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The Best Direction for Solar Panels. West facing solar

The Best Direction for Solar Panels. West facing solar

    The Best Direction for Solar Panels

    Katherine Gallagher is a writer and sustainability expert. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Chapman University and a Sustainable Tourism certificate from the GSTC.

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    Solar panels are gaining popularity as an environmentally friendly investment that will produce renewable energy on a large scale for many years to come. Even after you make the initial decision to switch to solar panels, there are still a few things to consider—and among the quantity, size, and power capacity, you’ll want to research the best direction for solar panels to face. Whether the system is mounted on the roof, carport, or ground, the direction your panels face is a major factor in how much energy your system produces.

    Learning the direction that your roof faces will help determine the best positioning for your rooftop solar panel system, since it determines how much natural sunlight the panels will receive throughout the day. If you have a company installing your panels for you, they should be able to help give you an idea of the most optimal direction, but another option is to use Google Maps. Simply type in your address and compare your roof’s direction on the satellite imagery to the provided compass grid.

    The Case for South-Facing Panels

    In the Northern Hemisphere, solar panels are generally more effective when they face the south. According to Energy Sage, a clean energy project developed by the United States Department of Energy to help consumers choose solar equipment, solar panels that face east or west typically produce 20% less electricity than if they were to face the south. In terms of angles, a fixed roof-mounted system should be at an angle equal to the latitude of the location where the panels are installed, usually between 30 and 45 degrees. If your roof doesn’t face the right direction, you could adjust the angle of the panels to offset the effect of direction.

    That doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from solar panels if your roof doesn’t face directly south, however. Rooftop solar panels will still produce enough electricity to save you money on your utility bills even if they’re positioned in other directions. In fact, solar panels will even produce electricity if you live in a region that experiences snowy or cloudy weather conditions. In these cases, you may need to invest in a few more panels, especially if you plan to power your entire property using solar.

    What to Do With a North-Facing Roof

    North-facing systems are generally considered to be the worst possible location for solar production. It isn’t impossible, but will likely require additional mounting to orient the panels so that they oppose your roof’s natural slant and don’t sit flush with the roof. Consider a ground-based system or even one on top of a separate carport if a north-facing roof is your only option.

    The Case for West-Facing Panels

    There are several studies making a case for west-facing panels, including a survey conducted by Opower, a software company that works with electric companies to manage relationships with customers. The company examined 110,000 California homes and found that while most solar panel systems point south because it captures the most power over the course of the day, west-facing systems maximize production during the late afternoon when homeowners are more likely to run the dishwasher, turn on the lights, and watch television. In this case, the most optimum direction to face your solar panels may be somewhere between south and west, depending on what time of day you use the most energy. This way, you can take advantage of the benefits that both directions bring to the table.

    Another study published in the journal Solar Energy investigated optimal solar placement using a model of a generic solar panel and calculated outputs for every possible placement in 1,000 different locations throughout the United States. In Austin, Texas, for example, west-facing arrays produced 14% less energy than south-facing ones over the course of a year; however, during the summer months, the difference was just 1%. The study also found that if they considered energy produced during peak usage hours from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., then the western orientation was the most efficient.

    What does this mean? Well, some utility companies attempt to avoid electricity usage surges in the late afternoons and evenings, so they charge extra during these periods. If you live in an area that charges more expensive utility rates depending on the time of use, it might be worthwhile to consider west-facing panels instead of south-facing ones.

    Deciding which angle to install solar panels is tricky because each season has a different optimal angle. In spring, that angle is 45 degrees. In the winter, it’s 60 degrees. And in the summer, it’s 20 degrees. In general, fixed solar panels should tilt 30 to 45 degrees.

    You can install solar panels on a flat roof, but they’re more efficient at a 45-degree angle facing south, which you can achieve with mounts.

    What Is The Best Angle And Orientation For Solar Panels?

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    Table of Contents

    We have all heard that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. However, the sun’s movement throughout the day is a little more complex. Why does this matter? Well, if you are in the market for the solar panel performance.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    Solar Panel Orientation

    Solar panel orientation is simply which cardinal direction the panel is facing: north, south, east or west. Typical solar panel application will follow true direction rather than aligning with the magnetic poles. For example, true north aligns with earth’s true axis rather than aligning with the north pole.

    Homes that have solar panels facing directly east or west will produce around 20% less energy. The proper solar panel orientation for homes located north of the equator is facing true south. For homes located south of the equator, it will be the opposite—,facing true north. This will provide the best orientation to allow the most exposure time to the sun and produce the most amount of electricity.

    Solar Panel Angle

    Solar panel angle is simply the vertical tilt of your solar panels. It can be a little more tricky to understand since the proper tilt will vary with geographic location and time of year. In terms of geographic location, the angle of your panels will increase the further you move from the equator. For context, in states such as Texas and Florida, the sun will stay higher in the sky meaning solar panels in lower states like these will require less tilt.

    For states such as New York and Michigan, the sun sits much lower in the sky, meaning solar panels in states up north will require more tilt.

