Solar Orientation Issues
Snapshot & Benefits:
When building a new home, orienting it to take advantage of
passive solar heat
can help save a great deal of money off of your annual heating and cooling
bills. In the northern hemisphere, it is recommended that you orient your home
so that it is elongated in an east-west direction (with the widest side of the
home facing south) helps maximize the amount of solar energy used to heat your
home. This longest side should face anywhere from direct south to 10 degrees
east of south to take advantage of the sun's angle throughout the day.
windows on the south side of your home will further help take advantage of the
sun's heat as windows allow more heat through than solid walls. The total size
of the south-facing windows should be between five and twelve percent of the
total square footage of your home. For example, if you live in a 2000 square
foot home, all of the windows on the south side of your home should total
between 100 and 240 square feet. Having too many windows can overheat the rooms
and having too few can block some of the passive solar from entering your home.
Install enough windows on the north, east, and west sides of your home to allow
for balanced light, natural cooling, and any available views. Installing too
many windows on these other sides can drain the heat provided by the
southern-facing ones and decrease the efficiency of your passive solar.
proper solar orientation is integrated into the design of your home, it will
cost little more than simply building your home without the right orientation.
Because passive solar utilizes large amounts of south-facing windows, there will
be an initial expense to purchase and install them. This cost will be slightly
higher if you choose to go with
to further maximize your home's efficiency. Modifying your home through
additions to take advantage of passive solar can be expensive, but will help
save you money off of your annual energy bills and add value to your home.
Proper orientation and adequate amounts of south-facing glass can help provide
20-80% of the heat needed in the colder seasons, saving a significant amount of
money off of your annual heating and cooling bills (Home
Designing your home for maximum passive solar works best when constructing a new
home, completely rebuilding on an existing property, or making additions to the
south side of your home. Because solar orientation require the home to sit at a
certain angle to the sun, it is difficult to retrofit an existing home without
disrupting the foundation and completely moving the entire building. However,
if your home is oriented in an east-west manner with a good portion of the
exterior walls facing south, it is possible to add new windows to help enhance
its solar efficiency. If you are selecting a home to purchase, solar orientation
can be added to the features you are seeking.
windows on the south side of your home helps heat the home during the winter,
but can often overheat the home in the hotter months. To avoid this, install
overhangs over windows to block the sun at its higher summer angle. Consider
near the south side of your home. These will help block the sun in the summer
when it is at its hottest and the trees are in full bloom. In the winter, when
the trees lose their leaves, they will allow more sunlight through to penetrate
the windows and heat the indoor space.
of your home, size of overhangs, and amount of heat retained from passive solar
depends on your latitude and climate. It is important to understand the
at your location to maximize the savings that passive solar design can provide.
In hot climates, sun-tempered homes (homes with south-facing windows that
measure 5-7% of the total square footage of the home) provide the most solar
benefit. For colder climates, it is recommended that your south-facing windows
are sized to 7-12% of total square footage to take advantage of extra heating in
the cold winters
(Getting It Done):
If you are designing or redesigning your home, make sure your architect and
contractor have experience with solar home building. Tell them you are
interested in passive solar heat and ask them to design the building with the
proper orientation to provide for maximum heat and energy efficiency. Place the
most commonly used rooms along the south side of the house, leaving those that
are rarely used (storage spaces, extra bedrooms, etc.) on the north side. This
will help heat the rooms you spend the most time in and avoid wasting heat on
orienting your home for maximum passive solar heat, it is important to reinforce
it with thermal mass and proper insulation. Thermal mass is defined as
materials that retain heat and then slowly emit it as the surroundings cool.
Common types of thermal mass include brick, concrete, and wood, among other
materials. Installing thermal mass around the south-facing windows in your home
can help retain the heat from the sun and emit is slowly to warm the room after
the sun has gone down.
for Solar Power
(2:42) - HGTV Pro - This video explains how proper passive solar orientation can
help save you money on heating and cooling bills as well as where to place
windows, skylights, and trees to make the most of solar heating.
Information On This Topic:
Designing Your Place in the Sun
Sustainable Sources - Passive Solar Design