by John F Robbins  CEM / CSDP

My music
I've been composing, performing and recording original music since the 1970s.  My dominant instruments are 12-string guitar, Chapman Stick (TM), electric keyboards and various acoustic and digital percussion devices.  I performed in 2 bands Vortex and Earthlings in 1980s and 1990s, but since 2000 I perform and record mostly by myself in my home studio.  My musical styles vary.  Some pieces are acoustic and folk-like, some are all-electric and like new age, and some even are like fusion and rock.  Some tell stories or have themes about energy, our environment and politics.  Only a few pieces include lyrics sung by me - most are instrumentals.    

Below are what I think are my 22 best recordings.  The pieces with lyrics are Earth News, Power In Vision, Sitting Here, We Can Change and What We Do.  Newest in this list are Affirmation (2015), All Hands In (2017), Count on Me (2014), Janus (2015), Sitting Here (2016) and SummerWoods (2014).  

To listen, visit the "John F Robbins" at YouTube where I've uploaded several of my albums or click any title below!

Why start a home energy business in 1983?
We were renting our first home in late 1970s when President Carter told us to reduce energy use.  There were huge oil price increases due to OPEC oil embargo and big electricity price hikes to pay for a new huge powerplant for Cincinnati.  Severe cold and blizzards in back-to-back years caused natural gas prices to double.  So my initial interests were driven to get more control over our energy cost.  I quit my TV technician job and began studying home energy.  I also began lowering my home energy usage.  The more I learned and did, the lower my usage got.  

Once lived in a Cincinnati suburb called White Oak
In 1979, we bought a fixer-upper with efficiency and solar potential.  We started to insulate walls, ceilings and basement walls; replace windows; install solar heat collectors and build a passive solar "sunspace".  I encountered and joined a local group called AEA (Alternate Energy Assn - which was focused on similar agenda, with members learning from each other as they implemented more efficient and ecological measures in their own homes and businesses.  We planted over 40 trees in our half-acre yard, reduced mowable lawn area and created shade for summer cooling.  Our efforts reduced our energy bills substantially and made our home much more comfortable.  The local utility replaced our meters, assuming it was broken or we were bipassing them.  By 1983, I started my energy consulting and design business.  Initially working from an office outside my home, I created an office in my home to reduce car driving, further lowering energy use and pollution.  We moved to this home thinking we'd be there 5-7 years, but we were still there 18 years later.  So we got lots of "paybacks" from all the energy-efficiency and solar stuff we did at that house!

Began wishing for darker night skies
In the early 90s, we bought a used 8" telescope and binoculars to view night sky objects from our backyard and local parks.  But we discovered so much of what we wanted to view was obscured by night sky light pollution in and around Cincinnati.  So we began considering night sky darkness as a requirement for our next home.

Comet Hale Bopp in spring 1996 from Pine Mountain in southern KY

Astronomers just about everywhere are confronting "night sky light pollution", caused by too much careless unshielded outdoor night lighting aimed sideways or up into the sky.  Horizons at a light-polluted site are speckled with porch and security lights.  Light-polluted skies are light-to-medium gray instead of dark gray-to-black, making only the biggest and brightest objects visible even with a powerful telescope.  This increased our desire to move where night skies were not necessarily perfect, just darker!

We eventually bought a home in northern KY which had potential for our energy goals AND night skies at least dark to the south and southeast.  Skies have gotten less dark over the years as towns and cities around us have grown and installed more careless night lighting.  But we are still in a darker place than White Oak.  

Now in Northern Kentucky
In July 1997 we moved into a tri-level house on 5.4 hilltop acres in a rural northern Kentucky town, Morning View, about 40 minutes south of Cincinnati. The house had only average efficiency and ecology features, but had great solar and energy upgrade potential.  There were fabulous hilltop and valley views to the south.  After study and design, we begun to remodel and retrofit this house for much better energy performance, including adding a new passive solar addition  Passive solar heat during the winter, Milky Way and other sights in the skies at night!

Passive solar addition in 1998

Being an  environmentalist.  
To me, being an environmentalist means burning less fuel and causing less pollution.  In addition to lowering energy usage at home and work, I also drive 40+ mpg cars since 1992 and minimize milage by working from home and using smarter trip management.  We also need more trees to help clean the air, especially absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), so we've turned most of our yard, once a grazing pasture, into a woods by planting over 200 trees.   

I have liked solar power since the first Earth Day in 1970.  Also liked what we called "appropriate technologies", those being possible to understand, own, install, manage and control by ourselves.  So I  worked to become more familiar with our energy needs and habits, trying to make our energy use not just more efficient, but also more careful and less automatic.  When I began installing our passive solar, solar water heating and solar electric, I aimed for designs which allowed us more control, from installation to regular maintenance.  This is one reason I chose off-grid solar for my office, with no backup from the utility.  Off-grid sounds complicated, but it's less complicated than any utility grid!  

Solar water heating installed 9/2005; solar PV installed for office 11/2001 - modified fall 2006

We also did simple solar stuff like daylighting, outdoor clothes drying, occasional solar cooking, natural ventilation, and backyard vegetable gardening.  Yes, we have 70+ energy efficient bulbs, but daylight lowers energy use even more!  Each time we hang-dry our laundry, we avoid using an electric dryer which uses 4-5 kWh per load, associated with 8-12 pounds of CO2 emissions from burning coal to generate electricity!

John F Robbins CEM
3519 Moffett Rd
Morning View, KY USA

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