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Building with an eye to harnessing the sun's rays

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I have begun to appreciate some very positive things about the piece of mountainside I bought here in Maine. It appears to be considerably warmer than the latitude (44 degrees N.) says it should be. In fact, light frosts were settling in gardens just a few miles west of Boston this past fall several weeks before anything similar struck here, about 100 miles to the north.

The terrain and its relationship to the sun is the reason for this warmer-than-expected site. The land slopes fairly steeply to the south-southwest. In other words, it faces the sun; and because of the slope, the sun's rays strike it more directly than they do flat ground. As a result, the land absorbs considerably more heat throughout the summer months, and this residual warmth carries it over for a longer period in the fall. In winter, too, the more direct rays make it a warmer place to be whenever the sun shines.

The slope plays another positive role: It makes it possible for cold air (which flows like water on windless nights) to drain away into neighboring valleys. The effect of this was brought home to me last fall when a valley some 15 miles away had its first freeze before even the lightest hoarfrost brushed the land hereabouts.

As holdings go in this rural area, my acreage is modest, but it is much bigger than anything I have owned before.

I found that choosing a building site that makes the best use of the sun was relatively straightforward. In fact, in energy-efficient housing construction, the very first step is to choose the right building site. Whether your land is large or small, the first priority is to decide just where the house will go and which way it will face. In this new age of efficiency, the picture windows don't necessarily face the street anymore.

The idea, of course, is to make maximum use of whatever solar energy falls in your area. To do that, consider the following:

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