The aspect (direction) of a balcony can have a massive impact on an apartment’s value. This is why you’ll often see listings boasting about south-facing balconies – and never about north-facing.
But does a balcony’s direction really matter? And, if so, which is the best direction for it to face? This is what we’ll look at below, so you can know what works best next time you’re apartment hunting.
Understanding Directions, Hemispheres and Equators
We don’t get too technical here, as understanding the sun’s tilt in relation to hemispheres requires far more explanation than we can offer. However, the directions in relation to sun exposure we discuss in this article are in relation to the Northern Hemisphere.
As a general rule, the reverse is true for north/south aspects in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the sun still rises in the east in the Southern Hemisphere, so anything about the east and west is the same.
The only real difference to this is your distance from the equator. Due to the sun’s tilt, places in a low latitude (near the equator) don’t receive much sun in the north and south aspects. Instead, east and west get the most sun.
As mentioned, we’re focusing on the Northern Hemisphere here, specifically at latitudes in relation to places like the US, Canada, the UK, etc. However, you can generally apply this information to other places with a bit of variation.
Balcony Directions – Which is Best?
The direction a balcony faces is also known as its aspect. We generally use the 4 main compass directions to describe aspect: north, south, east and west. Of course, you might find further divisions of north-east, south-west, etc.
We won’t include these here because it can start getting pretty complicated. However, you can usually just combine the information for the main compass (cardinal) directions for the intermediate (ordinal) directions.
North: The Least Sunny Aspect
North-facing balconies receive the least amount of sun during the day. While actual amounts vary based on location, this is a pretty standard rule for the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, some north-facing balconies might not get any direct sun at all.
While this won’t be great for those interested in sunbathing and gardening, there are some benefits. First, if you live somewhere very hot, it’ll help keep your home cool. Being out of direct sunlight can make up to 60 degrees F of difference to the temperature!
Better yet, you can still do plenty of gardening if that’s your thing. Lettuce, oregano, mint, and spinach are all happy in north-facing gardens, as are ivies, ferns and plenty of other ornamental plants.
- North-facing balconies often mean cheaper apartments.
- Helps keep temperature down in the summer.
- Plenty of plants are happy in all-day shade.
- Little (if any) direct sun.
South: The Most Sunny Aspect
It probably comes as no surprise, but south-facing balconies get the most sun. Depending on how far north you are, you could get direct sun literally all day, including the morning and evening.
Direct sun is great if you want to get a tan on your balcony, and for growing fruit trees, tomatoes, peppers, etc. Plenty of flowering plants love south-facing aspects, such as lilies, irises, lavender, etc.
While all-day sun sounds great, it can mean your balcony (and possibly apartment) gets too hot in the height of summer. Also, this can impact your plants, as many can wilt in the strong midday sun. However, a simple DIY balcony shade can help with this, allowing you to get the best of both worlds.
- South-facing balconies can get sun all day.
- Great for Mediterranean plants and fruit trees.
- Ideal for tanning.
- South-facing balconies can get too hot in summer.
- The most desirable aspect for many – leads to higher prices.
East: The Best of Morning Sun
East-facing balconies get the most sun in the morning, which can be great for enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee at the start of the day. Also, it’ll warm your home up nicely in the morning while keeping it cool in the afternoon.
This is an advantage for a lot of plants, too. You won’t have to worry about wilting and sunburn, and water loss is lower than on south-facing balconies. Any plant that likes a mix of direct sun and shade will be suitable for an east-facing balcony.
There aren’t many downsides to this aspect. One could be that it’s shady in the afternoon, which is when many people will probably want to be outside. However, if you’re an early riser, there are few things better than enjoying some direct morning sun!
- Direct morning sun helps warm your home.
- Pretty much all plants will enjoy east-facing balconies.
- Great for morning people.
- Can be shady from as early as mid-morning.
West: The Afternoon Outdoor Lover’s Dream
West, unsurprisingly, gets direct sun at opposite times to east. This means from around midday onwards, west-facing balconies will be sunny, which many people might prefer. As such, we could consider it to be the second-best aspect if you’re into tanning, or simply enjoying an evening cocktail.
If you plan to sit on your balcony after work enjoying a drink and some company, west is the choice for you. Whereas east-facing balconies warm your home in the morning, west-facing will warm it in the afternoon and evening. There are some benefits to this, such as keeping it cozy into the night. Of course, you might not want this in the summer!
As with south-facing balconies, the sun might be too intense in the afternoon for some people. Set up a shade to protect Yourself, but don’t worry too much about your plants. If the sun is really intense, opt for Mediterranean plants like lavender, as they’ll do well in these conditions.
- Perfect for night owls and evening entertainers.
- Keeps your house lighter for longer – saves on electricity bill.
- Good for tanning and just enjoying the sun.
- Summer sun can be quite intense in the early afternoon.
So, which direction should your balcony face? Well, it ultimately depends on what you want from your balcony and how much sun you enjoy. West- and south-facing are best for those who want to spend time in direct sunlight, whereas north is best for those who like shade. East-facing balconies are ideal for early risers who might not want to tan in the afternoon.
Whatever direction you prefer, hopefully the tips above should help you narrow down your options.