Last Updated on November 5, 2020
Many subdivisions and neighborhood developments are littered with homes built with the idea of maximizing land to building ratio. As a result, these homes are likely to have the worst possible location and orientation to the sun’s blazing heat. By sheer luck, some homeowners will find their homes sitting at a near perfect position with respect to the sun’s travel. It is the path of the sun that sets the stage for choosing your home orientation for passive solar.
Home Orientation for passive solar: Face south for solar gain and natural lighting
With known seasonal and directional patterns of the sun, taking advantage of its heat energy is being smart. This energy source is a key factor in deciding the home orientation for passive solar on your property. In the winter months, the sun rises in the southeast. The sun travels low in the south sky from late morning to early evening. By late evening, the sun begins to sets in the southwest.
In the summer months, the sun rises in the northeast. It moves high across the south sky throughout the day and sets in the northwest in the late evening. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Hence, the side of the building that is utilized for solar gain needs to face south. Facing south allows the home to take maximum advantage of the sun’s potential energy and natural light. In most areas, depending on your geographic location, a slight orientation to the east is a better position to increase morning sun in the winter and minimize summer afternoon sun.
Family oriented living spaces should be the areas to benefit from facing south
Because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the side of the building that is utilized for solar gain needs to be facing the south. This helps to take maximum advantage of the sun’s potential energy and light source. The goal is to have the longest part of the building to face north and south while the narrow sides face east and west. That is the best home orientation for passive solar energy. Moreover, the room placement is equally important. The rooms with the most daily activity should have the southern exposure. These rooms include the kitchen, breakfast, family room and master bedroom.
To maximize winter sun and summer shade, orient the home´s south face to within 10 degrees of true south. You should also choose a home site that receives full southern sun in winter. It is best to have no barriers from things like trees, other buildings, or hillsides. Use deciduous trees along with the home’s roof overhang to help block the high summer sun while allowing for natural light and warm sun rays in the winter months.
Home orientation for passive solar is just as important as designing the floor plan layout. When buying land to build a home, consider how the property is positioned in reference to the sun’s location throughout the day. When used in conjunction with green design and sustainable site planning, the direction your house faces can provide many energy benefits throughout the life of the home.