House facing direction and Solar heat

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House facing direction and Solar heat

Could the group come to a consensus on what they believe is the best direction (in order, 1 to 8) that a house should face if the goal is to reduce the amount solar heat (during the afternoon and evenings since most people work during the day)?

Coolest
1. N
2. NE
3. E
4. SE
5. S
6. NW
7. SW
8. W
Hottest

In particular, I'm not sure about "N vs NE", "SE vs S vs NW", and "SW vs W". What do you think?

SteveNet
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Given a piece of flat land with no shade in any direction, what do you mean by face (which side)?
Shape of the home, Long ranch vs square 2 story?
Is there a particular side of the home that you need to have less solar gain?
For instance, a square home no matter how you turn it will have about the same solar gain depending on...
Which side has the roof pitch? (The side with the gutters).
Windows on that side you want facing the worst direction?
Overhang width, location geographically.
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Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:20 am

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

For which side, let's assume the house is a cube with only 1 side of windows, the rest walls. Which way should the window-side face to reduce the most heat (all other variables equal, assume Florida as the location)?

SteveNet
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

bagelhead wrote:For which side, let's assume the house is a cube with only 1 side of windows, the rest walls. Which way should the window-side face to reduce the most heat (all other variables equal, assume Florida as the location)?
North.
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Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

bagelhead wrote:Could the group come to a consensus on what they believe is the best direction (in order, 1 to 8) that a house should face if the goal is to reduce the amount solar heat (during the afternoon and evenings since most people work during the day)?

Coolest
1. N
2. NE
3. E
4. SE
5. S
6. NW
7. SW
8. W
Hottest

In particular, I'm not sure about "N vs NE", "SE vs S vs NW", and "SW vs W". What do you think?
Depending on the local shading and your latitude and ignoring all other local factors (as below):
Cool
- N
- NE, NW
- E & W the same
- SE, SW
- S

Now:
- because of the way you use the house W always ranks hottest in a pair
- the angle you face will matter. Whilst I am pretty sure that S is hotter than W, and SW hotter than W, if you are not exactly oriented on a compass then that might not be true (eg we face 15 degrees SE)

Generally NW should be cooler I should think than any East-West-South facing. However I am 50 degrees latitude, you may be quite a bit further South.

OK there may be a piece of software on the web which does this, otherwise, if it matters, an architect can do the calculation.

It is so site dependent. We face 15 degrees SE but in an English climate that's not a huge issue (most of the time).

Your latitude will count. So will your longitude (where you are in the time zone east to west sets your sunrise and sunset, latitude sets your day length).

*when* you get a lot of sun counts ie seasonal variation in rain etc. When is your overheating problem? July-August? (the normal, but not certain).

Vegetation counts as well. Plus local microcontour. And the height of surrounding buildings.

South will be your hottest *unless* you have a long roof overhang. That latter is an old trick. In winter, when you want the winter sun (and it's further down in the sky) it comes in, in summer, the sun is higher in the sky for much of the day and the roof extension blocks it.

Due West is hot due to how you are using the house, and because the day is hotter in the afternoon (peak temperature usually around 4pm, ie well past the point of direct sunlight).

If you have a chance to do something about this at the design and construction phase you can.

In a hot dry climate you want thermal mass. Because the house will cool off at night, and be slow to heat up in the day. Classic desert home.

In a hot damp climate that doesn't really work (the humidity means the air does not cool off much at night, heat is trapped).

Note that the location of windows is usually about view and internal light. Anything that is not a standard size in glazing costs a fortune so even if you have a big picture window, it's better to make it up of smaller sized standard units if you can. There are some really high spec standard units out there (the Germans are very good at this, although I do not know if they understand hot damp climates).

Generally we don't pick our window locations based on heating/ cooling issues but on view and light. The German Passivhaus standard relies totally on passive solar heating + heat used by residents (no heating system at all). However Germany does not have the hot damp summers that the eastern half of North America has, so one would have to make significant local modifications.

If the house has a nice view in a particular direction (if only onto the back yard) that's where the big windows are going to go. North facing windows don't get much light (again, latitude counts in that).

In both cases the very sunny sides of the house:

- should have small windows or no windows
- should have roof overhangs
- could have external shutters (if you get storms though, they may blow off, and they do need regular painting etc.). Note internal shutters and curtains don't do you much good, because once the heat (solar radiation) is through the window, the heat has to go *somewhere*. Visible light can get reflected back out, but glass traps heat (the greenhouse effect)-- it radiates into the shutter, the fittings, the wall etc.
- it's not cheap, but commercial buildings use solar reflective glass. You can get glass that doesn't impede vision out (much) but reflects almost all the heat back out. Basically the more you pay, the better the glass. It's worth doing that if you have significant South or West Facing windows, even if you don't do it for the whole house. Take a look at the Pilkington and Pilkington USA (Asahi Glass) websites and the magic words in the manuals are 'solar insolation' and 'overheating'.

Overheating is a huge issue in commercial construction, which most architects seem to get wrong, necessitating massive air conditioning plant (which therefore runs too hot or too cold in the building, to the discomfort of users).

Kernschatten
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Speaking as a weather forecaster, Valuethinker nailed all angles of it.

Valuethinker wrote:There are some really high spec standard units out there (the Germans are very good at this, although I do not know if they understand hot damp climates).
They seem to understand reasonably well... but not well enough to want A/C. We have to be mindful of household mold and open/close windows throughout the day to control air flow. It's not Missippi hot/humid here, but it's hot&humid in the summer and cold/cold&dry in the winter.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Kernschatten wrote:Speaking as a weather forecaster, Valuethinker nailed all angles of it.

Valuethinker wrote:There are some really high spec standard units out there (the Germans are very good at this, although I do not know if they understand hot damp climates).
They seem to understand reasonably well... but not well enough to want A/C. We have to be mindful of household mold and open/close windows throughout the day to control air flow. It's not Missippi hot/humid here, but it's hot&humid in the summer and cold/cold&dry in the winter.
Below the Mason-Dixon line in the US, in a band all the way to East Texas, is really weather we just do not have in Europe, not even in the Adriatic in summer.