    Determining Optimum Solar Panel Angle by Zip Code

    To find the optimal angle for your solar panels, do a Google search for the latitude of your home address or your zip code. Typically, an ideal angle for your solar panels will be equal or close to the latitude of your home. However, proper solar panel angle will fluctuate over the course of the year.

    For summer and the warmer months, it will be 15 degrees minus your latitude. For winter and and the cooler months, the ideal solar panel angle will be 15 degrees added to your latitude.

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    Solar Panel Angle and the Impact of Seasons

    The proper angle of your solar panels will not only be affected by your geographic location but also by how the sun changes with each season. During the summer months, the sun will sit higher in the sky. And in winter, the sun will sit lower in the sky. This means that in order to get the most production out of your solar panels you will need to change the tilt with each season.

    However, most solar panels installed for home use are mounted on the roof at a fixed angle. Meaning, the process of changing the angle of your solar panels with each season can be quite difficult. There are systems that can be installed that will track the axis of the sun and adust the angle over time. But currently those systems are very expensive. And while they do increase the output of your panels, the increased cost may not be worth the initial investment.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    Factors Affecting the Optimum Solar Panel Angle

    Since solar panel angles are the vertical tilt of your solar system, various factors ensure you have the optimal angle for your solar panels.

    Roof Tilt

    Of course, everyone’s roof is designed differently, hence the importance of considering your roof’s tilt before installing solar panels.

    For instance, installing solar panels on a roof with a steep tilt may mean you can’t achieve an optimal tilt with a traditional racking system. Therefore, depending on how steep the angle of your roof is, the best you can do is lie your panels flat against the roof.

    Installing solar panels on low-angle roofs can also be complicated since they may require specialized racking if you want to tilt them at the optimal angle. Flush-mounting solar panels on a low-angled roof will produce less electricity and reduce solar savings.


    To receive exceptional solar savings, you’ll want your solar panels to be angled in a way that optimizes the sunlight exposure for that location. This is done by tilting your solar panels at the same angle as the latitude of your home. For most homeowners, the ideal angle for a solar panel installation is close to or equal to the latitude of your home. This angle is typically between 30 degrees and 45 degrees. Doing so ensures your home will get the maximum average output from your solar power system throughout the year.

    Time of Year/Season

    The time of year can certainly depict how effectively your solar panels work due to the sun’s position. For example, during the winter in the northern hemisphere, the sun is lower to the horizon. Therefore, it is more difficult for your solar panels to capture the sunlight to create energy.

    However, installing your panels at a steeper angle than your latitude (around 60 degrees) can help counteract winter production dips. Also, you’ll want to ensure your solar panels are installed at an angle where snow can easily slide off.

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    Which Is Important: Angle or Orientation?

    Because of all the nuances and various factors involved with determining the proper angle of your solar panels, you might think that it is the most important factor come installation. However, the opposite is true. When it comes to solar panels, determining the correct orientation is the most important variable.

    Improper orientation will mean that your panels won’t get enough exposure time to the sun, reducing your electricity output drastically. The wrong angle on the correct orientation will produce more energy than the correct angle on the wrong orientation.

    Solar panels are a great way to improve the efficiency of your home and reduce your carbon footprint. There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding to go solar other than the potential cost savings. The company you choose will have the knowledge to install your solar panels appropriately, however, knowing a few key principals about solar panel installation is always a good starting point.

    Proper solar panel orientation and angle is the ideal place to start since these two factors have the greatest effect on efficiency. Dissect the information this article lays out, and work the numbers as they pertain to the location of your home. This will enable you to compare information with your solar panel installer in order to make sure your panels are set up to run as efficiently as possible.

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    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Is it worth tilting your solar panels?

    Yes – your solar panels must collect sunlight to produce solar energy successfully. Therefore, you want to ensure your solar panel is tilted to capture as much sunlight as possible. Therefore, to get the maximum average output from your solar power system, you should tilt your solar panels close to the same angle as the latitude of your home.

    What is the best direction for solar panels?

    Since the sun is always in the southern half of the sky (in the northern hemisphere), solar panels that face south will receive the most direct sunlight and, therefore, is the best direction for solar panels.

    Do solar panels need to be south-facing?

    Although solar panels don’t necessarily need to be south-facing, it is the ideal direction to get the most output. However, east or west-facing panels can still capture sunlight and generate energy. Most solar companies will provide guidance and advice on what’s best angle for your solar energy setup.

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    Which way should my solar panels face: south or east-west?

    There’s been quite a bit of news lately regarding the installation of solar panels on 500,000 buildings in the UK, suggesting that the panels may be facing the wrong direction! A leading solar expert, professor Ralph Gottshalg of Loughborough University, made the news this past week when he said that thousands of well-meaning people in the UK have installed their panels the wrong way. According to the The Telegraph in the UK, Professor Gottshalg is urging the UK to follow Germany’s recent policy of putting panels on east-west facing roofs to smooth the supply of power during the day and prevent spikes of power at midday.

