Each climatic region has its own distinctive characteristics and conditions that influence site planning and design for solar utilization and energy conservation. Home site planning should be carefully considered when building a home. The site should be examined for the most suitable home placement and solar orientation.

Factors that should be taken into consideration include:

  • Natural windbreaks
  • Summer breezes
  • Interior home air circulation
  • Shade
  • Water runoff and groundwater tables

Sites facing southeast, south or southwest provide the best opportunity for optimizing a building’s orientation with respect to daylighting and passive solar gain.

Landscaping should also be used to buffer the house from winter winds, to allow for winter solar gain and for daylighting and to provide summer shade and cooling.

The table below lists some of the home features and corresponding benefits to achieve the best possible site orientation:

Home Feature Optimal Site Orientation Benefit(s)
Compact building design See “home facing.” Offers greater energy efficiency than homes that are spread out.
Open floor plans -- Optimizes airflow and ventilation, improves daylighting effect, and in winter distributes heat more evenly.
Home facing southeast, south to southwest Optimizes daylighting & passive solar gain (maximizes lighting in the home year round and warms home in winter).
Living areas (e.g., kitchens, living rooms and family rooms) south and west sides Maximizes daylighting and comfort.
Storage areas/garage northwest and north Minimizes uncomfortable summer thermal mass effects driven by high winds across hot surfaces.
Well-insulated walls north Especially effective in the northern Indiana climate zone.
Outdoor living areas southwest side of residence Offers protection from winter north/northwest winds; offers access to summer breezes.
Large paved surfaces or asphalt areas Position on the sheltered side of use areas, away from the wind. Minimizes uncomfortable summer thermal mass effects driven by high winds across hot surfaces.
Deciduous Trees (trees that drop leaves in winter) south and southwest These trees provide shade in summer and sun in winter providing greater summer and winter comfort in the home, reducing winter heating and summer cooling needs.
Large landforms, pine trees or vegetation north and northwest Reduces the cooling impact of winter winds.
Porches, sheltered patios south and southwest Shading adds comfort during summer weather extremes and added-protection from the sun's rays.

Solar radiation combined with daylighting, which enters through windows, can cause the home’s inside temperature to rise as much as 20° F on hot days. This effect can work for you when laying out the homes orientation, especially in the winter months.

When designing with cooling in mind, avoid excess windows on east- and west-facings of the home because they are the most common cause for summertime overheating.

Too many windows on the south side of the home may lead to overheating in summer and winter. Double-pane, Low- E glazed windows should be installed throughout the home to maximize energy efficiency, reduce solar radiation, and protect interior home surfaces from fading.

Roof overhangs and awnings are a good source for shade. So are drapes with light-colored linings or blinds. Keep in mind that lighter colors for walls, floors, ceilings and roofs reflect sunlight and will reduce heat gain.

In cold climates, tight construction and a uniform thermal boundary are critical to the home’s comfort and energy efficiency. With the addition of an energy-efficient, heating and cooling system with an insulated ductwork system, you’ll get maximum comfort, performance and operating-cost savings.