The humidity hovers around 90% relative I think. Night temperatures can be nearly as hot as day temperatures. Everything just steams. It's really sub tropical/ tropical. That kind of weather can stretch up to New York but in the South it is relentless. They have evolved technologies and methods for dealing with this (the traditional home-- high ceilings and ceiling fans). Unfortunately modern tract built houses are often not well optimized for energy efficiency and comfort. For example a variable speed AC makes a huge difference (the problem is humidity not heat, often, and a conventional AC switches on and off too much-- you are either too cold, or too hot and sweaty) but they cost more and, as a result, developers don't install them.

If you haven't experienced it, it's hard to describe (though as a meteorologist I expect you know what I am talking about).

You get to the western US and you get to real desert. I believe Phoenix can do 120 degrees F on a hot summers day. That's a Libyan temperature.

In the Midwest US the climate is more like Kiev or Moscow. Chicago can do +40 C, and -40C, in the same year. And plenty humid in summer, too. That is more like Europe, but more extreme than most places (I believe) in Germany?

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

- wood frames - nice but they have to be repainted periodically. Should last forever if maintained

- plastic - we made a mistake here with our triple glazing. Plastic lasts 20-25 years (and is then an environmental nightmare to dispose of) and discolours over time. Also it is not structurally strong, so you get very wide bands around the sides and across the middle, doesn't look as nice, and cuts the light you get

- aluminium - this is probably the best sort of window *if* it has a thermal barrier between the outer side and the inner side (otherwise the frames are something like 10x worse for heat leakage in/out compared to plastic or wood). That means you have to go to a pretty good specification to get that. They last a very long time and you can get them where they use recycled aluminium (very low environmental cost compared to primary). It's worth doing, but it will cost

The key with double glaze is to get 'coated': a 'soft' or 'hard' invisible coat on the inner layer which significantly blocks heat transfer.

Even the best window is c. 5 times worse than the insulation on a good wall (assuming 6 inches of good glass wool insulation + plasterboard/gyprock + vapour barrier + exterior brick). The average window is something like 8x worse. So if you add window area, you are going to lose/ gain heat. But nice windows are a big part of what sells a house, particularly the 'feature rooms' (kitchen, living room, and any room that has a spectacular view).

HardKnocker
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Location: New Jersey USA

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

North to reduce heat.
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livesoft
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

One should investigate existing houses and their site plans in the locale for the house under question.

We live in South Texas. Our house faces south. There are deciduous and pine trees that shade the front. Better shade in the summer hot months, less shade in the milder winter months. The north side of the house is probably at least 80% glass, so we don't need to turn on the lights very often. There are no significant windows on the east or west sides of the house. Because of the latitude, there is direct sunlight into some of the northside windows in the early morning and the late evening, but not during the rest of the day. The front of the house has rooms that are rarely used (living room, dining room, guest bedroom) which provide an extra buffer against the summer heat. The window treatments (blinds, curtains) are almost always closed on the south facing windows and almost always open in the north facing windows.

Heating and A/C bills are very reasonable.

I think our trees are a big deal in saving energy.
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

All else equal, assuming only 1 side of the house with windows for arguments sake, which is cooler for each of these 3 comparisons:

1. "N vs NE"
- so far, consensus is N is cooler than NE

2. "SE vs S vs NW"
- so far, consensus is NW is cooler than SE is cooler than S

3. "SW vs W"
- so far, consensus is W is cooler than SW

4. What about "E vs NW"?

Is this summary right?

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

This is a very interesting topic to me. I'm in southeast Pennsylvania (not far from Vanguard, actually) and we did NOT take this into consideration when we built our first house. Keep in mind that I'm the northeast, not Florida.

Our first house was a rectangle and we had it built. The back of the house faced due West. The main living areas (family room, kitchen) were in the back. That meant the areas we spent the most time were getting baked. It also meant that I was never going to build a deck. No way I was going to sit in the westerly sun. The South side of the house was the ONLY side that didn't have windows. So all that lovely solar heating in the winter time was totally missed. Plus, it meant our main living areas rarely got much light in the winter. The North side of the house had the family room fireplace (wood burning with chimney) which meant in the winter, the north winds would howl and force cold air into the family room via the chimney flue.

That first house was just one massive mistake. Our heating bills where high in the winter and cooling bills were high in the summer. I'm just glad we managed to find another first time home buying couple to take it off our hands.

Our second house was built in 2010. My primary focus was on the lot and which way the main living areas would face. Because the housing crunch was in full swing, the development we selected had ~90 open building lots to pick from. When I selected perimeter lots that faced permanent green space (woodland), I had eliminated about 50 lots. When I narrowed those down based on SUN direction, I was left with only FOUR lots that would work.

I ended up selecting a lot that had the back yard facing South-Southeast. We added a 12x12 bump-out off the back of the kitchen and put glass on all three walls. It's over full foundation and it's where we eat our meals. On a sunny day in the dead of winter it's toasty warm, bright, and inviting. Because our main living areas (kitchen, family room, kids play room) are along the south-southeast they are bright and cheerful during the winter doldrums.

You walk onto the deck from the bump-out's sliding glass doors. The bump-out and rear wall of the house form a natural alcove for the deck. Because the house is biased towards the East just a touch (rather than due south), in the middle of summer my deck is shaded by about 330pm (Sun is now blocked by the rear corner of the house).

We placed the master bedroom in the southeast corner so that we're awoken by sunrise in the morning.

The only negative is that the garage is in the northeast rather than the northwest. I couldn't fix that, unfortunately. Had it been in the northwest, it would have shielded the house from afternoon, summer sun.

