Passive Solar Window Design in Heating-Dominated Climates

In heating-dominated climates, major glazing areas should generally face south to collect solar heat during the winter when the sun is low in the sky. In the summer, when the sun is high overhead, overhangs or other shading devices (e.g., awnings) prevent excessive heat gain.

To be effective, south-facing windows usually must have a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of greater than 0.6 to maximize solar heat gain during the winter, a U-factor of 0.35 or less to reduce conductive heat transfer, and a high visible transmittance (VT) for good visible light transfer.

Windows on east-, west-, and north-facing walls are reduced in heating climates, while still allowing for adequate daylight. East- and west-facing windows are limited because it is difficult to effectively control the heat and penetrating rays of the sun when it is low in the sky. These windows should have a low SHGC and/or be shaded. North-facing windows collect little solar heat, so they are used just to provide useful lighting.

Low-emissivity window glazing can help control solar heat gain and loss in heating climates.

Source: EERE, U.S. Department of Energy