What's the state of the art on managing solar energy (esp. at the home)?

There's surely no shortage of opinion but I'm wondering if there is actual data on this.  The data should identified by climate zone where appropriate.  Assume the home is already reasonably sealed and insulated.

1) USING SUNLIGHT.  If we consider a UNIT OF AREA in the sunlight and want to derive benefit from this, is it better to let the sun shine through a window in cool weather (called passive heating)?  activate a PV solar panel to generate electricity?  provide air heating via solar heat exchange?  heat domestic hot water via a suitable heat exchange panel? heat the house by redirecting sunlight through a shade-side window?  Here, "BETTER" would be a) The most efficient capture and utilization of solar energy (no units) and b) The most effective capture when considering installed cost (ex:  Btu/year/$).  Cost-in-use would be better but installed cost is easier to get.

2) REDUCING SOLAR HEATING.  Similarly, in summer for that same unit area and as a window in a house, the sunlight would heat the house and add to the air conditioning load.  Is it better to let the sunlight penetrate and then use a photovoltaic panel of that area to reduce the electricity for air conditioning? use a solar screen or solar grate or Infiltrate to block some of the infrared in the sunlight that would otherwise penetrate the window?  shade the window using a window film or awning or shutters?  shade the window with internal curtains after sunlight has penetrated the window?  Similar definition of "better".

Environmental effects:  The more effective solutions would presumably be most beneficial to the environment but let's consider any useful perspective including aesthetics in the evaluation as long as we can see the actual data.  To keep it real, the time horizon is say 10 years.

3) COMPARING TO ALTERNATIVES.  Is it better to do something about the sunlight or spend the money on more attic insulation?  (assume it's already say R20)

4) CLIMATE ZONE.  Naturally, some solutions will be more effective in hot weather climates and others more effective in colder regions. 

5) NEW CONSTRUCTION AND SUPER SEALED AND INSULATED DESIGNS.  There are intriguing options here.  Let's save that for a separate discussion.

Perhaps Flexlab at LBNL will add to the discussion.

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Look into passive solar heating. The south windows have enough overhang that the windows are shaded in summer, but allow the sun through in winter.


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