December 21, 2018

What Direction Should Solar Panels Face?

Solar Energy

Your investment in solar panels is only as good as the sun they capture. The direction in which you face your array makes all the difference in how much sunlight they catch. The question, is what direction should solar panels face to generate the most energy? If you face North, you receive the least sun through the day. The sun rises in the East and follows a South-bound trajectory into the West skies. For the Northern Hemisphere, morning sunlight is the weakest, so the question lies between facing your panels South or West. This article teaches you everything you need to know about positioning your solar panels for maximum power.

What Direction Should Solar Panels Face?

Solar energy is an excellent power source because the suns energy is so abundantly available. Going solar has immediate and long-term benefits for individuals who invest. But, since the earth is 93 million miles away from the sun you have to be careful as to where it is you position your panels to capture the most energy. The direction in which your solar panels face is determined by the environment and location of installation. Solar panels are often put on top of roofs, but large arrays are put on the ground. The trick is to put it somewhere that it receives maximum sunlight during the day with the least shadow.

Factors to Consider for Solar Panel Placement

Consider the place where you plan to put your panels in determining the position and orientation of your solar array. Most home arrays mount to the roof if it is strong enough to hold the weight. Look for any obstruction to the suns light in the location you choose. For those who live in the flatlands and desert country, a ground solar array is clear from tree obstruction. If you get snow in the winter consider how accessible for clearing off your panel location is. If you are mounting your panels to the roof of your home or shed, which direction is the roof facing-and at what angle? Are there trees or building that cause shade throughout the day? Is there space on your roof for enough panels to fulfill your energy needs?

Should Solar Panels Face South or West?

If your solar panel location faces south you're in the sweet zone. True South is evident by the shadows cast at noon, running north to south. Most professional solar installers position the panels facing south because it receives the maximum duration of sunlight during the day. This is tempered, however, by your proximity to the equator and elevation to sea-level. Contrary to the south-facing rule, researchers at the Pecan Stree Research Institute in Austin, Texas suggest that solar panels should face west. Their studies show that west-facing solar panels generate two percent more power in the day during peak grid usage.

If They Can't Face South

Plenty of homes have roofs that face east and west, rather than north and south. If you live closer to the equator, the findings of the Pecan Street Research Institute are good news. West-facing solar panels receive the maximum solar energy in a day and generate the most power. On the other hand, if you live in Canada, the United Kingdom, or the Northern United States, South-facing arrays receive a greater duration of sunlight hours in the day. In these locations, evening hours produce less powerful sunlight than that which is closer to the equator. If you don't have any spaces that receive ample west-facing or south-facing sunlight, you have to be creative. Think about how you can lift the panels above the light obstruction, or use mirrors to reflect light onto the panels. If your panels have to face north, they receive the least amount of sunlight. At no point does the suns trajectory pass through the North sky. Think of building a tiered rack onto your roof. If your solar panels are up against the side of your roofline, your only option is to position your panels for sunlight from the East or the West. Sunlight from the East is obstructed as the sun passes into the South-East sky. Sunlight from the West is obstructed from the South-West light until it clears the roof on your house. If you have location complications with your solar placement, contact a professional. Most installers offer a free solar analysis, which can set you on the right track for what direction you panels should face.

Solar Panel Angle

The angle at which you tilt your solar panels towards the sun is calculated on your latitude. To find the ideal degree of tilt for your solar panels, in the United States, multiply 0.76 by your latitude. Then, add 3.1 degrees to the sum of your multiplication. If you wish to get the maximum energy out of your solar array, vary the pitch of your panels to the suns seasonal trajectory. In the winter, the sun travels lower across the horizon than in the summer. Solar DIYers are avid tinkerers with their panels hardware and controllers, trying to squeeze every kilowatt out of the daylight hours.

Final Thoughts

Your installation location is the biggest factor for what direction should solar panels face. Solar panels get the strongest sunlight hours from facing West. Solar panels get the longest direction of sunlight by facing South. If you have any other questions about positioning your solar panels, contact us for a consultation. If you like this article, on what direction should solar panels face, share it with a friend on social media. And subscribe to the newsletter for more resources about how solar works.

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Nick Gorden

Nick Gorden is the Co-founder and CEO of Shine Solar. Nick’s energy, enthusiasm, and leadership is contagious and has contributed to attracting a talented and successful executive team. His time is focused on strategic growth, maintaining profitability and creating the optimal customer experience. Nick has started, managed and sold companies within the communications, mortgage lending, insurance and real estate industries resulting in tens of millions of dollars of market value to investors.

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