When sizing and buying windows, their placement is very important. If you’re simply replacing existing windows, window placement is a given. But when planning where to place windows in a major remodel or new home, you’ll want to strongly consider where you can capture the best views and provide the quality of natural light that you want.
Make every effort to look outward from the areas where you intend to put windows. Pay attention to what you want to see and what you don’t want to see. It’s even more important to pay attention to the path of the sun, because this will affect the amount and quality of natural light and heat gain the interior of your house experiences. The daylight that enters a structure may shine directly from the sun, bounce off bodies of water, streets, buildings, or other surfaces, or come from the diffuse, day-lit sky. Figuring control measures, such as roof overhangs, requires a clear understanding of the sun’s path.
The sun’s daily east-to-west arc changes throughout the year. At the summer solstice, June 21, the sun rises and sets farthest to the north, meaning it is higher during the day. At the winter solstice, Dec. 21, the sun’s arc is at its southernmost position, with a much lower elevation.
The sun’s angle at any given time of the day depends on your latitude. The farther north you live, the lower the winter sun will be in the southern sky. Whether a window faces north, east, south, or west makes a big difference in the type of light it receives.
If you want morning sunlight to spray across your breakfast table, your breakfast room window should face east. Light from the south is bright and direct; solar houses are oriented to the south for maximum heat gain. South-facing windows are often located beneath eaves or roof overhangs to block the high, intense summer sun but allow in the warmth of the lower winter sun.
Western sun can be intense and glaring. Controlling it is more difficult because, as the sun sets, its low angle dips beneath eaves and overhangs. Shades, blinds, or glare-resistant glazing are generally required. It’s also helpful if deciduous trees are planted on the west side of a house—their spring-and-summer leaves block unwanted heat; then, when the leaves drop in the fall, the trees allow in the sun’s warmth and light.
Northern light, never direct from the sun, has cool, bluish hues because it comes from the sky. And, because it’s constant, it is favored for artists’ studios and the like. Be sure any architect you hire will take all of this into account when planning your house’s window placement.