This photo shows a beautiful energy efficient house design. The house is made with brick or stone on the exterior, and features large solar panels on the deep red roof.
Brick and stone are excellent thermal mass materials. House designs that incorporate these materials are great at absorbing heat from the sun, and holding onto it throughout cold winter nights. In the summer, the stone and brick absorbs coolness from the night time air, and slowly releases that throughout the day so that little to no electrical cooling is needed in the home.
This house design also shows how facing big windows and doors to the south–in the Northern Hemisphere–can help take advantage of natural heating and cooling techniques too. In the winter the sun is at a much lower angle, and having many windows for it to shine through during the day helps naturally heat your home. In the summer the sun is much higher in the sky, so those small overhangs you see in this picture help shade the windows and doors, thus keeping the sun from overheating the house on hot days.
Houses that are designed to be energy efficient and use passive solar heating and cooling techniques get much better results when using solar panels to generate electricity, because the house design itself helps dramatically reduce the average amounts of electricity needed for powering the home.
Solar house image © Pics1 | Dreamstime.com