Pretty Good House Handbook
Where can you get it?
References for Volume 2
Water Usage
And What If You're Not In Maine?
Building Science sites
Heating, Ventilation
Contact Us
Helen Watts, the author
House Siting
Existing Homes

THE BOOKS ARE NOW FOR SALE AS PDFs AT! They are $.99 each, and you can just print them off (and dog ear the pages, and whip out your green crayon). Funny, but nobody seems to do the word search - or at least, no one's asked me for the answer, which I assiduously copied, just in case. I've done a better job of collecting useful references for each page, to go on this website, but this website is still likely to be more boring than the book. I have some printed books as well.


What is a Pretty Good House? A Pretty Good House isn't craaaazy efficient/sealed, it doesn't have mechanical systems that nobody in town has ever tried before. It's better than the building code, which includes the IRC (the residential code) and the IECC (the energy code), using smart things that are not expensive to do, but which will make the House better to live in, easier to operate, and more able to change as the people living in it change their needs (add an office, age-in-place, disabilities). If you figure that 10% of the houses built are built for Net-Zero (by the people who are comfortable being the First On The Block), and 10% of houses are operated by people who won't do ANYTHING, then the PGH is for the 80% in between. And a PGH can be a new house, but is more likely to be an existing house.
So - here's where I'm collecting that information. Send more!
Also, while these books comes out of a Maine Building Forum, lots of the ideas will help make sense of Pretty Good Homes elsewhere.
The Green Building Advisor has a great blog about the Pretty Good House at - and look, it says Part 1, that means there's more coming!
Thanks, Chris and Phil. And Dan, and the Building Science forum people.
And here's a link to the MPBN radio show that Claire Betze and I did on weatherization:

MPBN also had me on the show for a show about taking care of your home in the spring, with a roofing guru and a landscaper: And I was on another show on 3/11/15, then another one in the fall of 2015 and another one in the spring of 2016... 
The books are not a "moneymaker", it's to get the ideas out to people who don't want to read chapter books, but want to know the ideas. For no logical reason that I can understand, it has helped me get clients who need me as a structural engineer. I don't think I'm "the expert", but nobody else thinks they are either. Building Science has come a long way, fast, and very few people know a lot or can keep up with all the new products and methods and ideas. This book is Building Science for Beginners - and I've collected more cool websites for additional research on the various pages that I will link to this site. I recommend sticking with the newer websites, as you wander the Web with my friends Google and Bing, on these topics. Does it say 2012 or older? Well, that's out of date. Does it recommend CFL lights? Boo. If your contractor says "I've always done it this way", that's a BIG RED FLAG. If you're paying for a new building, you want a contractor that understands air leaks and water vapor. If they've never heard of a blower door test and hide from the codes enforcement officer, that's another BIG RED FLAG.

Right now, this website is under construction. I apologize for any dust or debris, and am keeping the erosion-control measures in place for the duration. 
I will post information here, both about where to purchase the handbook and those piles of reference sites and backup ideas. Sources for the Handbook are listed on the Menu on the left.

Capture all the low-hanging fruit! Then check out the taller ladders!


Please get in touch to offer comments and ideas.

Not-Quite Net-Zero Houses in Maine