I absolutely LOVE having the back of the house facing south-southeast. I used Google Earth to determine direction before selecting our building location. It's awesome. I learned my lesson with our first house. Don't ignore the sun's location during the year and build your house to take advantage of the seasons, not work against them.

Random Poster
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Valuethinker wrote:- aluminium - this is probably the best sort of window *if* it has a thermal barrier between the outer side and the inner side (otherwise the frames are something like 10x worse for heat leakage in/out compared to plastic or wood). That means you have to go to a pretty good specification to get that. They last a very long time and you can get them where they use recycled aluminium (very low environmental cost compared to primary). It's worth doing, but it will cost.
I currently live in a semi-glass wall condo in Canada. The window frames are all aluminium. The amount of condensation that forms around the window frames during extreme temperatures swings and in the middle of winter is astonishing. It isn't due to the humidity in the condo; I'm beginning to think it is because the aluminum transfers the cold from outside so efficiently.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Random Poster wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:- aluminium - this is probably the best sort of window *if* it has a thermal barrier between the outer side and the inner side (otherwise the frames are something like 10x worse for heat leakage in/out compared to plastic or wood). That means you have to go to a pretty good specification to get that. They last a very long time and you can get them where they use recycled aluminium (very low environmental cost compared to primary). It's worth doing, but it will cost.
I currently live in a semi-glass wall condo in Canada. The window frames are all aluminium. The amount of condensation that forms around the window frames during extreme temperatures swings and in the middle of winter is astonishing. It isn't due to the humidity in the condo; I'm beginning to think it is because the aluminum transfers the cold from outside so efficiently.
The moisture will be from within the condo-- the air is likely bone dry out there. That in condenses is because the window and frame are so cold.

What is wrong is the specification: since developers don't get any improvement in value from buying higher grade windows than building code, they generally don't (they get more value in the sale price out of spending the money on fancier kitchen countertops etc.).

Aluminium frames are fantastic transmitters of heat unless there is a thermal break in the frame and the dividers.

leonard
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Remember - solar heat gain is determined by more than just house "facing" direction. Windows and building material like Masonery - will effect the amount of solar heat gain. And, the amount of eve overhang will also effect it. And, of course, insulation levels in the house.

I suggest more research in to the overall picture of what determine passive solar heating.
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Imperabo
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

The West vs East issue matters more if you live in an area where it gets cold in the morning even on hot days (not Florida). Where I live, we might have a 100 degree high and a 55 degree low. So no matter how much sun I get in morning I can always open the windows to cool the house. Morning sun is never a bad thing, because it moderates the temperature throughout the day in the summer and warms the house the rest of the year. It's the afternoon sun that's a killer.

livesoft
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

I'm surprised no one mentioned the common sense approach of Feng Shui which covers all this stuff in gory detail.
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Teetlebaum
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

livesoft wrote:I think our trees are a big deal in saving energy.
Yes indeed. The house I used to live in had large trees shading it on the south and west sides, but they had to be cut down after a severe storm. The house got much hotter in the summer. (This was below the Mason-Dixon line, had it extended into the Midwest.)

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

leonard wrote:Remember - solar heat gain is determined by more than just house "facing" direction. Windows and building material like Masonery - will effect the amount of solar heat gain. And, the amount of eve overhang will also effect it. And, of course, insulation levels in the house.

I suggest more research in to the overall picture of what determine passive solar heating.
A decent Building Science textbook is probably the place to start.

That and architects use thermal modelling software. If that's not available directly on the web, then retaining an architect to do the calculations (if one is self building, then it may be the company providing the kit home has that available-- in any case for planning applications, etc., you may need an architect to do the drawings anyways) is probably prudent.

It's not something to get wrong, because you cannot fix it once you have built the house.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

investingdad wrote:This is a very interesting topic to me. I'm in southeast Pennsylvania (not far from Vanguard, actually) and we did NOT take this into consideration when we built our first house. Keep in mind that I'm the northeast, not Florida.

Our first house was a rectangle and we had it built. The back of the house faced due West. The main living areas (family room, kitchen) were in the back. That meant the areas we spent the most time were getting baked. It also meant that I was never going to build a deck. No way I was going to sit in the westerly sun. The South side of the house was the ONLY side that didn't have windows. So all that lovely solar heating in the winter time was totally missed. Plus, it meant our main living areas rarely got much light in the winter. The North side of the house had the family room fireplace (wood burning with chimney) which meant in the winter, the north winds would howl and force cold air into the family room via the chimney flue.

That first house was just one massive mistake. Our heating bills where high in the winter and cooling bills were high in the summer. I'm just glad we managed to find another first time home buying couple to take it off our hands.

Our second house was built in 2010. My primary focus was on the lot and which way the main living areas would face. Because the housing crunch was in full swing, the development we selected had ~90 open building lots to pick from. When I selected perimeter lots that faced permanent green space (woodland), I had eliminated about 50 lots. When I narrowed those down based on SUN direction, I was left with only FOUR lots that would work.

I ended up selecting a lot that had the back yard facing South-Southeast. We added a 12x12 bump-out off the back of the kitchen and put glass on all three walls. It's over full foundation and it's where we eat our meals. On a sunny day in the dead of winter it's toasty warm, bright, and inviting. Because our main living areas (kitchen, family room, kids play room) are along the south-southeast they are bright and cheerful during the winter doldrums.

You walk onto the deck from the bump-out's sliding glass doors. The bump-out and rear wall of the house form a natural alcove for the deck. Because the house is biased towards the East just a touch (rather than due south), in the middle of summer my deck is shaded by about 330pm (Sun is now blocked by the rear corner of the house).

We placed the master bedroom in the southeast corner so that we're awoken by sunrise in the morning.

The only negative is that the garage is in the northeast rather than the northwest. I couldn't fix that, unfortunately. Had it been in the northwest, it would have shielded the house from afternoon, summer sun.

