Energy is one of the hottest subjects for how-to-do-it books. These are just a few of the best.

The Solar Home Book, subtitled "Heating, Cooling and Designing with the Sun," has become something of an underground best seller. It was written by Bruce Anderson, a 30-year-old with a master's degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When he stopped by Washington recently, Anderson explained that he first became interested in solar energy simply because he needed a master's thesis and not much seemed to have been written on the subject. He wrote the thesis in 1972. Later he expanded it into a full-length book.

After working for a while with architect I. M. Pei, Anderson had decided that the world of big-time architecture was not for him and moved to Harrisville, N.H. There he organized Total Environmental Action, a group which has now expanded to publish a number of solar-related brochures and a magazine called Solar Age.

A former schoolmate of Anderson's, Michael Riordan, financed the publication of his book. Under the imprint of Cheshire Books, the paperback was illustrated and put together totally by people who had never worked on a book before.

Simultaneously, McGraw Hill Book Company published a hardbound textbook version together with Total Environmental Action called Solar Energy, Fundamentals in Building Design, which is somewhat more professionally oriented, though with much the same content. The paperback is $7.50 and available by mail (as well as in bookstores) from Cheshire Books, Church Hill, Harrisville, N.H., 03450. The hardbound version is $21.50, available in bookshops that specialize in technical publications.

Both books start out with Socrates (470-399 B.C.) as quoted by Xenophon in his Memorabilia :

"Now in houses with a south aspect, the sun's rays penetrate into the porticoes in winter, but in summer the path of the sun is right over our heads and above the roof so that there is shade. If, then, this is the best arrangement, we should build the south side loftier to get winter sun and the north side lower to keep out the cold winds. To put it shortly, the house in which the owner can find a pleasant retreat at all seasons and can store his belongings safely is presumably at once the pleasantest and the most beautiful."

From there, the books go on to take up "direct solar heating," by which they mean using ordinary means such as orienting windows properly, to collect solar heat; "soft technology" such as water walls and roof ponds; and then into "indirect" solar systems such as solar collectors. The paperback has a section on doing it yourself: solar water heating, energy conservation and heating an existing house. The more technical book goes further with diagrams, tables, and more detailed explanations.

Total Environmental Action has also gone on to produce a third money-maker which may be the most useful of all for the ordinary homeowner who hasn't yet decided that the sky's the limit. The third version is The Fuel Savers: A Kit of Solar Ideas for Existing Homes, by Anderson with Dan Scully, Don Prowler and Douglas Mahone. The sixty-page offset brochure was prepared for a community action program in Northwest New Jersey, NORWESCAP. It is available by mail for $3.75 including postage from TEA Inc., Church Hill, Harrisville, N.H., 03450.

THe brochure is well organized into easily understood sections, first presenting the idea, then variations on it. Applicability, advantages, disadvantages, costs, and finally a cost effectiveness evaluation are all considered.

The ideas seem sound and not too hard to carry out, to wit: "It can't be said too often: the best solar collector is a simple window that is insulated at night." And it goes on to suggest specific effective methods, such as shutters.

Architecture and Energy, by Cooper Union architecture professor Richard G. Stein ($12.95, Anchor Press/Doubleday) is a sophisticated, thoroughly sensible discussion of the whole question. It takes up specifics such as lighting and solar versus electrical heating, and reports on systems used around the world to capture natural heat.

Low-cost, Energy-Efficient Shelter for the Owner and Builder, edited by Eugene Eccli (Rodale Press, $10.95). In clear language, with easy to understand sketches and a few pleasant pictures, it discusses ways that people can build their own home. Eccli writes about how to get a loan in the first place, deciding whether to build or buy an older house, innovative designs such as circular houses (still the most inside for the least outside perimeter), insulation, greenhouses, solar heat, recycling materials, and so on. Eccli is a design engineer and an energy consultant as well as a research associte with the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington. His 408-page book certainly covers the widest territory of any book here. Anyone crazy enough to think about building his own house would be sane to pick up this book first.

Energy Book No. 1, edited by John Prenis ($4, published by Running Press, one of the best sources for practical design-and-how-to-do-it books) is sort of a Whole Earth Catalog format with quick and simple short and sometimes noval ideas of alternate energy sources. One easy solution to heating your swimming pool: float a plastic sheet on the water (no bubbles, that allows air to condense and cuts off the heat transfer), when direct sun is on the pool and, obviously, when you aren't swimming.

The Skylight Book: Capturing the Sun and the Moon, a Guide to Creating Natural Light, by Al Burns ($4.95 also from Running Press, 38 S. 19th St., Philadelphia, Pa., 19103). The publisher's note on the back explains it all: "Al Burns built his first skylight by cutting a hole in his roof, covering it with a storm window, and sealing it tight. That was many skylights ago.

"We wanted to publish a skylight book. We found Al and he built two of them at the Running Press Research Farm. The first one leaked. It took ten minutes to fix. One is perfect."

Burns' book has photographs and diagrams.

Window Design Strategies to Conserve Energy, No. 104 in the National Bureau of Standards Building Science Series, surely has to be one of the most helpful books ever put out by the government. S. Robert Hastings and Richard W. Crenshaw of the NBS Center for Building Technology wrote the book.

It gives thirty-three ways to: bring in solar heat through your windows in the winter and keep it out in the summer; insulate your windows: and ventilate the house in temperate weather. The publication was the result of research sponsored by NBS, the Energy Research and Development Adminstration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is available for $3.75 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, S.D. Stock Number 003-003-01794-9.