Sun Charts Helps Determine a House’s Orientation

Sun Charting

Latvia Is Almost the Land of the Midnight Sun. These sun path diagrams and sun graphs show that.

One of the first things I do when designing a house is a site analysis. This is a study of the local conditions, including the slope of the land, site features, views, the local weather, and most importantly, the solar orientation. What direction a house faces, north south, east, or west, can have a dramatic effect on the energy efficiency of the house and its aesthetic comfort. If you ever wonder why some houses are always dark, look no further than its orientation. Chances are it does not have adequate windows on the sunny side of the house.

Here is a photo of the site, pre-construction
Here is a photo of the our site in Latvia, pre-construction

For our project in Latvia, we have a significantly different sun situation than here in North Carolina. Because Latvia is so far north, it gets very little sun in wintertime. Today, as I write this on December 23, the sun rose in Latvia at 9:01am and sets at 3:45pm. That’s not much daylight. And when the sun is up in winter, it is at a very low level in the sky.

This is Latvia's Sun Chart
This is Latvia’s Sun Chart 
North Carolina’s Sun Chart

You can see by these charts that on this date, we have two hours and forty minutes more daylight in North Carolina than in Latvia. But you can also see that the reverse is true in summer. We have long days with about 15 hours of sun while they have about 19 hours of sun. Still, all sun is not equal. Our summer sun is much higher in the sky and theirs only gets as high as our Spring and Fall sun. Notice how the Latvian summer sun nearly wraps all around them, rising way up in the northeast and setting in the northwest.

What does this mean for the design of the house? Fist, we’ll want to do all we can to help the house remain bright in winter. Then, at the same time, we will want to be able to control the low, penetrating summer sun and keep the house from overheating. Houses don’t have air conditioning in Latvia. We will also need to control the light coming into bedrooms in the summer so the occupants can get a normal amount of sleep and not be awakened before 4:00am in the summer.

One thing you can do to make your house design better is to orient it properly on the site. This does not cost any extra to do this right, but it will pay you dividends forever.

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I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

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Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch


  1. ALAMGIR on June 25, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you and I appreciate your comment.

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