But now suppose that, as will often be the case, we do not plan to move house to save on air conditioning or lighting. What we can do is change the use of the interior of the house so that we save on heating and air conditioning depending on the type of facade we have. For this, imagine a typical home with a kitchen, a bathroom, one or two bedrooms, a living room and a study. Where is it best for us to locate each room?
There are areas of the house that do not need heating, such as the kitchen and bathroom, or whose climate control will be occasional (when showering). If these rooms are positioned to the north or east, leaving us the south and west for the living room and the study, it will make it easier for these two rooms to heat up naturally throughout the day. Bioclimatic principles.
in their purest form.
Leaving the cold rooms to the north and the warm ones to the south will help us avoid turning on air conditioning and heating, at least to a certain degree or for fewer hours per year. Even if we work at home and make use of the studio, or if, in southern Spain, we spend time in summer in the living room, locating it facing south may be a good idea, leaving the bedrooms to the north.
This is due to the fact that heat does not pass directly into the interior of the house but instead accumulates in the walls (thermal mass), and then moves towards the interior over the following hours. This is known as thermal inertia, and that is why we will feel hot at night in a room facing south even if it is not very hot outside: the wall radiates the heat absorbed during the day.
Is it worth carrying out building work to change the distribution of our housing?
Although many homes have been built following these basic principles of bioclimatic architecture, the truth is that not all of them have taken this into account. Thus, we see rooms to the north that stay cold all day and rooms to the south where we need to put the air conditioning on for many days a year. If we are refurbishing, carrying out extensive building work, it may be a good idea to propose a change.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, more than half of the gas and electricity bill will be spent on climate control. This is even more true regarding houses, as opposed to flats, since house owners spend approximately double on climate control because the walls of houses are more exposed to the outside. So, to do the maths, we can check if a saving of between 20 and 30% in energy consumption (consumption, variable part) merits paying for any such refurbishment.
If, in addition to changing the distribution of the home, we improve its insulation (windows, thermal breaks, awning installation, etc.), these percentages will increase. The more years we are going to spend in the same house, the sooner we will be interested in optimising its use with regards the orientation of the four points of the compass.
And, if it is impossible for us (it is not easy to change the position of the pipes), we can always follow the trend in passive housing. In many cases, changing the orientation of the rooms or planning a move is absurd, so we will have to optimise where it is viable.
The importance of natural light
This article has taken into account the highest energy expenditure of all: air conditioning. However, there are other energy expenses to consider. Namely, a house facing south or west will not consume electricity running an electric dryer, more will be spent on the refrigerator in a kitchen facing south, and a north-facing house will consume more electricity in lighting.
Although considerably less than other items, especially thanks to LED bulbs, let's not forget to maximise natural light, especially due to the relationship between lighting and our health. Leave the rooms we spend more time in to the south and west, especially if we work at home or come back before the sun goes down, respectively. They will decrease electricity consumption and help us to live in a less artificial environment, something that our metabolism will appreciate.