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Best Direction for Solar Panels

When you are installing a set of new solar panels on the roof of your home or office, there are a lot of things to consider. Apart from checking their power rating and size, you also need to check and make sure that you are using the right direction for the same.

Without having the right direction, even the most powerful solar panel won’t be able to offer optimum power levels. This is due to the reason that the right direction for your solar panel is highly important to ensure optimum efficiency since without it, your solar panels won’t be performing at their optimum efficiency.

To help you find the best direction for solar panels, we are here with a complete guide. You will find all the important factors and details regarding solar panel direction down below. By going through this guide, you can install your solar panels in the right direction and get high-efficiency power output from them.

Orientation for Solar Panels

Before taking a look at the exact direction and position in which you should install your solar panels, you should first consider and learn about the factors which affect the efficiency of your solar panels. For the same, let’s take a look at the orientation of your solar panels. Without having the right orientation of your solar panels, the sunlight will not fall perpendicular to your solar panels resulting in a lower power efficiency.

As for what exactly the orientation for solar panels means, it includes the position, the direction, and the angle of your solar panels. Since we have discussed the direction and angle of your solar panels down below, we will take a look at the placement for now. In most cases, it is recommended to install solar panels on angled rooftops that have a slant since they will offer better efficiency thanks to their better angle without needing any adjustments.

Direction for Solar Panels

Coming to the direction for solar panels, it is one of the most important factors regarding solar panels. It affects the efficiency and power output of your solar panels more than anything. If you are living in the northern hemisphere, then it is recommended to change the direction of your solar panels to south since it will offer the best efficiency output. But if you want the best efficiency, then you need to point your solar panels to the true south and not the magnetic south which are slightly different.

While the south direction offers the best efficiency, going for a south west direction is better for solar panels being used in homes. This allows them to generate power even during evening and late hours which is generally when people living in homes power multiple appliances resulting in higher power consumption.

Angle for Solar Panels

While the direction of your solar panels tells you about the orientation of your solar panels respective to the sun, the angle of your solar panel tells you about its tilt or the angle between the ground and the solar panel. To ensure that your solar panels have the right angle for optimum power production, you should go with an angle the same as your geographical latitude.

In case your latitude is 40 degrees, then your solar panels should also be installed at 40 degrees to the ground. This means that if you are near the pole, then your solar panels will have a higher tilt towards the equator. And if you are near the equator, your solar panels will be almost flat and laying down on the roof. If it snows quite a lot in your area, then you will need to have a slightly higher tilt to prevent snow accumulation on your solar panels to ensure that the sunlight is not blocked.

Overall Best Direction for Solar Panels

Now that you know more about the factors affecting the power output and efficiency of your solar panels, you might want to know about the overall best direction for solar panels. Unfortunately, finding the same is not that simple or straight forward. This is due to the reason that the direction of your solar panels will differ depending on the desired application and given scenario. Because of this, we are here with the following optimum directions for solar panels according to your desired usage and applications:

1. Direction for Maximising Output

If you do not want to consider anything else but want the most power output from your solar panels, then you may want to know about the direction for maximising output. For the same, if you are living in the northern hemisphere, then you should go in the south direction. In most cases, by pointing your solar panels towards the south direction will result in maximum sunlight all around the year.

2. Direction for Net Metering

There might be many cases where your locality and area might have the option for full retail 1:1 net metering. Because you have both grid power and solar panel power available, you would want your solar panels to be as efficient as possible even if the total power output produced throughout the day is lower.

For this, you should point your solar panels towards the south direction. Since the south direction results in high power output during midday where most homes have lower power output, you can export the extra produced power resulting in lower power bills.

3. Direction for Battery Systems

Similar to net metering, you would want your solar panels to produce extra power during the day if you are using battery systems. This is to ensure that your solar panels are not only powering up your appliances but also charging the battery system at the same. Due to this, if you are using a battery system, then you should install your solar panels in the south direction. This direction is perfect if you want to go completely off grid since your batteries will be fully charged on a daily basis.