I absolutely LOVE having the back of the house facing south-southeast. I used Google Earth to determine direction before selecting our building location. It's awesome. I learned my lesson with our first house. Don't ignore the sun's location during the year and build your house to take advantage of the seasons, not work against them.
Thank you for that-- very interesting.

If you study ancient houses (I am thinking old Greek and Roman villas, etc.) you can see the architects/ builders understood this stuff. Ditto the likes of Thomas Jefferson, an accomplished architect (arguably The Lawn at UVA Charlottesville is the greatest piece of institutional architecture of its period).

There is a modern tendency to try to use mechanicals (HVAC) to overcome the seasons and the sun-- and you can't do that with greatest comfort and efficiency.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Teetlebaum wrote:
livesoft wrote:I think our trees are a big deal in saving energy.
Yes indeed. The house I used to live in had large trees shading it on the south and west sides, but they had to be cut down after a severe storm. The house got much hotter in the summer. (This was below the Mason-Dixon line, had it extended into the Midwest.)
Trees make a huge difference. Both in shading the windows, and shading the roof. Of course deciduous trees rather than conifers are great, because in winter there are no leaves to block the light (downside: your evestroughs get jammed, just when the fall storms hit).

Generally also they make the air around the house cooler. Our ancestors, pre air conditioning, knew what they were on about in planting trees around most houses.

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

The cooling effect of trees is remarkable.

Because my house is new construction in a development, I have no mature trees in my yard. However, I do back up to woodland. In the summer months when I'm out mowing the grass and I ride back under the shade at the edge of the woods, the temperature is easily 5F cooler, if not more. I can feel the cooler air flowing out of the dense woods.

czeckers
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Location: Upstate NY

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

If your sole consideration is to eliminate heat gain, then you put the window wall on the North side and the garage on the West side. Place all the utility areas such as laundry room, mud room, and bathrooms against the South wall as these generally have small windows and act as a buffer between the South wall and the main living spaces. Turning the house 45 degrees so that you face NE, will also mean that you will also have 2 walls facing the West sun (NW And SW) walls.

However, there are drawbacks as well and I'd recommend the above strategy only in a climate where there aren't many heating days. Otherwise there are better ways to design the house. Someone mentioned the German Passivehaus standard and that's a great place to start.

Main window wall to South or SE. Simons SE means that most of house will get natural daylight at some point in the day. You can use overhangs to block the high sun in the summer it allow the lower winter sun in directly to provide heating. Use the Gaarage to block the low West sun and don't put any windows on that side of the house. If you want windows there, you can use trees to block the sun. Landscaping is great for that. Deciduous trees block sun in summer but drop leaves and allow it in the winter. Again, a lot depends on your climate and also the view from your property. Don't buy property where the view is to the West.

My current house has what you describe -- large window wall to North (because that's where the view is), garage on West. The house stays cool in the summer, but winter heating costs approach \$800/month. If I had designed the house I would have allowed for some South windows with overhangs. I dont get a lot of natural light and the day light is very flat. Im told its great light for painting but i dont paint. On the plus side, I have a lot of uninterrupted roof on the South and may put up some solar panels soon. Sorry for the typos, did this on phone.

-K
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Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

czeckers wrote:If your sole consideration is to eliminate heat gain, then you put the window wall on the North side and the garage on the West side. Place all the utility areas such as laundry room, mud room, and bathrooms against the South wall as these generally have small windows and act as a buffer between the South wall and the main living spaces. Turning the house 45 degrees so that you face NE, will also mean that you will also have 2 walls facing the West sun (NW And SW) walls.

However, there are drawbacks as well and I'd recommend the above strategy only in a climate where there aren't many heating days. Otherwise there are better ways to design the house. Someone mentioned the German Passivehaus standard and that's a great place to start.

Main window wall to South or SE. Simons SE means that most of house will get natural daylight at some point in the day. You can use overhangs to block the high sun in the summer it allow the lower winter sun in directly to provide heating. Use the Gaarage to block the low West sun and don't put any windows on that side of the house. If you want windows there, you can use trees to block the sun. Landscaping is great for that. Deciduous trees block sun in summer but drop leaves and allow it in the winter. Again, a lot depends on your climate and also the view from your property. Don't buy property where the view is to the West.

My current house has what you describe -- large window wall to North (because that's where the view is), garage on West. The house stays cool in the summer, but winter heating costs approach \$800/month. If I had designed the house I would have allowed for some South windows with overhangs. I dont get a lot of natural light and the day light is very flat. Im told its great light for painting but i dont paint. On the plus side, I have a lot of uninterrupted roof on the South and may put up some solar panels soon. Sorry for the typos, did this on phone.

-K
Like Ontario, Upstate NY has that devlish climate. Hot in summer. Very cold in winter. And you get more snow than we do .

Yes north facing windows are depressing, particularly at the higher latitudes. However we get a nice sunset from the West across our garden, so that is better (we face 15 degrees SE, at 50 degrees latitude)- -the light slants across our gardens in the summer evening, and I wonder if the Victorian builders thought of that when they laid out the subdivision and that's why it is that way?

South facing windows you have to be clever with overhangs, trees etc.

Western sunsets on a west side are a killer, that side of my parents house was awful, but they put in an awning, and there are tall trees at the back of a 120' garden. So it's really mostly a problem 12.30-4.00 pm. But even in winter the sun room (with leaded glass windows) gets too hot.

It is snowing outside in London today and it feels weird to be talking about too hot .

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Somebody mentioned Feng Shui as well.

I think there's a lot to Feng Shui for laying out a house. Not because I subscribe to the 'energy' (chi) or spiritual aspects of Feng Shui, but because I think it's a compilation of tremendous common sense and working with the Seasons and not against them. One needs to consider, though, that the Chinese thinkers that worked on this were living at a certain latitude. If you're not at their latitude, much of the guidelines won't work.