    Traditionally, solar panel installations (in the northern hemisphere) have been oriented such that the panels face south, to soak up the maximum amount of solar energy during the middle of the day, when the sun is at its strongest. But in some cases, that can create a surplus of energy that goes to waste. and more, people are considering the advantages of orienting their panels such that they meet the demands of the peak energy consumption hours, in the morning, and even more so, in the late afternoon and evening.

    What is the best way for you to orient your solar panels? Well, that depends on a few things!

    Is the energy for personal use or for selling back to the grid?

    If your panels are for generating energy for your own personal use and you are not selling the energy back to the grid, then you need to consider when you consume the greatest amount of energy and whether you have a system for storing your excess energy. If you’re off the grid with a cabin in the woods, for example, and you have a battery to store your energy for use after dark, then you may want to stick with south facing panels to maximize your midday energy generation. But if you’re simply trying to reduce your monthly electricity bill by generating some of your own power, or if you’re an investor selling back to the grid, then you may want to consider the times of peak energy consumption, which are often reflected in higher energy prices, and maximize your solar power generation to coincide with these times. An east-west installation (or simply a west-facing system) is gaining more and more traction in the solar world. In Germany, with the recent shift in policy, east-west systems are already a reality at the industrial scale, as can be seen in this mega-watt scale project at Holzengraben.

    Does your utility pay/charge more during peak periods?

    The cost of electricity where you live is an important consideration, whether you are generating power for personal use or whether you are selling back to the grid. Obviously, in both of these cases, if you live in a state or province where your utility change according to the time of day, you want to maximize your investment by generating more energy during the peak periods when energy is most in demand. In the province of Ontario for example, a majority of electricity users pay time-of-use prices, corresponding to three prices, one for off-peak, one for mid-peak, and one for on-peak demand, ranging from 7.5 cents per kWh to 13.5 cents per kWh. An east-west system might serve you better if you’re paying more for electricity just when you need it, in the afternoon and early evening. It’s important to check the details of the net-metering or feed-in tariff agreements that are in place where you live.

    Let’s run the numbers: Loughborough, here we come!

    So what does WhatNextNow Solar Discover have to say about the orientation of the panels? Let’s visit Professor Gottshalg’s university town of Loughborough and run the numbers. An averaged-sized solar power system of 5 kW, facing south, is expected to generate about 4700 kWh of electricity per year at this location. If we lower the inclination of the panels (say to an angle of 10 degrees from horizontal) and point the panels west, the estimated generation drops to about 4200 kWh. It is clear that we lose a little more than 10 percent of our annual production, but not all kWh of electricity are created equal. If there is time-of-use pricing in your area, east-west facing panels will generate more electricity during peak demand hours, resulting in savings that can easily offset this 10 percent loss on an annual basis.

    In conclusion.

    Whether you have a south-facing or an east/west-facing system, you’re still doing yourself, and the planet, a favor by generating your own electricity through solar power. If you have yet to install panels, consider your options. you can start by checking out WhatNextNow Solar Discover and playing around with the orientation feature to see the impact of different facing panels. With Discover, everyone can find out what they could be producing in terms of solar energy if they had their own system. Aren’t you curious?

    Will Solar Panels Work on an East Facing Roof?

    Solar panels are typically mounted on roofs, so homeowners have only a few options when it comes to their orientation. The azimuth is also known as 0°, which means pointing north, and 180°, which means facing south.

    What is the best direction for solar panels to face?

    Solar panels facing south in the Northern Hemisphere, where the United States is located, will produce the most electricity.

    On average, during the year, the sun shines directly over the Equator. You can get the most sunlight if you face south towards the Equator if you are north of it. The Sun crosses the southern half of the sky all year long in any part of the world north of the Tropic of Cancer (23,4°N Latitude). This includes the entire U.S. mainland.

    The United States is oriented south, so solar panels oriented south will always face the sun.

    What are the benefits of pointing your solar panels south?

    The sun rises in the eastern sky in the Northern Hemisphere, sets in the western sky, and spends all of its time in the southern half of the sky. Because of this, when you have fixed placement solar panels. such as those on your roof. facing them directly south will give you the most electricity. Sunlight hits directly south.

    Solar installations facing east require net metering

    Solar home owners get billed according to their net electricity usage with net metering. Consider the case where your solar panels produced 500 kWh of electricity in one month, but your home used 501 kWh. As a result of net metering, you will be billed for 1 kWh of electricity. At the time of usage, it wouldn’t matter whether your house was actually running on grid electricity or solar electricity. With net metering, it does not matter. Only your net usage counts.

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    The problem with east-facing panels without net metering

    As a result, the solar homeowner has to use as little grid electricity as possible without net metering. Any extra solar electricity, from the homeowner’s point of view, is largely wasted (although the utility company still reaps significant benefits). However, most people leave the house for work and school every day. When nobody is around, the electricity might then drop off and if it’s early in the day, your house didn’t have the chance to warm up yet and the ac isn’t operating.

    Call Green Convergence for your solar panel installation

    If you’re looking for a way to save money, keep your solar facing the right direction for your home, and generating the maximum amount of energy possible, contact us and let us help you explore your options for installing a solar.

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