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What direction should a home's windows face?

I have always enjoyed a daylight filled room and the warmth of the sun in the winter.  One of the first things people ask for when I am designing their dream home is lots of windows.  I translate that to mean “give me south facing windows so I can be warmed by the sun as I have my coffee and watch the snow fall.”

Yet it amazes me, when I see the McMansions in the suburbs of America, how few pay any attention to the direction of the sun.  The shadow cast on this behemoth suggests the large blank wall could face south.  What a shame!  The owners are robbed of one of the easiest sustainable design principles; passive solar energy by just letting the sun shine in and heat the space during the winter.   This is an example of using a stock plan with no attention to the orientation of the house. 

The best orientation for a house is with windows to the south since it is easiest to shade glass during the summer and let it shine in during the winter.  The next best is east so you get light in the morning and not the beastly sun in the summer afternoons.  Since the back of the house typically has the most windows, that means 75% of homes do not have the best orientation and 50% are a disaster (since homes have an equal chance of facing any one of the four directions).

Finally, I was looking to move to the country and was amazed time after time how a new home was built on 10 acres and still faced the street.  Certainly with that much land one could have oriented the house to take advantage of the sun.  I saw many huge windowless walls facing south…must have been the walk-in closet.

Next home, think about the benefits of the sun on your pocket book and state of mind!

- Rob Smith


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