How A Solar Passive Design Can Make Your House Comfortable and Energy Efficient
To achieve the best solar passive design for your new house you need to consider carefully your block orientation.
If you are in the process of buying a block of land to build a house I hope this article will assist you in picking the right block orientation for your project. With an appropriate block it will be less complicated for you to design and build a more sustainable home.
Australia happens to be located in the Southern Hemisphere. If you plan to build a new house in a temperate climate region like Canberra, Tasmania or Victoria that are cold in winter and hot in summer you’ll want to get as much sun as possible into the house in winter. In a solar passive design the winter sun is supposed to provide natural heating for your house.
In new Australian estates most blocks have a rectangular shape. My order of preference for block orientation is:
1. Block facing East
This is the orientation where the frontage of your house is facing East. The sun rises on the right and sets on the left. During the day you have plenty of sun on the northern side of the house. You’ll want to take advantage of this natural light and heat by placing living areas with windows facing north.
We were lucky enough to select a block like this in a ballot for our house. We have the family, meal, lounge and kitchen facing north. In winter this common area is naturally warm. And interestingly it is also the coolest area in the house during Canberra hot summer days.
In our house the kids bedrooms, bathroom, toilet and laundry are located south which is fine.
2. Block facing West
In this configuration the house facade is on the West side where the street is. The sun still runs along the long side of the building. However because of the garage you may lose a bit of sun in the afternoon
If the master bedroom is also at the front of the house it can become quite hot in summer as it takes all the heat from the afternoon sun. To limit this unnecessary heat you might want to have double glazed windows installed for the master bedroom.
3. Block facing South
The frontage of the house is facing south where the main entrance from the street is.
Most of new estates in Canberra require that new houses to be built to have what is called a “Private Open Space”. This POS is normally situated at the back of the house.
With a block facing South there are interesting options to design a passive solar house. The southern area will lack natural light in this orientation therefore it seems adapted to place a bedroom here.
4. Block facing North
In my opinion block oriented like this is the least desirable from a passive solar design perspective.
With this configuration the garage situated north will obstruct most of daily sun.
Also if your block is between two other ones it can be challenging to get the sun into the house to provide a comfortable level of natural lighting. Your house interior might seem dark and requires lights to be switched on earlier. I’ve seen houses built on these blocks that had to have very high ceiling with a sloped roof and high windows built just underneath the eaves as to let the sun in.
This type of construction looks great from an architectural point of view but is quite expensive.
Would you consider a solar passive design for you new home?