Oftentimes, individuals believe that they cannot install solar panels on their roof due to the material of the roof, location, shade or even size. Although some roofs are not ideally suited for a rooftop solar system installation and may cause difficulties with energy production, others can have minimal impact. Do not let these misconceptions hinder your dream of achieving renewable power; explore all possibilities before making any decisions!
In this article, we’re going to dive into the two facets of roofing that determine the efficiency of solar panels: direction and angle.
Solar Panel Direction
When it comes to solar panel placement, orientation is everything. To make sure your panels are receiving the maximum amount of sunlight every day, they should be facing true north and south with no exceptions. This will ensure you’re getting as much energy capture out of them as possible! For people located above the Equator, orienting their solar panels towards the South will help them get maximum benefit. On the other hand for those below it—pointing them north provides an optimal situation. To gain even more advantage and be able to make use of the best direction for solar panels and arrays, one should position their systems based on true south as well as azimuth angle—the angle between true north and south in relation to sunlight.
Optimizing your Solar Panel Direction
Utilizing solar panels that are oriented to the east or west will yield 20% less electricity than if they were directly facing south. Nevertheless, you’ll still save money with this arrangement – although it may require an extra few panels in order for your system to offset all of your electrical needs.
If you live in the northern hemisphere and install solar panels on your north-facing roof, it could be a challenging endeavor. It is possible but not recommended as that’s the least productive option for electricity production. In order to optimize energy generation with this setup, special mounting may need to be used so that the angle of your panels opposes your roof’s slope. Unfortunately, if your only option is a northern-facing roof, this will not provide the highest level of efficiency for solar panels due to their lack of flush installation. Fortunately, there are alternative solutions such as ground-mounted solar or carport installations that would offer more effective and efficient use of energy from the sun’s rays.
Solar Panel Angle
Solar panel angle is the vertical inclination of your solar system. To illustrate, if your solar panels are standing upright on a flat surface they would have a 90-degree tilt. For maximum efficiency when it comes to energy harvesting, it’s best that you point those same panels in an orientation directly towards the sun. Photovoltaics are most effective when the sun’s rays hit the panel surface at a low angle of incidence, or as close to perpendicular as possible. Consequently, your solar panels should be positioned in such a way that they receive direct and maximum light from the sun.
What Factors Affect your Optimal Solar Panel Angle?
When searching for the optimal angle to install your solar panels, there are a few things you should take into consideration. Here is an overview of some important factors that may affect the best tilt at which to place your photovoltaic array:
To take full advantage of the sun’s rays, most solar arrays are placed at an angle that is optimal for each region. For a significant portion of U.S homeowners, setting up the array near your home’s latitude (on a south-facing roof) between 30 to 45 degrees provides the best possible outcome. To maximize the efficiency of your solar power system, tilt your panels towards the latitude at which you live. This ensures that they are consistently pointed in an optimal direction to produce maximum energy on average throughout all seasons.
Northern vs. Southern Latitude: New York Versus D.C.
Illustrating our hypothesis, we compared the data between New York and Washington D.C. to discover how solar panel production levels vary when tilted at different angles—the results were in accordance with what we expected from monitoring other variable influences:
- Regardless of your geographic location or the angle of your roof, going solar will yield tremendous savings.
- Contrary to popular belief, the angle of your roof is not as influential on solar panel performance as the direction in which your system faces.
Maximizing electricity production requires solar panels to face south at an angle of 30°. Even if you decide to reduce the tilt down to a mere 5°, energy output will only drop by approximately 10 percent – making it still worth your while!
2. Existing Roof Design
While it would be absolutely ideal if all rooftops had the same angle as their latitude, this is unfortunately not the case. Every property has its own unique topography and design; thus, there can never truly be an “all-encompassing” solar panel placement map. That being said, most roofs have slopes that range between 30 to 40 degrees – the perfect conditions for installing photovoltaic panels so they lay flush against a roof while still producing enough energy to make investing in them worthwhile!
If your roof is too steep for the traditional racking systems, you may not be able to install solar panels at the ideal tilt. This could be because your roof’s incline exceeds the optimal angle for production. The best option in this situation would be to lie them flat against your rooftop instead. Installers may face complications when installing solar panels on low-angle roofs, as they may require specific racking to tilt the panel at its optimal angle. Placing these types of panels flush against the roof will likely lead to reduced energy production and lower savings down the line.
When it comes to flat roofs, solar installers will usually go with racking systems that tilt your panels at a more advantageous angle. Though this allows the sun’s rays to be captured quickly and directly by your panels, you may experience restrictions regarding the size of your system. With slanted solar panels installed on a flat roof, you run the risk of shadowing from one panel to another unless they are properly spaced and staggered. This decreases your chances of having optimal energy production as fewer panels can actually be placed on the rooftop compared to flush-mounted systems without spacing them out.
