Find the right site for an energy-efficient home

Looking to build a home? There's a lot to consider, but site and location are even more important than you might realize. This guide will help you choose a site that has an optimal microclimate and will save you energy on heating and cooling.

Find the right site for an energy-efficient home

Siting affects microclimate

The siting of a house influences its thermal comfort, which is how well it maintains a comfortable internal temperature throughout the day and night and throughout the seasons. Thermal comfort is strongly affected by a site's local microclimate. For example, a home that's exposed to cold westerly winds and receives limited winter sunshine will have a microclimate that dramatically differs from a home that enjoys wind protection and has better access to the sun's rays.

Understand the impact of orientation

  • Proper orientation of the house in relation to the sun will allow the interior to warm naturally in winter and be shaded and cool in the summer months. The long axis of the building should run roughly east-west, with living areas located on the south side.
  • The most effective energy-efficiency strategies are often very simple. Using exterior blinds to deflect the sun's rays before they enter the house is far more efficient than using heavy internal curtains or an air-conditioning system.

Find the right direction

  • Spend a day on your land and observe the sun's course across the sky. To accurately establish the position of the north-south axis, mark the position of a stick's shadow over a two-hour period. After choosing a site and finding the north-south axis, establish the direction that your house should face: an ­orientation between southwest or southeast.
  • The site of a proposed or existing house should be examined to see whether there are any large features likely to cause overshadowing in winter. Pay extra attention to the roof area, which can be used to support solar water-heating panels if it receives generous amount of sunlight.
  • Shadows may be unavoidable in the early morning and late afternoon, but even in mid-winter an energy-efficient house should enjoy unobstructed sunlight between the hours of 9 a.m and 3 p.m.
  • In summer, the sun moves much higher in the sky. Use this fact to maintain a comfortable interior temperature by designing eaves that shade windows from the steeply-angled summer sun while offering no obstruction to winter sunlight.
  • Interior layout matters too. The most frequently used areas, including the kitchen, living, and dining rooms, should be arranged along the southern side of the house. The less frequently occupied areas - such as bathrooms, storage spaces, laundries, and garages - can be placed behind those rooms.

Thinking about siting, orientation, and direction isn't just an important factor in your home's overall comfort level and temperature. It can also provide significant energy savings as the seasons roll by. Use this guide to ensure that your home is as comfortable and efficient as possible.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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