An individual's need for and use of energy depends greatly on location, where the individual chooses to live relative to his or her workplace, service industries, and recreation. If someone really wants to save on energy cost, the first thing he or she needs to do is to minimize the use of a car by carpooling and/or using commuter rail or bus service. That's easier said than done in the US, since there is virtually no bus service (or any other kind of public transportation) in many US cities. (The US, despite its position as a highly developed country, has one of the poorest public transportation systems in the world.).

One solution to that problem is making the choice to live in a neighborhood that's mile of at least 10 basic services and with pedestrian access between the building and services (services used frequently, such as pharmacy, post-office, school, church, hardware store, supermarket, local hang-outs, etc.). Living close (1/4 mi) to mass transportation, if available, will also help transportation cost.

A few more points to consider are:
-Do not live on previously undeveloped land whose elevation is lower than 5 feet above the elevation of the 100 year flood as defined by FEMA.
-Do not live within 100 feet of any wetland.
-Do not live within 50 feet of a water body, defined as seas, lake, river streams etc.
-Consider living smaller rather than bigger...... Adopt a less-is-more philosophy. Building bigger means; you'll use more energy, now and later.

The other main issue in energy efficient living is the area and climate in which one lives. Two major issues are important to consider when choosing a location, if one has a choice:
-Solar exposure.
-Sun-angle.

Solar exposure: In order to take advantage of the sun, it is important to have good solar exposure. Living in the South of the US does not necessarily mean good solar exposure. Obstruction by clouds plays a major role in the equation, so maps are made available in order to see where you'll get the most "Solar exposure" in the US. These maps (similar to the one shown below) are available at: http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/

Sun-angle: Clearly, an individual living closer to the equator needs less heating energy than one that lives closer to the North Pole. In order to be energy efficient, one must make direct use of our natural resources (sun, wind, water, all of which will be discussed later). Since the sun radiates heat and light, the objective is to tap into that energy and use it as directly (with minimal mechanical devises or transfers) as possible.

It is first important to understand that the sun has a different angle at any given time of the day and during different seasons. In order to make more use of the sun in the winter than in the summer, one must consider the low angle of the sun in the winter and in contrast to the high angle in the summer. In order to use the sun to its full potential, it is important to know the angle of the sun in the area in the summer and wintertime especially during noon time. Years ago, gathering that information involved going out every day and plotting the sun at each hour for a year, but now that data has been accumulated and made available via several web-site:
http://www.waukesha.k12.wi.us/South/EarthScience/AngleOfTheSun/AngleOfTheSun.shtml
http://www.susdesign.com/sunangle/
http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sunangle.htm
Below is a sample of the type of data these links provide, helping individuals to determine the angle of the sun in specific areas. A web search using keywords "sun chart" will also provide useful links. Knowing the sun-angle is the most important aspect of designing an energy efficient home. With the knowledge of the angle of the sun we can heat the home with the sun, which we will discuss in the next few weeks, but also cool the home. I'll go in much more detail of cooling a home when I discuss "cooling", but for now I'd like to mention the easiest and obvious thing that can be done, which is the overhang or awning. Any home (and in particular a Solar Home) requires an overhang to regulate solar gain.

Again, this will be discussed later in more detail including calculations, but in order to see the sun-angle and overhang work together, please click on: Winter animation Summer animation

Michiel VanderSommen