The most beautiful home with sub-optimal orientation affects comfort, lifestyle, and can be costly.
The direction your home faces matters for natural lighting – too much of it on the wrong side of the house can be detrimental.
However, selecting the best cardinal direction for a property is a compromise whether you are buying or building new.
Should your house face the north, south, east, or west?
What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?
How Do Architects Factor In the Cardinal Direction?
Architectural design for homes covers many aspects, such as layout configuration, room use, material selection, color, aesthetics, and in some cases, interior design and furniture.
Architects design to maximize natural lighting where desirable, and they orientate against the North direction as the starting point.
Sunlight never runs out, but it can enhance or undermine a living space, depending on the design strategy – or a lack of it.
Compromise is a necessary balancing act; not all spaces in a list of priorities get to enjoy the best natural conditions.
Building designers adopt architectural solutions to help the rooms in less-than-ideal positions to achieve the optimal condition for use.
Houses in the Northern Hemisphere (US, UK)
There is approximately an 88% chance your house is located in the northern hemisphere if the world population spread is any indication of housing demand.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west no matter where on the planet you are, but its relative position along the sun’s path is different.
In the northern hemisphere, this path generally falls in the southern section of the sky.
It has a considerable impact on your house’s ability to retain or avoid solar heat.
North-facing is the most effective placement for warding off brutal heat from the summer sun.
These homes are popular in Arizona, Texas, the American south, Mexico, Central America, and the Hindu culture, where the Vastu Shastra favors this direction for religious reasons.
Pros of North-Facing
- Favorable for the warmer regions in the northern hemisphere – it is the opposite in the southern hemisphere (Australia and New Zealand).
- Lowers electricity bills by reducing energy demands for cooling the home during summer – for the master bedroom and living room at the front of the house.
- The front porch and driveway will not capture excessive heat.
- North, northeast, and northwest-facing homes benefit from clothes-drying in the backyard.
Cons of North-Facing
- A poor choice in colder climates in the northern hemisphere.
- Natural lighting is less at the front of the house than at the back.
- Higher energy consumption due to increased heater operation during winter – more south-facing windows can offset this drawback.
The north and south are opposites, so it is natural that the advantages and disadvantages now work in reverse.
This orientation allows the house to absorb sunlight throughout the day but enables natural lighting to play a useful role in the home’s overall mood – season-dependent.
Pros of South-Facing
- Favorable for the colder regions in the northern hemisphere (especially in winter) – it is the opposite for countries in the southern hemisphere like Australia.
- Efficient at absorbing solar heat – reduced central heating’s energy consumption during winter.
- Captures more natural light in the south part of the house – reduces lighting expenses and uplifts the mood of the house interior.
- The driveway requires less snow-shoveling – thanks to an abundance of direct sunlight.
Cons of South-Facing
- The sun bites during summer – potentially turn the indoors into an oven, especially when you have large areas of south-facing windows.
- The energy inefficiency during summer offsets the savings made in winter – houses in the warmer regions will possibly experience a net loss in the energy stake.
- South-east and south-west facing homes suffer almost as much.
- Less front-facing (meaning south-facing) windows and installing sun-screening devices on them can help reduce solar heat gain in the summer – architectural installations can be costly.
North- and south-facing houses tend to be the best at maximizing energy efficiency in particular climates. A home that faces the east or west can be excellent for lifestyle purposes.
A home’s cardinal direction can have a larger-than-expected impact on its occupants’ wellbeing.
What are the considerations for east-facing residential properties?
Pros of East-Facing
- Optimal for morning people – the position towards sunrise means that sunlight begins to fill the home at the crack of dawn.
- Provides shade in the backyard in the summer mornings, and the gentle, warm glow of sunset makes an excellent time for an evening outdoor – perfect for backyard barbeques.
- The second-best placement for capturing solar heat during winter – south-facing remains the best in this respect.
Cons of East-Facing
- Subpar energy efficiency – when compared to houses facing the north or south.
- Sunlight glare through the front windows – may be undesirable for people who operate on a later schedule.
- Hot front yard – the sun in the late morning hours can be punishing on a cloudless day.
Opening the door to stare at the sun in the face is a dividing attribute of homes facing the east or west, but the evening sunlight is generally warmer and less harsh.
Pros of West-Facing
- Enjoys the best natural illumination during the later hours of the day – perfect for spending the evening with family and friends in the front yard watching the sunset.
- Keeps the house dark throughout the morning – ideal for those who sleep in.
- Benefits clothes-drying in the backyard during the morning hours – if only you wash and line-dry early in the day.
Cons of West-Facing
- Does not excel in energy efficiency during any season or in any climate – a prevalent issue of longitudinal houses.
- Deprived of natural light – the indoors is generally dark outside of select evening hours.
Houses in the Southern Hemisphere (AUS, NZ)
The central tenants of facing a house remain the same in the southern hemisphere as they do in the northern half, with one significant and notable exception: the path of the sun.
