Because of today's high cost of energy, whether for heating or cooling, any design that takes advantage of passive solar benefits is worth considering. Ultimately any additional costs for incorporating these design features will pay for themselves in the future. Some design features can even include the ability to save energy normally required for lighting.
A lot of homes today come with an energy rating to indicate their energy efficiency. Using silver foil under the roof and around the external walls can increase a home's energy efficiency. There is also a number of different types of glass on the market that are designed to give you more control in a hot and cold environment. Combine this with insulation to the roof and walls, and this rating becomes even better. The additional cost for insulation will decrease your energy bills for heating and cooling and pay for itself in the long term.
Pergolas with shade battens can be most effective as the battens can be positioned to allow entry of winter sun, and yet exclude the harsh summer sun.
Deciduous planting is another excellent way to allow the entry of sun in winter, yet exclude it in summer. Deciduous planting should be positioned on the northern and western sides of the home and carefully positioned to provide the best control.
The width of eaves is another important way to control the entry of sun into the home during summer or winter.
In Sydney, for example, an 800mm or 900mm eave on the northern side is an excellent start to sun control.
A slow combustion fireplace (the most efficient of all wood burning heaters) is best installed in the centre of the home to ensure the best distribution of heat. A much cleaner and easier form of heating is reverse cycle air conditioning. This will be more expensive to install but runs at the flick of a switch. Gas heating is cheaper to install than reverse cycle air conditioning, but does not have the advantage of summer cooling.
When you have a two-storey home, especially one with cathedral ceilings, it is essential to install 'sweep ceiling fans' as they stir the air during winter, ensuring an even temperature mix, and yet also provide for cooling during summer.
Major heat loss normally occurs through the ceilings of a home (since heat rises), so the installation of insulation is essential to prevent heat loss. Heat loss through walls can be controlled with the same use of insulation.
Glass in your windows and doors is another area for heat to escape so the correct choice of glass and the inclusion of window coverings will help to slow down any transfer of heat or cold.