The Best Home Design Features for Cold Climates

Living in areas where winters can be brutally cold presents many day-to-day challenges for homeowners. Heating elements have to work overtime in these climates, causing energy costs to skyrocket. Safety issues arise and finding ways to be comfortable indoors can prove difficult.

House exterior
Image credit: Discount Remodeling and Repair

When designing a home located in a colder climate, consider a few helpful features to alleviate and eliminate common problems caused by low winter temperatures:

Solar Energy

Certain desert areas get both plenty of sunshine and lots of snow every winter. For instance, Santa Fe gets more than 20 inches of snow each year. Flagstaff averages annually 100 inches of snow. In both cities, however, the sun shines more than 325 days a year.

In regions like these, solar energy in winter will reduce energy bills significantly and be much more efficient than forced-air heating. Solar systems store energy for use by appliances, but can also be set up to circulate heat through the baseboards of a home with an under-the-floor heating system.

The only disadvantage of this system is that if snow accumulates on the solar panels it could interfere with collection. Clearing snow off the panels will solve this problem, though this will require constant attention during stormy seasons.


When designing your home, take advantage of afternoon light, especially in Northern locations. Windows on the south side of a home in the Northern Hemisphere will absorb the sun’s light and energy to warm up a room.

Eliminating any North-facing windows in your home’s design is a great way to prevent warm indoor air from escaping.


Make sure there is plenty of space below the roofline for any snow that falls from the rook. You will also want to make sure there is enough space to clear a safe walking path.

Image credit: J & S Custom Improvements, LLC

When designing your home, a Vancouver custom home builder suggests avoiding flat or flaring roofs, which will quickly accumulate snow. A standard, gable roof will facilitate fast melting and shedding of snowpack. Wood and slate shingles also should be avoided—metal roofs and asphalt shingles can handle heavy snow and extreme temperatures much better.


When designing a walkway, make sure it is wide enough to easily clear a path on and made with a flat, even material which can be easily shoveled. Consider getting rid of the snow shovel altogether—de-icing and snow melting systems which heat paths and driveways are well worth the investment, especially if you live in an area where snow falls regularly and accumulates easily.

If steps line the walkway, or there is a stairway into a porch of your house, rails will help prevent falls and injury.

Wood Stoves

Having a wood stove is a relatively inexpensive and extremely reliable way to heat a home in the middle of winter. These stoves are very efficient, long-lasting and can lend a warm ambiance to your home. Certain woods, such as pinion, maple and oak, emit a pleasant smell while providing plenty of heat. Installing a ceiling fan near the stove to spread the heat is an excellent way to heat a whole room—or entire floor—of your home.

While winters in some areas can be brutal, incorporating the strategies discussed into your home design will keep you and your family warm throughout the year.

About the Author: Emma is a freelance writer living in Boston, MA. When not writing, she enjoys reading and indoor rock climbing. Find her on Google +