South of the equator, the sun will more frequently inhabit the northern part of the sky than the south.
The benefits and drawbacks for east- and west-facing houses generally remain, but the sun’s effects on lighting and energy efficiency for north- and south-facing homes are the polar opposites.
Of all possible orientations in the southern hemisphere, a house that faces the north will sponge up the most sunlight.
These homes excel at keeping heating costs down in frigid places like Patagonia, southern Australia, and New Zealand
Pros of North-Facing (Southern Hemisphere)
- Excellent energy-efficiency – homes that run heaters more frequently than the air-conditioning benefit.
- Enjoys natural lighting in the winter – when the weather gets cold, the value of sunlight appreciates.
Cons of North-Facing (Southern Hemisphere)
- Excess natural lighting – can be undesirable, depending on the amount of north-facing window openings.
- The backyard receives minimal direct sunlight – an advantage or disadvantage depending on the activity.
Suppose you are building a house in Brazil, northern Australia, or southern Africa. Facing the property southward will provide optimal energy efficiency as the windows’ sun exposure is less.
Pros of South-Facing (Southern Hemisphere)
- King of energy efficiency in hot regions.
- Cooling systems consume less power.
- Shadow over the front yard – going outside to get the mail or socialize with neighbors is a less oppressive endeavor.
Cons of South-Facing (Southern Hemisphere)
- Poor natural lighting – depending on artificial sources increases the energy bill.
- May be less efficient in utilizing passive solar energy – you can face the solar panels northward to improve efficiency.
Pros and Cons of a Park-Facing House
Not many homeowners have the luxury of living in a house that faces a park, but renters can choose and enjoy the benefits.
The presence of a park does come with its set of drawbacks, depending on the park’s use.
Pros of Park-Facing
The advantages outweigh the disadvantages:
- Higher resale value – a pleasant park in a safe neighborhood increases the property’s value.
- Quieter – if no high-traffic street divides the house and the park.
- The view – Greenery softens the typically hard urban landscape. Apartments on higher floors enjoy a unique vantage point that offers a panoramic view of the area.
- Greater privacy – a park with densely planted trees in front of the property affords more privacy than another high-rise building across the street.
Cons of Park-Facing
A park may have opposite effects:
- Noise – sporting and festive events are noisy when you want to enjoy some quiet during the weekend.
- Pest problems – an unkempt park brings many insects and the occasional wildlife.
- Unintended flying objects – a friendly game of soccer or golf may spit a ball in your property’s direction.
Consequences of Poor Choice
The repercussion of an undesirable house orientation covers the short and long term.
In the short term, you:
- Pay more for electricity – cooling and heating make up the most significant portion of a house’s energy consumption. The bill increases when you have to deal with extreme conditions in the summer and winter months.
- Use parts of the house less – without appropriate treatment, a sweltering room or an unbearably cold one is an undesirable space.
- Make lifestyle compromises – a patio suffers from extreme heat when exposed to the harsh summer sun. Clothes stay damp for longer when you line dry in a yard that misses the best hours of sun exposure.
- Spend more on appliances – some regions suffer extreme temperatures in summer and winter. As you struggle to find workable solutions to counter the weather effects on your favorite room, you may have to allocate more budget as you experiment to meet those needs.
In the long run, your property will:
- Lose value – the excitement of moving into a new (and empty) house can mask the shortcomings of a property for first-time homebuyers, but the flaws of a lived-in one become more apparent for second-hand purchasers.
- Need repainting – you want your property to look its best on the facade that visitors and prospects see first, but the sun’s harmful UV rays can still damage weatherproof paints over time.
How to Decide Wisely?
A house is the biggest investment for many and deserves careful consideration with the proper knowledge to turn the dream home into a reality.
There are mistakes you can avoid when hunting for the right property.
You can avoid mistakes while hunting for the right house (new or pre-owned) in the ideal cardinal direction when you:
- Visit the property at the right time – the late evening after work is more convenient, but visiting between 2-3 pm or 10-11 am lets you observe the worst conditions in action.
- Double-check the sun’s position against a compass – the sun’s direction is your primary concern. Orientate yourself against the sun and time of the day before you explore the indoor space.
- Ascertain where North is – do not rely on the printed floor plan alone. Architectural plans indicate the North direction, but drafting technicians can make mistakes, and your real estate agent could bring the wrong drawing for another house with a similar layout.
- Decide if your important rooms are in the optimal locations – the master bedroom and living room are typically the most crucial to get right in relation to ambient temperature. They should occupy the ideal positions in the house.
- Check your favorite outdoor spots – the patio and yard should top the list; check your comfort level.
- Request for the glass window specifications – double-glazed windows contain an air gap that insulates and dramatically reduces heat gain and heat loss. Low-E glass (lower U-value; typically below 0.25) helps to cut down UV rays.
- The % of opening rule – you want more window areas on the sides where you desire the sun; less where you want to shut it out.
- Take notes, review, and return another day – time to review and reconsider is valuable to ensure you cover all the bases before deciding.