I tracked down a posting from Daniel D. Chiras that promoted their success with going green. I like to think that I could live 'off the grid' however I don't in my daily life. The province of Ontario has some good rebates on energy savings and during times of a heat wave you tend to think more of your environmental impact -- at least I do.
Here is a snippet of the article.
"We are lucky enough to own an earth-sheltered home with good winter passive solar heat gain.
We actually have heating and cooling we don’t have to buy from a public utility.
It’s actually free!
Free is good.
Our house was built in 1976. The long side of our house faces southwest and one short end faces southeast. One corner between the 2 sides points about magnetic due south.
The 2 northern sides, both northeast and northwest are sheltered some by earth in the form of a ground floor daylight basement and also by a windbreak of trees and bushes planted on a hill that rises higher than our house in the back yard.
Most of our trees are hardwoods. In the fall the leaves fall and we get lots of sun during the winter. We only have to heat the house a little on cloudy or snowy days.
But in summer the leaves come back and shade us from the summer sun and keep us cool without air conditioning.
We never pay to cool our house in summer. Free is GOOD! The only electricity we buy runs our appliances. We unplug anything with a built in timer at night.
Any house can be constructed like ours is. And more earth sheltering would keep you cool even in hot climates.
All of the characteristics our house has are easy to build in to any home and would not cost any more than any other house to build.
But it can get better, too.
Better insulation and systems are often part of building codes that did not exist when our house was built.
And keeping heat and cold out is part of what can make any house more energy efficient. Keeping the heat inside in winter and outside in summer means your house will always be cheaper to run over the lifetime of your house.
Windows also play a part in warming and cooling a home. We have double pane Andersen windows that are really good even though they are pretty old. We also have metal blinds that we use to help control both summer heat gain and winter heat loss.
Our garage is also a daylight basement space. In 14 cold winters with lows sometimes below zero we have never had a bottle of water or anything else freeze in either our garage or our house. The garage is unheated but never gets below freezing with the insulated steel door closed.
So earth sheltering and passive solar and passive cooling are saving us big money and keeping us comfortable, too."