With “The Pretty Good House,” Volumes I and II, structural engineer and Bowdoin resident Helen Watts has written, illustrated and self-published books – notebooks really – intended to help ordinary Maine homeowners run greener homes. “Not Net Zero or LEED Platinum,” she emailed us about them, “but a house for the rest of us.”

1104491_661220 House books.jpgThese slim, fact-packed booklets take often hard-to-understand information on dense topics like grid parity, energy recovery ventilators and R-value, and try to make it accessible, even fun, to the layperson. They are filled with uncomplicated line drawings, bad puns (air leaks with an illustration of leeks, air seals with a illustration of a seal), smiley and frowny faces. “Green – it’s the new black,” Watts writes on the cover of the second book, which she published this year; the first came out in 2013. And on its last page, she reminds homeowners who are Googling information online that “anything older than 2010 is geriatric old antique.”

The books cover a lot of territory, offering simple guidelines on topics that include windows, operating loads, heat pumps, insulation, solar hot water and landscaping. For those of us with homes and good, green intentions but no talent for the structural, environmental problems posed by home ownership, Watts’ spoonful-of-sugar approach to efficiency has strong appeal. Ditto for those of us who can’t start from scratch and build a perfectly efficient new house but just want to do better with the one we have. As Watts writes encouragingly, “The Pretty Good House” “could be your present house, with a few strategic changes.”

You can download both volumes from Etsy for 99 cents each, or you can buy printed copies at Performance Building Supply in Portland for $5 apiece.


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