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About 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
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
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
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
Dan's free time is spent mountain biking, canoeing, playing music, and gardening.
For more information visit danchiras.com.
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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.
Flush it and forget it is the plumbing mantra of the industrialized world. Most people just want sewage to go away, preferably without having to see, smell, or worse yet, touch it. But crap has a bad rap. Human waste is a valuable resource we can use to support food production. Blackwater, greywater, and solids are actually rich in organic matter, and alternative means of handling these "wastes" can conserve enormous quantities of fresh water for other uses.
The Scoop on Poop presents a wide range of ways to answer the call of nature, and in so doing to maximize the benefits of existing waste water. This book explores proven alternatives to Western sanitation. Whether you're interested in composting toilets, outdoor grey- or blackwater planters, constructed wetlands, or other innovative solutions, author Dan Chiras will walk you through:
System pros and cons Design, construction, and maintenance advice Costs, permitting issues, and the safe treatment of composted waste
All system plans are relatively simple and straightforward enough for the average homeowner to build and install. Intended for readers who live in cities, towns and rural environments, this is a practical guide to safe, ingenious ways to capture the nutrients from waste and recycle them back into your soil to grow fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers—all without running afoul of the "ick" factor.
Dan Chiras is the author of over thirty books on residential renewable energy and green building, and is the director of the Evergreen Institute's Center for Renewable Energy and Green Building.
From the author of Power from the Sun, the complete guide to switching to clean, affordable, renewable energy resources.
Energy bills have skyrocketed in the United States, and traditional energy sources can be as damaging to the environment as they are to your pocketbook. The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy will show you how to slash your home energy costs while dramatically reducing your carbon footprint.
Completely revised and updated, this new edition describes the most practical and affordable methods for significantly improving in-home energy efficiency and tapping into clean, affordable, renewable energy resources. If implemented, these measures will save the average homeowner tens of thousands of dollars over the coming decades.
Focusing on the latest technological advances in residential renewable energy, this guide examines each alternative energy option available including:
· Solar hot water and solar hot air systems
· Passive and active solar retrofits for heating and cooling
· Electricity from solar, wind, and microhydro
· Hydrogen, fuel cells, methane digesters, and biodiesel
This well-illustrated and accessible guide is an essential resource for those wanting to enter the renewable energy field. Packed with practical tips and guidelines, it gives readers sufficient knowledge to hire and communicate effectively with contractors and is a must-read for anyone interested in saving money and achieving energy independence.
“If you’re thinking about investing in a renewable energy system for your home . . . The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Resources helps clarify the decision-making process . . . . Dan guides you through everything you need to choose which renewable options to integrate into your lifestyle. A great addition to my bookshelf!” —Mick Sagrillo, Sagrillo Power & Light
Our automobile culture is devastating for the environment, but private passenger vehicles are unlikely to disappear from our roads anytime soon. Greener cars and fuels will be a necessity for many years to come.
Green Transportation Basics is a guide to greening your personal driving habits by dramatically improving the efficiency of an existing vehicle using simple measures such as trip planning and regular maintenance to improve fuel economy. This handy guide also explores the most promising new green carsand trucks, including electric vehicles, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and natural-gas cars. And it critically examines sustainable fuels includingethanol, biodiesel, straight vegetable oil, hydrogen, and biomethane, evaluating each according to a set of established criteria. Each green fuel source must:
- be socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable
- have a high net energy yield
- be clean, abundant, renewable, affordable.
Don't let your dream of greening your transportation idle – Green Transportation Basics will guide you through the myths and misconceptions and provide clear options for the road to a more sustainable future.
The books projects range from quick, easy, low- or no-cost tasks like insulating a water heater, sealing foundation cracks, or painting with insulating paint to bigger-ticket items such as installing a new energy-efficient heating system, windows, or green flooring.
For each project, readers will learn: the steps required; material and installation options; what the improvement will cost; payback in savings on utility bills; health, comfort, and environmental benefits.
More than 65 Go Green tips highlighted throughout the book give readers ideas for quick, easy, and often low- or no-cost things they can do, right away, to make their homes and lifestyles greener.
Projects include: Green flooring & paint options Environmentally friendly cabinetry & countertops Whole-house insulation & weather-stripping High-efficiency heating & cooling Water conservation Efficient lighting, appliances & plumbing fixtures including Energy Star and WaterSense models Solar electric and water heating systems Eco-friendly roofing & siding Energy-efficient windows, doors & skylights Green materials for patios, walkways & driveways Landscaping & irrigation for water conservation and energy.
Wind energy is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, and by the year 2020 it is projected to supply at least 12 percent of global electrical demand.
Wind Power Basics provides a clear understanding of wind and wind energy systems, including turbines, towers, inverters and batteries, site assessment, installation, and maintenance requirements.
Whether you’re considering your own small-scale wind energy system or just want a straightforward, detailed introduction to the benefits and challenges of this rapidly emerging technology, Wind Power Basics is the guide you need.
Dan Chiras is a respected educator and an internationally acclaimed author who has published more than twenty-five books on residential renewable energy and green building, including Power From the Wind.
To forge a sustainable future, we need citizens who care for the Earth. We need citizens who understand that planet care is the ultimate form of self-care. But we also need generations who live according to their values and convictions and who can effect positive change in their lives and the lives of others. Because public schools and the popular media cannot be counted on to produce an Earth-friendly citizenry, the task falls to parents. Yet even aware parents often lack the understanding and resources to take on such a task.
EcoKids addresses this gap by presenting a coherent plan that will help parents foster love for nature, teach children the importance of environmental protection, and promote environmental values and inspire action - actions that will last a lifetime. A hopeful and inspiring guide for parents, topics covered include ways to:
- avoid gloom and doom in favor of positive solutions
- foster love and empathy for nature
- develop environmental values
- put values into action
- help children discover the roots of problems and be part of lasting solutions
- walk the talk
- counter the consumer culture, starting in your own home and community
- generate hope and combat apathy.
Each chapter includes an inspiring case study of a child who's making a difference, short pieces that highlight serious problems such as global warming, along with positive solutions that can be read aloud to children, and activities for children. A resource guide lists helpful books, articles, videos, and organizations.