If you are seeking to implement solar energy, set up a houseplant for success, or simply make sure you have the biggest amount of sun possible, it is important to consider the orientation of your home in relation to the movement of the sun.
The answer to the question of which side of the house gets the most sun is dependent on the geographic location of the house itself. If your home is located in the Northern hemisphere, the Southern side will receive the most sun. If your home is located in Earth’s Southern hemisphere, the Northern side will have the most sunlight.
The following considerations will be made from the perspective of an inhabitant of the Northern hemisphere. If you live in the Southern hemisphere, simply change north for south.
Geography and Science
The dependence on geographic location is due to a number of factors in itself:
- The position of the Earth
- The changing of the seasons
And we’re going to need to understand a bit about both of those things before we’re able to properly arrange our home décor to take full advantage of the natural light from day to day and season to season.
The Position of the Earth
In addition to revolving around the sun, Earth also revolves on its own axis. This happens every 24 hours and is how we number our days. And on its axis, Earth is tilted at a roughly 23-degree angle. This tilt in relation to where the sun is what provides Earth with its changing seasons, particularly summer and winter.
The Changing of the Seasons
As we’ve discussed, the Earth is tilted on its axis. As the Earth rotates around the sun, the sun’s light illuminates the different hemispheres at different times throughout the year, giving to each summer and winter. While the position of the Earth changes in terms of orbit within the solar system, the position of the sun does not, so the sun is always slightly south of the Northern hemisphere, and slightly north of the Southern hemisphere.
But with the seasons, there is an additional factor in the amount of sunlight than just whether the hemisphere is angled closer to the sun. Depending on whether it is summer or winter, the days will be longer. Longer days mean more exposure to sunlight; the length of the days can be measured in the equinoxes and solstices that happen each year. The solstices are the longest (summer solstice) and shortest (winter solstice) days of the year that happen at the start of their respective seasons, and the vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) equinoxes are days and nights of equal length that herald the beginnings of their respective seasons.
If explanations of scientific concepts aren’t really your thing, you can check a diagram, like this one, that do a good job of demonstrating how it works.
From the Inside
Even though we’ve established that the southernmost-facing room in a house may experience the most sunlight overall, different rooms in the same house may experience different, preferable levels of sunlight depending on the time of day. The easternmost-facing room in a house, for example, might be the beneficiary of a spectacular sunrise and the subsequent mellow light of morning. Similarly, as the sun sets in the west, the westernmost-facing room of the house will be filled with the most natural light at that time of day, as well as having front row seats to incredible sunsets. The northernmost-facing room of a house may be the shadiest, and possibly even the coolest in temperature, for that reason.
Interior decorators may take these light saturation variances under advisement when planning their space.
Sunlight and Southern Exposure
The prevalence of southern exposure is for naught without considering the effects of sunlight in general. These effects include:
- Influencing real estate value
- Agricultural benefits
- Health benefits
- Energy efficiency
Let’s look at each of these a bit more in depth.
Influencing Real Estate Value
A quick internet search for “southern exposure real estate value” will lead you to real estate websites with listings for multi-million dollar apartments, houses, and condos. In urban environments, southern-facing homes are at a premium. The same can be said for parcels of vacant land, particularly in the southwestern United States, all because of a greater chance of sunny days.
Large quantities of sunshine are favorable for the growth of plants, providing both the light and heat that plants of all sorts need to distribute well. In the state of California, for example, the ample amount of sunshine has proven ideal for the growth and curing of certain fruits, even leading to an emerging fruit dehydration industry. They don’t call California “the Sunshine State” for nothing!
But even if you live outside of the Northern hemisphere’s typical agricultural regions, place your houseplants in the southernmost-facing room in your house, or your vegetable garden in the southernmost-facing corner of your yard; you might find that there is a direct correlation to how much sunlight your plants receive and how green your thumb is.
Rather than just impacting the vitamin-rich food you may eat, exposure to sunshine can have a direct impact on an individual’s health, both mental and physical. Sunlight produces vitamin D which aides in the proper functioning of muscles, bone health, and the body’s central nervous system, among other things.
Exposure to sunshine secretes the hormone serotonin in the brain, which can lead to reductions in feelings of anxiety and improved mental focus, among other things.
So if you find yourself stuck inside on a sunny day, hang out inside the southernmost-facing room in your house where the light is most consistent. It may be good for you.
Southern exposure is ideal for the placement of solar energy. In a solar energy system, sunlight is collected on solar panels and the energy is converted into another usable form of energy, such as heat or electricity. The use of solar energy is beneficial for the environment, drastically reducing the user’s carbon footprint.
Additionally, the use of solar energy has the potential to save the user a substantial amount of money annually on their utility bills. For instance, my Northern hemisphere home was estimated to save $27,000 annually by converting to solar energy, using this handy calculator.
The savings alone are enough to at least consider the option.
And unsurprisingly, when the solar panels are installed, they are installed facing south for optimal performance. Also, because of the angle of the sun across the seasons and days, it is also imperative that the solar panels be unobstructed to maximize the solar panel’s ability to harness energy during the peak “solar window” when the sun is highest in the sky.
The Final Word
Which side of a house gets the most sun is worth bearing in mind, particularly if building a house; new construction allows the builder to angle the room in which they will be spending the most time toward the most advantageous exposure, be it southern or northern.
But even if the living room isn’t the best room for natural light exposure, finding the room that is might also be worth the time, perhaps giving you a new appreciation for a space that you might not have spent quite as much time in. The same may also be said for the other aspects of the homestead that benefit from catching a few rays, like your plants or your pets.
If you liked this article, be sure to read “Why Is Passive Design Important?” & “What is Active Solar Design?“.