You can talk about the 'Chi' of putting your master bedroom in the Southeast, or you can recognize that the human body responds to sunlight and the waking process is triggered by sunlight. So, it's logical to put your bedroom where you'll get morning sunlight falling on you. It's less about Chi and more about simple physiology and logical thinking.

One of the other components that resonated with me when I selected a lot was not placing your house at the top of a tee (imagine residential streets forming a T and your house is at the top of the intersection. Feng Shui says this is 'bad energy'. Ok. Maybe. But practically speaking it means that every car that drives up the street at night will shine headlights into your windows. So don't build there.

It also says to build inside the curve of a path, not the outside. Bad Chi. OK. Or consider that, at night again, the inside of the bend will never have a car's headlights shining into your windows. But if your home is on the outside of the curve, you'll get headlights into your house. Logical.

Building near moving water brings good energy. Again, whatever. But about 700 yards from my house is a very large creek (think 100 feet wide) that, on a quiet evening, is an audible rushing sound on my deck. Very relaxing white noise.

So yes, I researched Feng Shui for the logical implications of what it suggests. And I found that when you take away the Eastern religon aspect, there is an underpining of common sense concepts.

NHRATA01
Posts: 462
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Location: New York City area

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Building near moving water brings good energy. Again, whatever. But about 700 yards from my house is a very large creek (think 100 feet wide) that, on a quiet evening, is an audible rushing sound on my deck. Very relaxing white noise.
Until that creek overflows! Starting to move off topic from the initial intent of energy efficiency, but when buying I always looked at a house fairly removed from water sources, on a mild elevation vs the road, and not at the bottom of any slope.

On topic, deciduous trees are great, though I like many Americans in the suburbs, moved into a fairly new development which was first clear cut, so I won't reap the benefits of tree shade until my retirement years (and I'm 33). It's a shame developers don't plan out tree removal a bit wiser.

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Nope. Eighty feet elevation below. I looked at flood plain data.

SteveNet
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

NHRATA01 wrote:
Building near moving water brings good energy. Again, whatever. But about 700 yards from my house is a very large creek (think 100 feet wide) that, on a quiet evening, is an audible rushing sound on my deck. Very relaxing white noise.
Until that creek overflows! Starting to move off topic from the initial intent of energy efficiency, but when buying I always looked at a house fairly removed from water sources, on a mild elevation vs the road, and not at the bottom of any slope.

On topic, deciduous trees are great, though I like many Americans in the suburbs, moved into a fairly new development which was first clear cut, so I won't reap the benefits of tree shade until my retirement years (and I'm 33). It's a shame developers don't plan out tree removal a bit wiser.
I'm in Tennessee, yes hot summers, hot sun.
I struggled for years with what kind of deciduous shade trees to use around the home on the southern-ish side, 1 story ranch.
Too Tall, slow growing, invasive roots, storm damage, bugs, etc.
Finally I decided on not a tree... but a shrub. I had found the perfect solution, fast growing, drought resistant, disease free, almost kill proof, no bug damage, no threat from storm damage and gets about 30-35 tall.
Crape Myrtle Natchez white tree size. Let to grow into tree size not hacked back, but pruned with only 5 main trunks or less.
Local nursery had them b&b 18' tall, I had 4 planted 3 yrs ago and now they are about 25' with a 20 ft' spread.
One of the best things I have ever had planted. Cuttings root easily too.
Being frugal is hard to learn, but once learned is hard to stop.

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

For fast growing shrubs that get REALLY tall and stay compact like a cone, look at Leyland Cypress.

I used them at our first house to block view of a road. They did a great job when planted on 5 foot centers. After 8 years they had gone from 3 foot tall to 20 feet tall, solid two feet per year.

Once they get that big, you need to prune them. We sold our house before we had to do that.

SteveNet
Posts: 288
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

investingdad wrote:For fast growing shrubs that get REALLY tall and stay compact like a cone, look at Leyland Cypress.

I used them at our first house to block view of a road. They did a great job when planted on 5 foot centers. After 8 years they had gone from 3 foot tall to 20 feet tall, solid two feet per year.

Once they get that big, you need to prune them. We sold our house before we had to do that.
True they are good at privacy but for a southern exposure when I need the winter sun for some heat, deciduous is my better choice, and my view is to the south as well so keeping the Crepes trimmed underneath still gives a good view out the windows and a canopy of shade.
Although if the southern side has no view or much in the way of windows then an evergreen would work particularly in the lower southern states where heating isn't much of an issue in winter.
Being frugal is hard to learn, but once learned is hard to stop.

dratkinson
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Location: Centennial CO

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Just for grins, you might want to explore this website as they seem to have a lot of solar ideas for heating, cooling, electricity production, ....

Build It Solar: http://builditsolar.com/
d.r.a, not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.

Breezy
Posts: 133
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Well, I'd never buy or live in a house that has just one wall of windows. It would be too dark. Is this just an academic exercise, or are you actually building a house? There should be a window(s) in every room.

I live in a hot, dry climate, and here is how I feel about my windows:

Downstairs: Best windows (for temperature) are the north facing ones, by a wide margin. Next best, east, because of the light and the morning temps are cooler than afternoon temps. Our front entry faces east, and that works well.

Worst - south-facing windows. If I were designing the house, I would have small high windows only for light and maybe cross-ventilation on the south side. Second worst - west-facing windows because of the long hours of direct sunlight.

Teetlebaum
Posts: 456
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:27 pm

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Here's a solution used in hot, dry climate in the 1890's:
This is a photo of what is now known as "Old Main", a building on the U. of A. campus in Tucson, (taken some time ago):

Here's a more recent photo showing the twelve foot wide porches (I found it here):

Novine
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Our old house has a nicely designed roof with overhangs that help block direct sunlight in the summer but allows more sunlight in the winter when we want it. The same design helps keeps rain away from the foundation. Many "modern" homes seem to be designed without any thought on how to design a home to work with the elements.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Novine wrote:Our old house has a nicely designed roof with overhangs that help block direct sunlight in the summer but allows more sunlight in the winter when we want it. The same design helps keeps rain away from the foundation. Many "modern" homes seem to be designed without any thought on how to design a home to work with the elements.
Go back to pre 1940 say. Houses built in 2s and 3s by small builders. Sell a house, that's the working capital for the next pair on the street.

