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Does Your House Face the Best Direction for Solar Panels?

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Solar panels on the roof of the modern house
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As you seek to optimize the performance of your residential solar panels, there are a number of factors to consider. One thing you'll want to think about is the best direction for solar panels. The orientation of your roof in relation to the sun can have a huge impact on overall solar efficiency.

In this article, we'll outline the best direction for solar panel orientation as well as the optimal angle. We'll also explain solar tracking technology, which can ensure your panels face the sun for as long as possible each day. Read on to learn more.

Basics of Solar Panel Orientation

So, what is the best direction for solar panels? For homeowners who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the rule of thumb is that solar panels should be oriented toward true south. (For those in the Southern Hemisphere, solar panels should be oriented toward true north.) This is the best orientation because it ensures that solar panels receive direct sunlight throughout the day.

It's also worth noting that solar panels are most efficient when the sun's rays strike them perpendicularly. Again, this true south/true north orientation can be helpful, but angle also plays a large part in this parameter.

Best Direction for Solar Panels

As you consider solar panel installation, it's crucial to remember that, for the highest energy production, you'll want your panels to receive direct sunlight throughout the day. Again, for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere, this means orienting your panels toward true south, and vice versa in the Southern Hemisphere.

Note that, when we talk about true south, we're talking about geographic south, not magnetic south. In other words, you should orient your solar energy system based on the lines of longitude on a map, not by the directions on a compass.

Something else to keep in mind is that it may be beneficial to have a rotation slightly away from the best direction if you want to adjust the hours that your solar panels provide you energy (like facing them southwest to get more energy in the late afternoon as the sun is setting).

Hopefully, you have a south-facing roof that is optimally positioned for your solar panels. If the orientation of your roof isn't quite right, however, that doesn't mean solar power is off the table. There are several other options to consider, including solar carports and ground-mounted solar panels that can utilize south-facing panels for optimum electricity production.

Best Angle for Solar Panels

In addition to choosing the best direction for your solar panels, it's also helpful to select the right angle. Here, the general rule of thumb is to set the solar panel tilt angle equal to the geographical latitude. In other words, if you're at 35 degrees latitude, set your panels at a 35-degree angle.

The angle of your solar panels will help ensure the sun hits them perpendicularly, promoting the highest solar production and, thus, the highest electricity bill savings for your household.

With that said, you'll also want to consider how weather impacts solar panels. A good example of this is heavy snowfall. If you live in a part of the country where there is excessive snow accumulation, that could ultimately impede the efficacy of your solar panels. By tilting your panels at a sharper angle, you can minimize the buildup of snow or other debris.

This may all sound technical, but it's worth noting that professional solar installers will work with you to design a solar power system that works optimally; that includes recommending where to place your panels, how to angle them and more.

Solar Panel Tracking Systems

For ground-mounted panels, you might also consider installing a solar panel tracking system. Solar trackers maximize panel efficiency by rotating your panels throughout the day, allowing them to follow the movement of the sun from its rise to its set.

Just how much more efficient can a tracker make your solar panel system? One study showed that on a clear day, the average efficiency of a tracking panel was about 67%, while fixed panels only got about 40% efficiency.

As you consider solar panel tracking systems, you'll need to decide between a single-axis or a dual-axis system. Single-axis systems only move in one direction, typically north to south. A dual-axis system allows for movement along the north-south axis and the east-west axis.

Dual-axis systems take up more space, and thus are mostly used in commercial settings. They can certainly be effective, enabling your solar panels to reposition in accordance with changing seasons when the sun is higher or lower in the sky, but they typically aren't necessary for residential use.

Are Solar Panels Right for Your Home?

When deciding whether solar panels are worth it for your home, roof position should always be taken into consideration.

Most reputable solar installers offer free home consultations, during which a representative will survey your roof and let you know whether rooftop solar would be a good idea based on your roof's positioning and how much sunlight your home receives throughout the year.

To get a free, no-obligation quote and set up a consultation with a top solar company near you, fill out the 30-second form below.

FAQ: Best Direction for Solar Panels

Is east or west better for solar panels?

For most homeowners in the Northern Hemisphere, panels need to face toward the geographic south, but not necessarily toward the east or west. The north-south axis tends to be more determinative of a solar panel's efficiency.

Should solar panels face south or west?

For homeowners in the Northern Hemisphere, geographic south is typically the best direction for solar panels.

Do solar panels need to be south facing?

For homeowners who live in the Northern Hemisphere, it is recommended that solar panels be oriented toward geographic south (as opposed to magnetic south). In other words, orient your panels according to lines of longitude rather than magnetic poles.

Which is the best direction to face solar panels in Australia?

For Australian homeowners, north-facing solar panels tend to be most effective, though a professional installer can give a more specific recommendation.

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