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Setting Your Sights on the Right Site: The Importance of House Orientation


You’re building a new home. You don’t want to just plop it down anywhere on your property. You want to put it in the place that provides the best scenic view, looks the most appealing as you approach, and hopefully has the smallest environmental impact. Deciding on the orientation of the building requires taking all of these factors, and more, into consideration.

The sun is a free source of heat and energy; the more you can do to harness its natural power, the greener your home will be. Allowing sunlight to enter the building and naturally warm up the space allows you to use less energy for heating during the colder months. Research has shown that orienting a home to maximize solar gain can save 10-40% on heating costs. This not only means that you are spending less money and living more comfortably, it also means you are consuming less energy, reducing your environmental footprint, and benefiting from natural light throughout the day. That’s a pretty good return for a decision that typically costs zero dollars to implement.

The best way to orient a house in New England is with one of the longer sides facing primarily south to allow the maximum amount of low winter sun to shine in. If you plan to install rooftop solar panels, either now or in the future, it is also important to make sure that one of the roof planes faces south. In a home that is basically rectangular, the combination of these two factors makes an orientation with the ridgeline going from east to west the most sensible solution.