Whether your roof is steep or flat, always entrust a professional solar installer to mount the panels in order to guarantee maximum output and utmost safety. If you’re not sure whether or not solar energy is suitable for your home and roof type, read this article to learn if it’s right for you!
3. Time of Year
Despite the fact that solar panels remain effective in winter, you may see a decrease in energy production during harsher winters as snowfall covers your panels and hinders their power output. In the northern hemisphere specifically, remember that because of how low the sun is to the horizon, installing your panel at an angle near 60 degrees can help offset any potential winter dips in total energy production. To optimize your solar panel’s efficiency during the winter, aim them to face directly towards the sun as it sits in a lower point of the sky. Although this may sound like an ideal strategy, setting up panels at low angles can have adverse effects due to snow not sliding off easily from your system. Therefore leading to long-term snow cover and affecting electric production. To combat seasonal output variations, realign your solar array twice annually in both spring and fall seasons for maximum results! In reality, a system located at 40-degree latitude can experience an energy surge of around 4%. If you’re curious about the dates to adjust your solar panel angle for optimum performance, we suggest setting them winter-wise on September 15th and spring/summer angles on March 15th.
What about Solar Trackers?
As the sun journeys through its yearly cycle, only a solar tracking system can keep your solar panels optimally angled. Solar trackers follow the ever-changing position of the sun in order to maximize energy production. If you are considering a ground-mounted installation, then this innovative technology could be just what you need to get maximum returns from your setup!
Generally, a rooftop system is the most cost-efficient and space-saving option for many solar shoppers. Solar trackers are typically only used in commercial projects as they can dramatically increase output due to the tracker’s ability to serve as an accurate angle calculator for panels. Installation of such tracking systems on residential rooftops is possible yet challenging.
Which Matters More: Solar Panel Direction or Angle?
The angle of your solar panel setup is essential, but the most critical element to generating energy from it lies in which direction you face them. As we’ve discussed before, for optimal results, be sure that they are oriented towards the south (in case you reside north of the equator) – since this way the sunlight will always come from southern half of a northern hemisphere sky.
Despite the fact that a solar array tilted at 42 degrees with its face north may be the optimal tilt, it is not advised to install your panels in this direction if they do not fall within an ideal orientation. To illustrate this point, consider Boston: even when positioned at 30 degrees south, a solar panel there will still generate more electricity than one facing north and on a 42 degree tilt.
Now that you know the best direction and angle for solar panels, it’s time to take action! Remember to always position your system with its face towards the south (in case of north hemisphere) in order for it to receive maximum sunlight. Additionally, tilt the solar panel array based on your roof’s latitude or inclination, this will help ensure that your system generates the most power possible and allows for maximum exposure of sunlight. We recommend you to adjust the angle twice annually according to seasonal changes, as this will help you get more out of your solar array. Finally, if you are looking for further efficiency from your setup, then consider a solar tracking system – although these may come with additional costs, they can be worth the investment in certain cases!
What is the best way to calculate an optimal angle for solar panels?
The inclination of your solar panel installation will be slightly different based on where you live, but it should typically always face as directly towards the sun as possible. As such, a safe bet would be to set them at an angle close or equal to your city’s latitude – usually in between 30 and 45 degrees.
Is there a certain direction that’s best when installing solar panels?
Absolutely! The optimal orientation is south. This allows for the most direct exposure to sunlight, as it’s always in the southern sky during northern hemisphere summer months. Keep in mind though, that while tilt effectiveness is important, it isn’t worth compromising with an unfavorable direction just to get a higher angle of inclination.
Should I angle my solar panels?
Absolutely! Tilting your solar panels towards the latitude of where you live will allow them to absorb more energy and give you a higher return on investment. Not only can this increase your average output, but it also allows for an optimal performance throughout all seasons.
Is east or west the best orientation for solar panels?
While neither direction is ideal, both orientations can still capture sunlight and generate power and savings!
Are south-facing solar panels preferable?
While it is not a necessity, the most output can be achieved with south-facing solar panel systems. Panels that face south in the northern hemisphere are more optimal than east or west facing ones. North-facing rooftops offer the least favorable environment for installation.
Jonas Muthoni is an entrepreneur and renewable energy expert. He is the founder of MicroGridMedia.com, a website dedicated to bringing the latest news and information about solar energy and other renewable energy sources to the public. Jonas is passionate about promoting sustainable energy solutions and educating the public about the benefits of renewable energy. He is a regular speaker at industry events and conferences and is committed to driving the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.