So houses are quirky. In Victorian London, the builder often lived on the same street-- his house would have some special features-- nicer finish, decoration, bigger lot etc. And your customer is your neighbour, and before they buy they talk to all your previous clients.

Now? Big companies build hundreds or thousands of homes with large preassembly and deskilled labour on site. Clear the site, flatten it, and produce the proportions of the 7 different models on the development. Sell out Phase 1, build Phase 2 etc. Someone mentioned they don't think of trees-- trees are a pain on a construction site, even though you would think they would increase the sale prices. So cut them.

Once the builder has sold, well there is insurance and warranty, but basically they are done, through, gone. Quality local homebuilding companies (I think Fox and Jacobs was once such in Dallas) get taken over by bigger chains without the local connection.

About 3 miles to my west, in London, there is a 1910 suburb where they still advertise houses as 'Collins Built'-- the family that built them in the first 20 years of the 20th century, and of higher quality.

So designs now are 'cookie cutter' and not suited to the site.

And the customer buys on things like finish-- how nice are the kitchens? How big are the walk in closets? They are not attuned to the long term issues of living in a house. Usually customer is simply worried about headline price and what you get for that-- they are straining the limits of their finances to buy.

Mechanicals like AC used to 'overcome' issues of climate, light, location. Which just don't work as well.

Zoning Laws and HOAs can make this all worse. Everything a single family dwelling. Minimum lot frontages etc.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Breezy wrote:Well, I'd never buy or live in a house that has just one wall of windows. It would be too dark. Is this just an academic exercise, or are you actually building a house? There should be a window(s) in every room.
I don't think that was the intent of the Original Post, it's become an academic exercise in that point.

Besides building codes (which will specify ventilation and eg bedrooms, escape routes) mere practicality would say you are absolutely right. Who builds a room without a window? No buyer would value such a room unless a utility room, basement rec room etc. (where I am familiar, the building codes require windows or other fire escape from basement rooms).
I live in a hot, dry climate, and here is how I feel about my windows:

Downstairs: Best windows (for temperature) are the north facing ones, by a wide margin. Next best, east, because of the light and the morning temps are cooler than afternoon temps. Our front entry faces east, and that works well.

Worst - south-facing windows. If I were designing the house, I would have small high windows only for light and maybe cross-ventilation on the south side. Second worst - west-facing windows because of the long hours of direct sunlight.
In a near desert climate, south facing windows must be a pain. If you have a long overhang (porch even better!) and high thermal resistant windows, they can work on the south or west sides, although maybe once you get to west Texas, even that is not enough?

In colder climates, even the best windows leak heat, and of course there are privacy and security issues with big windows. There is a case for making big windows a feature of a morning room, or a family room, or an office, say.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

dratkinson wrote:Just for grins, you might want to explore this website as they seem to have a lot of solar ideas for heating, cooling, electricity production, ....

Build It Solar: http://builditsolar.com/
Other than passive solar heat/ design, which has to be managed carefully (because of overheating even in fairly northern places), solar fits into my category of 'bling' or rather nice to have rather than essential.

To be fair, there's a case for it. Lots of places in the US you are going to get 1500-2000kwhr pa for 1 peak kw of capacity (a house roof south facing array should run 2-4 peak kw capacity). So a well positioned system could offset your annual electricity consumption (and in California that's valuable-- or Hawaii). And in probably about 1/3-1/2rd of US solar hot water is going to work as well (although there are probably 4 months of the year when it won't). It might not have a great payback (10+ years) but it will save significantly.

Note a solar panel, if not flush with the roof, also has a significant shading value. The heat absorbed by the array is partly radiated or conducted into the roof, but partly reradiated.

But the key is to get the house right. The solar heating/ insolation, and the insulation and leak tightness generally. That's 80% (90%) of the battle with an energy efficient house. Enough insulation in the roof and walls, and airtightness. And the latter is danged difficult to achieve, you need a contractor who knows what they are doing.

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

The tree clearing is annoying. Given how people flock to homesites in developments that are near woods you'd think builders would work around them. But they don't.

When we moved into our first place, I spent my first summer planting trees. A lot of them. A dozen on my half acre plus yard. And I put in about two dozen Leyland Cypress as a screen to the road behind the house. I was busting my hump to get things growing. It struck me as odd that I was one of maybe 6 houses out of 200 that was putting so much effort into trees.

When we decided to sell 8 years later, those trees were starting to pick up steam. Was it a selling point? Had to be. Our buyer made an offer during the first week of the listing during the market downturn. People like greenery.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

investingdad wrote:The tree clearing is annoying. Given how people flock to homesites in developments that are near woods you'd think builders would work around them. But they don't.

When we moved into our first place, I spent my first summer planting trees. A lot of them. A dozen on my half acre plus yard. And I put in about two dozen Leyland Cypress as a screen to the road behind the house. I was busting my hump to get things growing. It struck me as odd that I was one of maybe 6 houses out of 200 that was putting so much effort into trees.

When we decided to sell 8 years later, those trees were starting to pick up steam. Was it a selling point? Had to be. Our buyer made an offer during the first week of the listing during the market downturn. People like greenery.
The Maples on my parents' street are older than the houses, so in the 1920s they didn't automatically knock them down. Of course they are coming to the end of their lives, my father reckons the one behind cost \$5k to remove (I wonder what the wood was worth, though-- 110 year old Maple?).

I realized how the world had changed when someone looked at my 1830s pine floorboards (Russian, rather than Canadian, probably) and said 'you can't get grain like that any more'. The only way to get wood like that is in a recovery from an old house or building. It saddened me, somehow, something important is gone from the world.

