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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
© Andy Carter / DeSmog

By Rich Collett-White and Rachel Sherrington

Fossil fuel companies could face legal challenges over their misleading advertising, after a DeSmog investigation uncovered the extent of their "greenwashing."

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Extinction Rebellion protesters join the March for Nature on Sept. 4, 2021 in London, England. Rob Pinney / Getty Images

By Lorena Gonzalez and Nate Shelter

World leaders are gathering in New York this week and next for the UN General Assembly meeting (UNGA76) and Climate Week. The two major events come at a critical moment for climate action.

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sl-f / iStock / Getty Images

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.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is interviewed during a "Fridays for Future" protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on October 9, 2020. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP / Getty Images

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attacked powerful politicians for ignoring climate change, as she called for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

Read More Show Less
Trending
People wait outside an emergency room following a heat wave in Pakistan. Asianet-Pakistan / Barcroft Indi via Getty Images

As this summer's extreme heat waves and floods have made devastatingly clear, the climate crisis is already deadly. And it is likely to get even deadlier if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
Semiahmoo Marina near Bellingham, Washington in Whatcom County. Edmund Lowe Photography / Moment / Getty Images

The Whatcom County Council in Washington state has unanimously passed permanent land-use policies that ban new fossil fuel infrastructure, becoming the first in the U.S. to pass such a measure.

Read More Show Less
Flooding and a coal ash spill at Duke Energy's Sutton power plant near Wilmington, North Carolina on Sept. 21, 2018 after Hurricane Florence. Jo-Anne McArthur / Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. / Flickr

The threat of a catastrophic failure unleashing a 20-foot wall of industrial wastewater over nearby homes and businesses in Piney Point, Florida, illustrates the danger of widespread reliance on industrial waste ponds across the U.S., The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
Climate activists with Stop the Money Pipeline demonstrate in midtown Manhattan on March 3, 2021. Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

"The boardrooms of the world's largest banks are polluted to the core... How are we ever meant to stop the climate crisis if the world's most powerful decision-makers are in bed with the companies behind the wheel!?"

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

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Solar panel manufacturing in India. Sakib Ali / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

One of the chief arguments against transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards a zero-carbon economy is that it would cost the world energy jobs. But is such a fear really justified?

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Trending
Farmworkers dry red chilli peppers under the sun in Bangladesh. Climate-fueled heat leads to more deaths in developing countries with less-mechanized farming. REHMAN ASAD / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Extreme heat fueled by climate change is killing farmworkers, with compoundingly inequitable systemic effects, Bloomberg reports.
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An evacuated resident wades through high water following a flash flood as Tropical Storm Henri makes landfall in Helmetta, New Jersey on Aug. 22, 2021. TOM BRENNER / AFP via Getty Images

Nearly one-third of all Americans live in a county hit by an extreme weather disaster in the past three months, with far more living in places that have endured a multiday heatwave, a Washington Post analysis revealed.

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Australia Lobbying Thwarts Push to List Great Barrier Reef as Endangered

Greenpeace Australia called Friday's World Heritage Committee vote "a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history."

Oceans
A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at lady Elliot island. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

An intense lobbying campaign by the pro-fossil fuel Australian government succeeded Friday in keeping the Great Barrier Reef off a list of World Heritage Sites considered "in danger," despite experts' warnings that the biodiverse ecosystem is increasingly imperiled by the global climate emergency.

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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
© Andy Carter / DeSmog

By Rich Collett-White and Rachel Sherrington

Fossil fuel companies could face legal challenges over their misleading advertising, after a DeSmog investigation uncovered the extent of their "greenwashing."

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Extinction Rebellion protesters join the March for Nature on Sept. 4, 2021 in London, England. Rob Pinney / Getty Images

By Lorena Gonzalez and Nate Shelter

World leaders are gathering in New York this week and next for the UN General Assembly meeting (UNGA76) and Climate Week. The two major events come at a critical moment for climate action.

Read More Show Less
sl-f / iStock / Getty Images

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.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is interviewed during a "Fridays for Future" protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on October 9, 2020. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP / Getty Images

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attacked powerful politicians for ignoring climate change, as she called for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

Read More Show Less
Trending
People wait outside an emergency room following a heat wave in Pakistan. Asianet-Pakistan / Barcroft Indi via Getty Images

As this summer's extreme heat waves and floods have made devastatingly clear, the climate crisis is already deadly. And it is likely to get even deadlier if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
Semiahmoo Marina near Bellingham, Washington in Whatcom County. Edmund Lowe Photography / Moment / Getty Images

The Whatcom County Council in Washington state has unanimously passed permanent land-use policies that ban new fossil fuel infrastructure, becoming the first in the U.S. to pass such a measure.

Read More Show Less
Flooding and a coal ash spill at Duke Energy's Sutton power plant near Wilmington, North Carolina on Sept. 21, 2018 after Hurricane Florence. Jo-Anne McArthur / Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. / Flickr

The threat of a catastrophic failure unleashing a 20-foot wall of industrial wastewater over nearby homes and businesses in Piney Point, Florida, illustrates the danger of widespread reliance on industrial waste ponds across the U.S., The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
Climate activists with Stop the Money Pipeline demonstrate in midtown Manhattan on March 3, 2021. Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

"The boardrooms of the world's largest banks are polluted to the core... How are we ever meant to stop the climate crisis if the world's most powerful decision-makers are in bed with the companies behind the wheel!?"

Read More Show Less
Trending