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Q: Everyone says that a home should have a southern exposure to take advantage of passive solar energy, but are there instances when a southern orientation is a bad idea?
A: In short, yes. While passive solar gain can dramatically reduce your energy costs in the winter months, it could have the opposite effect in the heat of summer, causing you to run the air conditioner constantly. A pounding sun also can impact the lifespan of your roofing, logs, timbers, siding and other materials on the south-facing side.
It all comes down to where you live. First, think about your regional climate. If you live in the Northeast, which is prone to long, cold winters, versus the Southwest with its relentless dry heat, it’s easy to see which location will benefit more from a southern exposure.
But geographic area isn’t the only determining factor. Also examine how much protection from direct sunlight your site affords. If there isn’t much natural protection (provided mostly by trees) on your property, incorporate extended roof overhangs and deep wraparound porches to trim the amount of searing sunlight that finds its way inside. This will ensure the benefits of solar energy while keeping your home cool when it needs it.