General Home Design Tips
Energy efficiency principles (heating and cooling)
You can save half or more of your heating costs with a passive solar system. Most solar designs include standard energy efficient construction factors: insulation and air tightness. In the northern hemisphere, position the building so the longest dimension faces south. Put most windows on that south front. Build the eaves so they admit winter sun but shade the windows and walls in the summer. Build as much mass into the interior of the house as possible. Mass is concrete, tile, stone, plaster, brick and soil. When winter sun shines through the windows it creates heat.
Much of the heat is assimilated by materials during daytime hours and emitted into the living space during the cooler nighttime. Roof venting and radiant barrier and the best windows you can afford. Passive solar heating has no downsides in climates that require heating systems. It is essentially free, is sustainable, is nonpolluting and provides most comfortable heat, although the primary complaint of passive solar home occupants is of too much heat. You may have to open a couple of windows on a sunny January day. A huge bonus of solar design is that your house will be cooler in summer. Roof overhang shades windows, insulation and tightness keeps it cool and roof venting cools ceilings. Open your windows at night and close them in morning.
Wood fuel is produced in nature and sustainable, but polluting if many houses are close to each other. A typical wood stove does not require electricity, a bonus for areas of chronic electric outages. This fuel requires high skill and labor requirements to select and fell trees, limb, cut blocks, split, load, stack, tend stove. A chainsaw is the most dangerous tool for said work but will get the job done.
Propane is the typical gas in rural areas. Check with your local gas company for costs, rules, suggestions. You can usually rent or buy a tank. Tanks may be rented or purchased. Modern propane heaters are very efficient.
Electric heat is cleanest of all except solar, but it is usually the most costly and least sustainable. Heat pumps make the most sense where the heat source is the ground or a body of water. Heat pumps also produce summertime hot water as a by-product of summer cooling mode.