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Ideal Exposure for Your New Home—North, South, East, or West

Posted on September 22, 2021 by Peter-John Woolf

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Whether you're looking for a new house or evaluating a new home construction site, it's important to understand the significance of a home’s exposure.

For those who live and breathe property in Calgary, having a south-facing home can seem like the holy grail of house hunting—or, so we think. But, what does the direction your property faces actually mean?

Here's what you need to know about your home’s exposure.

What does a home’s exposure mean?

Exposure (also known as house orientation or aspect) refers to the position of a structure on its site.

It is usually described by the compass direction of its main entrance. Stepping out of your house through the front door, it’s the direction in which you face. This means a house with its main entrance facing north would be described as north-facing.

Remember that just because your home faces one way, you’ll have rooms that face different directions. For instance, a north-facing house would have a south-facing backyard, which is highly prized in Calgary.

Depending on what’s important to you, you can design your home for the exposure you want for the main living areas and backyard.

Why it matters whether your home faces North, South, East, or West?

One of the best things about building your dream home is choosing the orientation of your new home on your chosen lot. So, what should you choose? That depends.

The direction your home faces is a crucial thing for homeowners. It can affect the amount of sunlight it gets, home maintenance, and energy efficiency, which will impact your heating and cooling costs. Landscaping, usage, and comfort of your outdoor spaces can be affected by the exposure too.

When you’re planning your home’s orientation, keep in mind that the sun in Alberta can be intense, so your exposure might also affect what style of home you choose to build. For instance, larger windows or a wall of windows often showcased in a modern style house might be too much for a south-facing exposure.

There is no right or wrong exposure; each orientation has advantages and disadvantages. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each can help you make smarter choices.

North-facing homes in Calgary

The assumption is that south-facing homes are the most desirable in Calgary. However, it’s really a north-facing house because of the south-facing backyard. A south-facing yard will have sun all day, so sun-loving plants will flourish there as well as sun-loving people.

South-facing rooms get the most direct sunlight throughout the day as the sun moves from east to west. This is especially preferable in winter when the sun is at its lowest position and intensity.

A house’s access to sunlight can also dramatically affect its warmth. Rooms at the back of a north-facing house with a southern exposure will collect most of the warmth from the sun, which can be both a benefit and a detriment. Radiant heat from the sun can help reduce heating costs in winter. But in the summer, that same heat can lead to higher cooling bills.

Your home could experience greater cold-weather challenges on the front north-facing side. The lack of direct sun on the north facade is more likely to fall victim to ice dams and icicles, and driveways and slippery walkways can be especially treacherous.

South-facing homes in Calgary

While most homeowners may want a south-facing exposure usually it’s for their backyard and not their front yard. And while you won't get much sunlight from a north exposure backyard, the natural light you do get will be consistent throughout the day, never too harsh or too dull. Plus, with careful management, you can avoid having a dark house. Some ways to mitigate the effects are by placing generous windows at the front, installing skylights, or adding more lighting options throughout your home.

Because south-facing homes receive most of their direct sunlight from the front, it may stay cooler in the summer than a north-facing one with the added benefit of reduced cooling costs when temperatures climb.

One downside of direct sun on the front is the damage it can cause over time to siding, roofing, furniture, fabrics, and flooring. So, you’d be wise to anticipate and budget for such home maintenance as repainting or re-siding on the south-facing side of your home. It’s also a good idea to protect the interior furnishings in south-facing rooms by installing window film or UV-blocking curtains or shades or using UV-repelling sprays.

While these homes maximize natural light in the front yard, a north-facing backyard will be a bit cooler, which may be just the spot to rest, relax and recreate in the heat of the day.

East-facing homes in Calgary

East-facing homes can enjoy lovely sunrises and full morning sun that will end by noon. It’s the ideal place for morning people.

Consider how the morning sun will affect your rooms facing east. Mornings can be uncomfortably warm in summer, and in winter you won't get much heat from the sun at all. Bedrooms that face east might benefit from sturdy or sun-blocking window treatments to avoid sleepers being unnecessarily woken up by the early light.

For the best chance of a thriving landscape, be sure you choose plants that are appropriate for the light conditions with an eastern orientation.

West-facing homes in Calgary

West-facing houses are highly prized in Calgary for their lovely sunsets, and if you’re lucky, mountain views as well. The sun comes into the house in the afternoon and lasts until sunset.

Getting most of your sunlight from 2 pm onward is great for those who don’t have the opportunity to enjoy their home until after school or work. The increased sunlight in winter is always welcome although the afternoon sun can be intense in summer. The amount of light your rooms receive may affect the color and fabric choices you make when you decorate. In west-facing rooms, design pros suggest steering away from red and orange hues.

Those who enjoy the evening sun may appreciate a western exposure, which brings sunlight to a deck or front porch later in the afternoon.

Regardless of your home’s orientation, you will have a variety of exposures with some rooms getting a lot of light and others not. So, it's really down to how you plan and build around what you do get. A good builder will be able to help!

Topics: new home build, new home construction, energy efficiency