Why Is Southern Exposure So Sought-after in the City?

sunny living room
A living room with southern exposure has a plus on the real estate market. Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Southern exposure is important in the city, and also in any house that wants to take advantage of solar energy or natural light. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun comes from the south. This happens because the Earth is a sphere and spins on an axis that is tilted 23 degrees (see "What Causes the Seasons?" for information on the tilt).

The arrangement of the house and sun in the summer.
The arrangement of the house and sun in the summer.
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It is easiest to understand why sun comes in your southern-facing windows if you look at how a house sits on the planet and how the sun shines on the house in summer and winter. The two diagrams on the left help you see what is happening:

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The arrangement of the house and sun in the winter.
The arrangement of the house and sun in the winter.
HowStuffWorks
The arrangement of the house and sun in the summer.
The arrangement of the house and sun in the summer.
HowStuffWorks

You can see that, both in summer and winter, the wall of the house that faces the South Pole is the one that faces the sun. In these diagrams, you can also see that the apparent angle of the sun with respect to the house changes in summer and winter. In the summer, the sun is much higher in the sky:

You may have heard that having deep eaves on your house will block the summer sun but let the winter sun in. This change in the sun's apparent angle between summer and winter is why that works.

A good way to visualize this is to get a globe and tape a Monopoly house or sugar cube to it to represent your house. Then use a flashlight to represent the sun, and rotate the globe. Try both summer and winter orientations for the axis. You will be able to see the difference between the angle of the sun in summer and winter, and you will also be able to see how the sun's position changes between morning, noon and evening as it rises and sets.

Since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the south side of a building will get the most natural light during the day.

For additional real estate and solar energy information, check out the links below.

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Originally Published: Apr 15, 2008

Southern Exposure FAQ

Are south-facing apartments good?
If you live in the northern hemisphere and want natural light during the day, then southern exposure is your best bet. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This means the south side will get the most natural light during the day.
What is a south-facing apartment?
A south-facing apartment is a unit with windows directly looking south.
What is the sunniest exposure?
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun comes from the south.
Is northern or southern exposure better?
Southern exposure is important in the city, and also in any house that wants to take advantage of solar energy — if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun comes from the south.
What exposure is best?
East-facing is best for morning light, western exposure is best for afternoon light, southern exposure is best for strong light throughout the day, and northern exposure is best for soft lighting all day.

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