Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do You Really Want a Sunset View?

Ahh.... A house with a Sunset View!  What could be more annoying!  Seriously!

I grew up in a house on a lake in Central New York.  We lived on the West side of the lake, which many folks said was the "wrong side" of the lake.  After all, the folks on the East side got the fabled "sunset views".  And that was better, right?

So, for 20 years or so, I always felt I was missing out on the best part of living on a lake - the fabled "sunset view" - watching the sun disappear over the horizon, the reflected light dancing across the water.  What could be more luxurious, right?

Years later, I bought a home on another lake in Central New York, this time on the East side of a lake, with a beautiful "sunset view".  Great, right?  Not exactly.

The problem with a house that faces West is that during the day, the house heats up in the sun.  By the time the sun is setting, the house is very warm.  And by then, the sun is shining through the glass windows that are all set to face "the view."  As a result, the houses heats up like a furnace.

In addition, the glare from direct sunlight into your home is, well, like being under an arc lamp.  Add in the reflected light off the water, and you are reduced to painful squinting, even with sunglasses.

Look at any home facing West and you will see all sorts of curtains, shades, window tinting, and other devices designed to keep out the sun.  We added tinted roll-down window shades, blinds, curtains, awnings, and still it was no use - the sun shone into the house every evening like a car headlamp.  Sunset and darkness was a relief from the onslaught of light.

While we enjoyed our home, we found that the sunset was less than we imagined.  When the sun is low in the horizon, it blinds you.  The house is a furnace, and the furniture gets faded.  The actual sunset, when the sun is at the horizon, is a 15-minute affair that you have to catch at the right time.  And some sunsets are bitter disappointments.

We now live on an island, and many folks have houses facing West.  And just like our lake home, they have shades, shutters, window tinting, and other contraptions designed to keep out the blinding sun.  Far from "enjoying the view" most of these homes block it off.  You drive by and see their window-walls of glass, covered over with curtains and heavy drapes.

Some view.   More of an HVAC nightmare.

Having lived a half-century, I have to say that perhaps an Eastern view is better.  Consider this:
1.  When the sun is rising, your home is still cool from the evening.  Far from being an unwanted intruder, the morning sun warms your house when you need warmth the most.

2.  When the sun sets, your back is to it.  You may miss the sunset (all 15 minutes of it) but your house is not baking like a solar oven.

3.  For most of the day, particularly the afternoon, you enjoy a beautiful indirect light and temperate ambient temperatures.  No glare, no blasting heat.  No curtains, shades, or window tinting.
It is something to think about.  Every day, I drive by a row of homes with glass walls facing West.  And every day, their blinds and shutters are drawn tight, their window tinting showing bubbles and wrinkles.  And I wonder, why on Earth they do this.  Why have a "killer view" that you never look at, because it kills you?

People think a "sunset view" is really great.  But it isn't.  Sunrise is better.  Far better.

Or, if you have neither, trust me when I say you ain't missing much.  Sometimes, what makes things like sunsets so beautiful is that you don't see them every day.  By being an occasional treat, they are more enjoyable.

But when they are part of your everyday - and when they make your personal life difficult and impractical - well, what's the point of paying extra?

Just a thought.