I agree greenery is a selling point. Here in London we are always pollarding or chopping it down because of the threat from subsidence (extracts the water from the clay soil, so it dries out). It's a shame, because as we get hotter summers and the urban heat island effect compounds, we really need those trees.

The London Plane is a hybrid tree, noted because it can exfoliate (right word?) pollutants through its bark. therefore highly adapted to the polluted London air *but* it's so ubiquitous that when we get a pest that kills it, we'll lose half our urban trees in one go. And that day is almost certain to come. Some of those Planes are 300 years old.

We'll probably be putting in artificial shade creators next.

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

It just occured to me that I make use of Leyland Cypress and noted as much in my post. If I'm not mistaken, this particular hybrid is not well received in the denser areas of the UK because of how they encroach or are overused in tight spaces. I had read some scathing reviews of them in online forums, mostly originating from British posters.

The assessment is spot on. They do get large and will overpower a small space quickly. But they provide a green wall quickly if you need one.

I planted a small row of them between me and the neighbor in our new place but unlike when I was trying to screen out a road, I intend to maintain these at no more than 8 foot tall. Just enough so I don't see their driveway. Plus we like our neighbors so I need to keep them under control.

I've seen some developments in green buildings lately that look promising. Actual planting of greenery on building in the city, not just using recycled materials and calling it 'green'. It's forward thinking and I hope it sticks, the natural cooling and cleaning is a huge bonus. Germany seems to be taking an interest in green roofs.

Imperabo
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Valuethinker wrote:
I live in a hot, dry climate, and here is how I feel about my windows:

Downstairs: Best windows (for temperature) are the north facing ones, by a wide margin. Next best, east, because of the light and the morning temps are cooler than afternoon temps. Our front entry faces east, and that works well.

Worst - south-facing windows. If I were designing the house, I would have small high windows only for light and maybe cross-ventilation on the south side. Second worst - west-facing windows because of the long hours of direct sunlight.
In a near desert climate, south facing windows must be a pain. If you have a long overhang (porch even better!) and high thermal resistant windows, they can work on the south or west sides, although maybe once you get to west Texas, even that is not enough?
Living the high desert, the problem I have with south-facing windows is that they can make large sections of your house unpleasant in Winter. Being hit by intense direct sunlight is never desirable. I grew up in a passive solar house (maybe not well designed), and I recall being constantly on the run from the sun. Low-e windows would surely help, but then aren't you giving up the heating benefits?

I agree that north (or east) windows are the best in a sunny climate, even where you have cold winters. They won't heat your house, but they won't make you feel like an ant under a magnifying glass.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Imperabo wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
I live in a hot, dry climate, and here is how I feel about my windows:

Downstairs: Best windows (for temperature) are the north facing ones, by a wide margin. Next best, east, because of the light and the morning temps are cooler than afternoon temps. Our front entry faces east, and that works well.

Worst - south-facing windows. If I were designing the house, I would have small high windows only for light and maybe cross-ventilation on the south side. Second worst - west-facing windows because of the long hours of direct sunlight.
In a near desert climate, south facing windows must be a pain. If you have a long overhang (porch even better!) and high thermal resistant windows, they can work on the south or west sides, although maybe once you get to west Texas, even that is not enough?
Living the high desert, the problem I have with south-facing windows is that they can make large sections of your house unpleasant in Winter. Being hit by intense direct sunlight is never desirable. I grew up in a passive solar house (maybe not well designed), and I recall being constantly on the run from the sun. Low-e windows would surely help, but then aren't you giving up the heating benefits?
Or rather the overheating benefits .

Yes. I was just thinking it is nice to have light. But your point about the unpleasantness of direct sunlight is well taken.
I agree that north (or east) windows are the best in a sunny climate, even where you have cold winters. They won't heat your house, but they won't make you feel like an ant under a magnifying glass.
East facing you will get the morning sun, which is just as heating as the evening sun-- it's just the air temperature is usually low so the heating is of more benefit/ less of a problem.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

investingdad wrote:It just occured to me that I make use of Leyland Cypress and noted as much in my post. If I'm not mistaken, this particular hybrid is not well received in the denser areas of the UK because of how they encroach or are overused in tight spaces. I had read some scathing reviews of them in online forums, mostly originating from British posters.

The assessment is spot on. They do get large and will overpower a small space quickly. But they provide a green wall quickly if you need one.
All out war more like. There are legendary court battles, and even physical violence, about too much greenery obstructing a neighbour's light, or conversely about someone taking the electric sheers to a tree which was not *theirs*.

There's a recent news case like this, and yes about Leyland Cypress.

It is not a sunny climate and we are a long way north. And an 'Englishman's home is his castle' in a very real sense-- a closely packed nation so intrusions on personal space are taken very amiss.
I planted a small row of them between me and the neighbor in our new place but unlike when I was trying to screen out a road, I intend to maintain these at no more than 8 foot tall. Just enough so I don't see their driveway. Plus we like our neighbors so I need to keep them under control.
Good fences make for good neighbours. Cordial relations with your neighbours are worth their weight in gold. It also means when it's 'national scream at your children week' (sometimes in stereo-- both sides) as we sometimes have, you can laugh and forget about it afterwards. You are more tolerant of other people if you like them.

I live in dread of the neighbours from hell. Everyone has one experience (we had an alcoholic ex banker downstairs, had to call the police one night he was trashing the place so bad, arguing with his ex wife). Teenagers with loud stereos and parties and absent parents (my partner, her neighbour moved out leaving a 16 year old kid on his own, with predictable results). Marriages breaking down. Hobbies that include playing loud musical instruments. Noisy s-x if oft repeated)-- we had a gay fellow downstairs with 4' high speakers who would DJ in the middle of the night (an airline steward, he was jetlagged), and on occasion would leave the window open whilst in revel.... People who leave the dog out in the winter barking and crying for hours and hours (that was a South African family with a Rhodesian ridgeback, a dog trained to guard against lions). People who scream inveterately at their kids (the kids will scream back). South African accountant again-- would run his MG engine for hours in the driveway, 'cleaning it out'. Landscape gardeners with leaf blowers that go on for hours...

