I have held out for 5 years. We have rented and my wife has, at times and perfectly within her rights, wanted to kill me. I still want to rent but in the interest of family happiness we are going to make a home. (I blame the waiting all on iTulip and on most of you here BTW.)

That said, I need some opinions on what we should do, as I have close to zero experience in these things. The only property I have owned was two years in a condo with a valet and a doorman. There weren't a lot of decisions harder than what color I would paint the walls. Granted, I actually am a pretty handy guy, but that isn't nearly the same as following a thoughtful path in building a new home.

We have put an offer on a place that needs to be torn down to the studs and will also need an addition to suit our needs. We plan on living in this place for 30 years. I have a trustworthy contractor, architect and realtor who are all close friends. I wonder, can anyone point me in the right direction when it comes to insulation and energy options? What should I think of? What books should I read, what sites should I visit? What kind of heat? What sort of AC? What has a decent ROI?

We live in the northeast and the property is sunny. Half of the roof faces directly south and is never in shade. It is more than a quarter of an acre in the middle of a dense city suburb (it's a giant lot for the area), yet is actually fairly private. There is natural gas to the property already and it has sewage hookup. Things I have ruminated over are: a solar water heater, geothermal, passive solar, security concerns, insulation types, window styles, the relative benefits to various types of siding and roofing, radiant heating, etc. There is enough space for us to build an addition and for me to still have a very large vegetable garden (sweet!) and a place for the kids to play. I might even put chickens out there. Comments, suggestions, thoughts? Should I put in a moat and balustrades?