

Chapters on weatherization retrofits, equipment and appliance retrofits, solar energy, and federal and state tax credits contain a welath of practical information. And athough the book is aimed primarily at Oakland-area residents, it will prove useful to anyone seeking sensitive solutions to energy conservation in the home.

You're also reminded that one of the simplest ways to trim energy use is to alter the way you live. As Etzel says, "Your house, your furnace, and your hot-water heater do not consume energy--you do."

The 180-page illustrated manual (a sequel to Rehab Right, described in the June 1979 Sunset) costs $7.95 and can be ordered from Oakland Planning Department, One City Hall Plaza, Oakland 94612. Include 86 cents for postage. California residents add 52 cents tax.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kaplan, Helaine
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1984
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