Oh other stories. Friends the neighbours are running an unlicensed auto repair shop out of their garage-- banging and crashing on a Sunday afternoon (plus the inevitable loud radios). Another friend, in a condo, machinery in the middle of the night (possibly gem making machines, was at one time some kind of carpentry workshop).

gasoline powered leaf blowers are one of my great pet hates-- volume probably exceeds passing aircraft.
I've seen some developments in green buildings lately that look promising. Actual planting of greenery on building in the city, not just using recycled materials and calling it 'green'. It's forward thinking and I hope it sticks, the natural cooling and cleaning is a huge bonus. Germany seems to be taking an interest in green roofs.
I am all for recycling because of the massive savings in total lifecycle emissions, plus saved volume of dumping. Green roofs are becoming big, but they need looking after. Green walls are tricky-- community centre near here they put one up, didn't work, now all you have is ugly rusting metalwork.

SteveNet
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Valuethinker wrote:East facing you will get the morning sun, which is just as heating as the evening sun-- it's just the air temperature is usually low so the heating is of more benefit/ less of a problem.
Yes quite true and something a good deal of people don't understand.
Most people think that the late day sun is stronger because it is usually when their a/c has the hardest time cooling the home.
Actually what is happening is the thermal gain of the homes materials are at a high point of the day, even insulation gains heat and becomes saturated on a hot day and eventually bleeds thru to the inside.
Regular blanket insulation is like a sponge, it will slow down greatly the heat transfer but will eventually 'fill up' so to speak and then the heat will transfer into the home.
Given a hot night as well the insulation will actually store the built up heat (as it loses the heat just as slowly) and that sets up an even harder next day for the a/c if it's a hot sunny day as well.
a/c units that are air cooled have a hard time transferring heat to an already hot outside air temp in the late day. Air cooled a/c units should be in the shade during the day optimally.
2 yrs ago I changed out my air cooled heat pump for a ground source heat pump, my old hp would lose ground late in the afternoon and the temp would actually rise around 5pm above what the hp was calling for even though it was running non stop and it was on the cool shady side of the house N/E.
Now even on 105 degree days the ground source even cycles on and off while keeping the home nice and cool, even late in the day.
Being frugal is hard to learn, but once learned is hard to stop.

Valuethinker
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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

SteveNet wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:East facing you will get the morning sun, which is just as heating as the evening sun-- it's just the air temperature is usually low so the heating is of more benefit/ less of a problem.
Yes quite true and something a good deal of people don't understand.
Most people think that the late day sun is stronger because it is usually when their a/c has the hardest time cooling the home.
Actually what is happening is the thermal gain of the homes materials are at a high point of the day, even insulation gains heat and becomes saturated on a hot day and eventually bleeds thru to the inside.
Regular blanket insulation is like a sponge, it will slow down greatly the heat transfer but will eventually 'fill up' so to speak and then the heat will transfer into the home.
Given a hot night as well the insulation will actually store the built up heat (as it loses the heat just as slowly) and that sets up an even harder next day for the a/c if it's a hot sunny day as well.
a/c units that are air cooled have a hard time transferring heat to an already hot outside air temp in the late day. Air cooled a/c units should be in the shade during the day optimally.
2 yrs ago I changed out my air cooled heat pump for a ground source heat pump, my old hp would lose ground late in the afternoon and the temp would actually rise around 5pm above what the hp was calling for even though it was running non stop and it was on the cool shady side of the house N/E.
Now even on 105 degree days the ground source even cycles on and off while keeping the home nice and cool, even late in the day.

The Southern USA (or Chicago in a heat wave) is deadly because it just does not cool off at night-- in the desert you get cool.

What we really need are houses with cooling fins .

SteveNet
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Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:06 am

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Valuethinker wrote:

Whereabouts do you live? Desert? Tennessee

The Southern USA (or Chicago in a heat wave) is deadly because it just does not cool off at night-- in the desert you get cool.

What we really need are houses with cooling fins .
Being frugal is hard to learn, but once learned is hard to stop.

btenny
Posts: 4418
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:47 pm

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Solar envelope houses are unique and this is one of the best around. I thought I would share what a good architect can do. It is called Bob's at the Beach, a great house at the lake. It was built back in 1985 for a Hollywood jeweler. See below. It is located in Lake Tahoe California which is cold mountain climate but uses solar heat to keep house cozy year round. Note all the windows. They are double and triple paned and the south facing windows feed a solar envelope heating system and the indoor pool to keep the house temperature even year round.

http://www.showvacationrentals.com/10231

Bill

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Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

Great discussion. The original question was really an academic exercise but one that, if you know the answer to, you might apply to real life analysis.

In a latitude like Florida or Texas, I'm surprised people say South would be hotter than West... Although the sun is constant, the indirect angle might reduce the heat during the peak temperature hours (vs being in the direct sun at the hottest time of the day).

Also, what about a South-East facing window vs. a North-West?

ThatGuy
Posts: 817
Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:00 am

Re: House facing direction and Solar heat

I didn't see this posted, but you can check where the sun will be on any given day throughout the year at http://suncalc.net relative to your house on Google Maps. It'd be pretty easy to see which side of your house should have the biggest windows via that site. Combine this with the NREL Maps and you should get a really close idea of what is doable, solar wise, before paying for a consultant to come out.

While this thread is not about photovoltaics, I am just going to throw this link out Mr Solar. I like to check the approximate costs for equipment only on this site, and it's amazing to me how cheap it is at this point to meet 100% of my electrical needs. It makes me almost think I should change my gas appliances over to electric and go 100% grid tie.
Work is the curse of the drinking class - Oscar Wilde