4. Direction for Time of Use Billing

While it is not very common, some areas might have TOU or Time of Use billing. Such areas essentially charge more for grid power for specific times which is generally the evening hours when most people end up using more electricity and power. To overcome this increased power cost, you would want your solar panels to offer a higher power output during late hours and the evening. As a result, installing your solar panels in the southwest direction in case of Time of Use billing is highly recommended.

Solar System Direction and Output Impact

By this point, it must be pretty clear that using your solar panels while having a south direction is the most optimal in most cases. However, this might not be possible for everyone and you might be looking to install your solar panels facing a different direction. Since this reduces the efficiency of your solar panels, it will also impact the overall output. As for the exact power output impact you can expect, it depends on the direction that you are using as given here:

Direction Expected Power Output Loss
Southwest/Southeast 8%
East/West 15%
North 30%

In case you are wondering about such drastic impacts on the power output of your solar panels due to direction change, it is primarily due to the following factors:

1. Direction from South

As you turn your solar panels more and more away from the south direction, the power output of your solar panels will reduce even further. Because of this, while southwest and southeast directions have a very minimal power output loss, turning your solar panels to the north which is the completely opposite side results in a much higher power output loss.

2. Latitude

Your geographical latitude also determines the amount by which the power output of your solar panels will be affected as per the direction you are using. In most cases, solar panels installed closer to the pole will have a bigger impact on their power output than the solar panels which are installed closer to the equator.

3. Roof Pitch

The angle of your roof or its tilt will also determine the amount by which the power output is affected depending on the direction that you are using. In general, a lower roof pitch or tilt has a lower effect on the power output loss. Any roof which has a steep tilt will affect the power output of your solar panels even if they are slightly away from the south direction.

What if the Roof is not Facing the South Direction?

As stated earlier, the south direction is the best direction to choose if you want to have the highest power output from your solar panels. Unfortunately, not everyone has a south facing roof for their homes and offices. In such a case, you might be looking for other ways to install your solar panels facing south. For the same, you can consider the following options if you want the best output from your solar panels:

1. Install Additional Solar Panels

If your solar panels are not working at their optimum efficiency levels, then their total power output will be lower than what you want. To compensate for this, you can consider installing additional solar panels to get the same total effective power output from your solar panels. This can be a great option if you have the budget and space for installing additional solar panels on the roof of your home or office.

2. Install Solar Panels on the Ground

Those of you who have a large backyard or front yard can also consider installing solar panels on the ground. Not only is it cheaper to install solar panels on the ground than on the roof, but they also allow for easier maintenance since you can easily access your solar panels. And since you are installing solar panels on the ground, you can make them face any direction you prefer.

3. Install Solar Panel Trackers

In case budget is not an issue for you, then you can consider getting solar panel trackers. These are special mounting options for solar panels which essentially turn your solar panels into automated ones. Such solar panels trackers make your solar panels face the sun perfectly at all times which results in optimum power output and efficiency even if your roof is not facing the south direction.

Calculating Solar Panel Output as per the Direction

Whether you are installing your solar panels facing the south direction or not, you would still want to check their total power output before installing them or buying a set of solar panels. Since planning the direction and orientation of your solar panels is highly important, there are many calculators available out there. One such great option is the SolarReviewers calculator. It helps you in finding the exact power output of your solar panels based on the direction, angle, orientation, and much more.

Conclusion

Since we have covered almost every detail regarding solar panel direction up above, you must be able to easily pick the best direction for solar panels by going through this guide. All of these different factors affect the efficiency of your solar panels in a different way. In fact, we have also covered the optimum direction for your solar panels for different scenarios and applications.

By going through these, you can easily install your solar panels in the right direction for getting optimum efficiency and power out of them. If you have gone through all the information regarding the best direction for solar panels given above, make sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. You can also post any questions down there if you have any!

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