In short, the orientation of a home describes a direction it faces. And while the concept is simple, it can influence several factors from energy efficiency throughout the seasons, to brightening your rooms during the day.
If you’re buying a home, the right orientation will take advantage of natural sunlight. So it’s an important consideration when you’re doing inspections, one which many of us forget.
If you have home orientation top of mind, it can potentially help you save tons on your seasonal heating costs. Not to mention getting all that vitamin D for free.
So what’s the best direction your home should be facing? How do you go about finding the best orientation for house layouts? Let’s go through the ins and outs so you can make the best decision for you.
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When it comes to orientation, houses are different from apartments
Whether you’re moving into a house or an apartment, you’ll want to maximise on direct sunlight. Not only does it brighten the rooms, but it affects the temperature throughout the day.
Home orientation for houses
If it’s a house you’re moving into, try to aim for a north-facing component. North facing plans allows more of the natural power of direct sunlight into the house. In the same way, it can help warm up the chills of winter.
And conversely, while you might want to keep the warmth out during the summer, you can easily shade the facades of the house to limit heat penetration.
A simple fact is that homes with poor orientation use far more energy than well-oriented ones.
Home orientation for apartments
On the other hand, if you’re buying an apartment, this may be a little less relevant. You don’t have much of a choice with apartments as they’ve already been built.
Having said that, if you are buying off-plan and can select the unit you want, then you can follow the same rules as with houses; the best direction for your home will be north-facing. While you’re at it, target the apartment with the best view.
Geography affects the positioning of your home
Where you’re planning to live is also an important factor so start by identifying your climate zone. As the sun’s path in Australia is to the north, you’ll want the main living areas in your home to be north facing as well.
North facing living areas draw the sun for the longest amount of time during the day. Especially for southern cities like Melbourne and Hobart.
Conversely, those living in the north of Australia will want to reduce the heat, especially from the summer sun. And you can do so by planting trees and installing blinds.
The priority in this part of the country is to maximise on cooling summer breezes and shade.
If you’re somewhere in the middle, in Perth or Sydney, strike a balance between the two. This will help you find the best direction for your house.
How to maximise the orientation of your home
Earlier, we talked about using the orientation of your home to catch as much sunlight throughout the day as possible. But of course, the sun’s position varies according to season and region.
By calculating the angle of the sun at different times of day and in different seasons, you can better design windows and dressings to either amplify or filter the sunlight.
For instance, those in the southern hemisphere might want double glazing of their windows for heat gain and natural light to access the darker areas of the house.
In the northern hemisphere, the most natural light comes from south facing windows because the sun’s path comes from the south.
Most smartphones will have a compass feature to determine true or solar north for your region.
The ideal is to have the sun angle at 32 degrees in the colder seasons and 67 in the summer.
This can be confusing, and indeed it’s a complex calculation, but establishing a balance from the start will allow you to keep your home’s temperature average more stable throughout the year.
And we always recommend consulting experts on the issue if you need clarification. But the gist of it is that the northern facade of your home should be where most sunlight comes through.
What should I look for when inspecting homes?
While most people tout north-facing homes, different areas of the home will evidently faces different orientations.
Let’s take the example of a house on the south side of a street that faces north. The backyard of this home will receive more sunlight in the summer—perfect for avid gardeners.
However, if you’re more of an entertainer, and are setting up your backyard for daytime barbecues, a home on the north side of the street (facing south) might be more your style. This way, your guests won’t be blasted by the sun in the summer.
- Where you (and your family) will want the sun most?
- Will you want to have a porch installed?
- Will you want to face neighbours if you live on a quiet street?
- Or have neighbouring houses beside you with an expansive view?
Also, keep in mind that real estate agents schedule open houses at a time of day that enhances its features. So try and get a look at the house at alternate times.
Maximise all angles
While it’s essential to choose a home with an orientation that best supports your lifestyle, don’t focus solely on the northern angles.
Your home will inevitably sit on different angles, so try and maximise on all of these. A well-thought out design will do exactly this.
Poor orientation is especially obvious in the warmer climates with the summer sun allowing low angle east radiant heat to strike surfaces at more direct angles.
How to use your home to capture heat
When designing your home, you might wish to think about which part of that house that is facing north to capture radiant heat.
The reason is that not only those spaces, but also that facade will be capturing the most direct sunlight. It works best to heat your home when falling onto hard surfaces and tiled floors.
Many choose to fit more glass and window on that side of the house, which lessens the need for indoor heating in winter.
Contrarily, you will want to minimise exposure to sun in the hot seasons. This can all increase the energy efficiency from your heating and cooling systems.
Opt for tall deciduous trees which are leafy in the summer allowing for coverage, but that lose their leaves in the winter, allowing for more sun. They also help to lessen harsh winds.
What if my dream home faces east or west aspects?
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to finding the best direction for your house. And some of us are perfectly happy with minimal sun exposure. But different aspects will mean different pros and cons.
East-facing homes are great for morning people. You get all the benefits of morning sun when the sun rises but it all cools off by noon. This means that summer mornings are intensely warm but the winters don’t offer you much heat from the afternoon sun.
However, if you’re in the city, surrounded by tall buildings and skyscrapers, consider the fact that you may not be getting much sun anyway!
West-facing homes are more protected from the morning sun but get heated in the afternoons and evenings. This is also when the daily temperature will be at its highest so expect warm, sticky summers!
On the other hand in the winter, afternoons will give you some much-needed heat.
While north-facing homes are all the rage, this doesn’t mean facing south is bad. Indeed, you won’t have as much sun to brighten and warm your winters, but the summers will be cooler.
You’ll even have the potential to save on air conditioning. Just be wary of condensation with the potential of mould and mildew. These growths are usually more common in places where the sun doesn’t shine.
So is a north facing home the best?
Clearly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when finding the best direction for your house. A house with different quirks, pros and cons is what makes a home.
Assess whether a north facing yard or a south facing home is what matter most. Prioritise energy efficiency along with direct sunlight and even better—speak to your real estate agent to find the ideal orientation for your lifestyle.
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