Maximizing the Sun in Your Home Design

From on July 23, 2008 in CalFinder News

sunlit dining roomUntil recently, modern home designers and architects had largely ignored the usefulness of the sun in home building. It is a technique as old as home building itself and yet somehow we’d forgotten the importance of free heating and cooling. Yet now, as a new generation of homebuilders and architects again recognize the vitality of passive solar design, it has once again become important to understand and determine how best to build your home under the sun.

The Sun in Your Area

In determining the design and placement of your home, you need to know two things mainly: the sun’s characteristics for your location and your compass. First, know how the sun behaves in the sky above your home, i.e., its path across the sky, average number of days it shines through undeterred, and when and where it will first strike the house. When incorporating the sun into your design, certain rooms of the house will face in certain directions based on quantity of use, time of use, and more.

Room by Room Evaluation

Rooms such as breakfast rooms or bedrooms will need sunlight first and should have an easterly exposure. Likewise, dining rooms and other afternoon or evening rooms should face west to catch the evening sun. Our most frequently used rooms, such as living rooms, kitchens, and sunrooms should face south to get the maximum exposure and warmth available. As for the north, the darkest side of our hemisphere, this side of the house is reserved for seldom-used rooms like the bathroom, laundry room, or garage.

Also remember that building with sunshine in mind does not always mean maximizing exposure. In some climates you may want to avoid direct sunlight in frequently used areas. Good passive solar design requires awareness of, and deference to, the sun’s every movement. It will also require good open dialogue between you, your designer, and your contractor.