North facing house orientation
“Is it a north-facing home?”
It's the question that always makes it to a home buyer's list of FAQs.
Optimal house orientation is one of the keys to sustainable living. By placing your home in a spot that can leverage the sun's path and natural breezes, you create a more comfortable space that's budget-friendly to run.
To find out just how much orientation matters, let's first explore what it is, why a north-facing home in Australia is often ideal, and what other orientations can offer.
What is house orientation?
House orientation refers to the position your house faces in relation to where the sun moves, prevailing winds and other environmental factors. A home's orientation can significantly impact its energy efficiency, comfort and overall livability.
Proper orientation can help maximise natural light, reduce energy consumption, and improve indoor air quality. It can also enhance the aesthetics and functionality of a home, as well as increase its resale value.
Factors to consider when orienting a house include the location of windows and doors, the placement of living spaces and the design of shading and ventilation systems.
The key principle behind orientation is passive heating (and cooling). With optimal orientation, you capture the right amount of radiant heat from the sun to warm your house in winter and block more sunlight in summer.
IMAGE: Northern Orientation
True north and sun angles
When real estate agents talk about a north facing house, they don't mean magnetic north; they mean true north. Yes, there's a difference!
Solar north, also known as true north, is the direction towards the Earth's geographic North Pole. It is the direction towards which the axis of the Earth points and is used as the reference point for navigation, mapping and orientation. Solar north is determined based on the position of the sun in relation to the rotation of the Earth.
Magnetic north is the direction in which a compass needle points towards the Earth's magnetic North Pole. The Earth's magnetic field is not aligned with the axis of rotation and magnetic north is subject to changes over time due to fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field.
You can find true north by using maps, a street directory, or a compass to establish magnetic north, then calculating true or solar north by adding or subtracting the "magnetic variation" specific to your location using a designated map.
But nowadays, most smartphones have a compass app that can be set to show true north.
What are the benefits of a north-facing house in Australia?
So why is north considered the best orientation for a house?
Improved energy efficiency
North-facing homes receive more natural light during the day, requiring less artificial lighting and reducing energy consumption. With proper shading and ventilation, north-facing homes can be designed to take advantage of passive solar heating, decreasing the need for artificial heating and cooling.
Better natural light
North-facing homes receive consistent natural light throughout the day, keeping your home bright and well-lit. More light offers added benefits for mental health and productivity!
With proper shading and ventilation, north-facing homes can maximise natural light and airflow, resulting in a more comfortable living environment. Additionally, using thermal mass can help regulate indoor temperatures, improving comfort levels year-round no matter what climate zone you're in.
Improved resale value
North-facing homes are often in high demand, potentially increasing their resale value.
The orientation of a north-facing home allows for greater flexibility in design and layout. With consistent natural light and good airflow, it's easier to create a functional and beautiful living space that takes advantage of the north-side orientation.
What are the disadvantages of a house that faces north?
While north-facing houses are considered more desirable, there are still some disadvantages to having your home face the northern sun.
Lack of privacy
With north-facing windows, it's crucial to consider privacy, especially if the home is close to other properties. Large windows can make it easier for people to see inside the home.
Glare and overheating
In warmer parts of Australia like Queensland, north-facing homes may be prone to overheating, particularly during summer months. This can result in some areas of the home becoming hotter as well as glare, which may make it difficult to see computer screens or televisions.
Additional glazing, shading and insulation can optimise energy efficiency and comfort.
North-facing homes can expose the façade and entry areas to the weather. Eaves can play a significant role in protecting the front of the house from the elements.
What about other house orientations?
In this orientation, your home enjoys the full morning sun as it rises in the east, while afternoons and evenings can be cooler. In terms of outdoor living, an east-facing home can provide a great opportunity for morning sun on the front porch or patio, which can be ideal for enjoying breakfast or coffee.
An east-facing backyard can also offer afternoon shade and be a great place for outdoor activities during the hotter parts of the day. In cooler climates, east-facing homes will not receive as much sunlight in winter.
South-facing homes in the southern hemisphere receive no direct sun on the front of the home in winter but may receive early morning sunlight in summer.
The rear of south-facing homes can capture the winter sun well and offer brightly lit sunny backyards.
West-facing houses receive direct sun in the afternoon. In this case, it's a good idea to keep living areas away from the western side of the house and install only small windows to avoid unwanted heat gain.
A northern orientation might be ideal, but that doesn't mean you can't make other orientations work. After all, it's one of many strategies to make a home sustainable - remember ventilation, insulation, materials, solar panels, and even double glazing!
6 factors to consider when designing a north-facing home
- Sun movement
The sun's path across the sky changes throughout the day and throughout the year, so it's important to consider how this will impact the home's orientation and shading needs. In warmer parts of Australia, incorporate shading elements such as eaves, pergolas, or awnings to prevent excessive heat gain during summer.
- Layout and orientation
The layout and orientation of a home can impact the amount of natural light that enters the home, as well as the flow of air through the space. Consider the placement of main living areas, the location of windows and doors and the design of shading and ventilation to optimise light and airflow.
- Insulation and glazing
To maximise energy efficiency, use high-quality insulation and glazing to reduce heat loss and gain. This can also help to reduce noise levels.
- Heating and cooling
Consider the use of passive solar heating and cooling systems to minimise the need for artificial heating and cooling. For example, using thermal mass, such as concrete or stone floors, can help absorb and store heat during the day and release it at night.
Consider the use of shade trees or hedges to provide additional shading and privacy and reduce the impact of strong winds.
- Local climate conditions
It's important to assess the specific climate conditions of the home's location, such as temperature range, humidity levels and wind patterns. This can help inform decisions around orientation, shading, insulation, and heating and cooling systems.
Landscaping or outdoor living spaces for north-facing homes
Landscaping and outdoor living spaces for north-facing homes should be designed to take advantage of the direct sunlight on the northern side of the property.
While the northern side of the home is great for getting those lovely warm rays, it's also important to consider heat gain during the hotter months. Use shading devices such as trees, pergolas, awnings or shade sails to help control heat and provide relief from harsh sunlight.
Select plants that thrive in sun or partial shade, such as succulents, natives and citrus trees. Water features such as fountains, ponds or waterfalls can create a calming and tranquil outdoor environment, while also providing a cooling effect during the hotter months.
If your north-facing home overlooks a park, waterway or mountain range, make the most of it by designing outdoor living spaces that take in the view.
By keeping these considerations in mind when landscaping, you can create beautiful and functional outdoor living spaces that benefit from the unique characteristics of a north-facing home.
Ask the home orientation experts
Here at Plantation Homes, we incorporate a holistic approach to building that maximises your enjoyment of your home, whatever the orientation.