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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.
L: Owner Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 15, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Billie Weiss /Getty Images R: The New-Indy Containerboard paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina. WFAE / Google Maps
In less than a year, a South Carolina paper mill has become one of the dirtiest polluters in the United States.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A New Yorker attempts to wade through a flooded subway station in Manhattan on July 8, 2021. @PaulleeWR / Twitter Screengrab

By Jake Johnson

Footage of New Yorkers struggling to wade through filthy, waist-deep water at a Manhattan subway station as heavy rainfall engulfed the city's aging and long-neglected infrastructure on Thursday added fuel to progressive demands for a robust federal spending package that confronts the climate crisis — which is making such extreme weather more frequent and destructive.

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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.

Emergency workers spent five hours putting out a blaze in the Gulf of Mexico Friday after an underwater pipeline run by Mexico's state-owned oil company burst. screenshot / azfamily

By Julia Conley

A fire that raged for hours in the Gulf of Mexico Friday offered the latest illustration of the climate emergency and the urgent need to end fossil fuel extraction and invest instead in burgeoning renewable energy industries.

An underwater gas pipeline controlled by Mexico's state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, also known as Pemex, burst in the early morning hours, sending flames "resembling molten lava" to the water's surface.

Read More Show Less
Trending
© 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
The corner of Jefferson and 7th in Hoboken, N.J., is flooded on Oct. 30, 2012 following Superstorm Sandy. Alec Perkins / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Kenny Stancil

The city of Hoboken on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against multiple Big Oil players—including ExxonMobil, incorporated in New Jersey—joining an increasing number of state and local governments using litigation in efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for defrauding the public about foreseen climate crisis damages and to make companies "pay their fair share" of the costs of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a warming planet.

Read More Show Less
A fire burns at the ExxonMobil Olefins Plant in Baytown, Texas on July 31, 2019. michelmond / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

A Norwegian hedge fund worth more than $90 billion has become the first major financial institution to divest from companies that lobby against action on the climate crisis, The Guardian reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
A humpback whale, one of the species affected by the Pacific marine heat wave, breaches in Kenai Fjords National Park in the Gulf of Alaska. Kaitlin Thoreson / National Park Service

By Hannah Thomasy

From 2014 to 2016, the Gulf of Alaska experienced the worst marine heat wave of the decade. From single-celled organisms to top predators, practically no level of the ecosystem was left unscathed. During the Pacific marine heat wave, tens of thousands of dead seabirds washed up on beaches, unusually low numbers of humpback whales arrived in their summer habitats, and toxic algal blooms spread along the West Coast of North America.

Read More Show Less
Trending

By Jeff Turrentine

Tamara Lindeman certainly doesn't seem particularly anxious, or grief stricken, or angry. In fact, in a recent Zoom conversation, the Toronto-based singer-songwriter (who records and performs under the name The Weather Station) comes across as friendly, thoughtful, and a little shy.

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Ian Urbina patrolling on a boat in Gambia. The Outlaw Ocean Project

By Ian Urbina

About 100 miles off the coast of Thailand, three dozen Cambodian boys and men worked barefoot all day and into the night on the deck of a purse seiner fishing ship. Fifteen-foot swells climbed the sides of the vessel, clipping the crew below the knees. Ocean spray and fish innards made the floor skating-rink slippery.

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Trending
Hundreds of New York City students, young people and climate activists gathered at Columbus Circle for a rally followed by a march and die-in to Times Square to join countries around the world in the second-ever Global Climate Strike on May 24, 2019. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

As the world celebrated Earth Day, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corporation Counsel James E. Johnson on Thursday announced that New York City filed suit over Big Oil's decades of lies about fossil fuels and the climate emergency — just the latest addition to more than two dozen similar cases launched by U.S. communities.

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Am ExxonMobil operation near Chicago, Illinois in 2014. Richard Hurd / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

What's the single word that fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil's flagship environmental reports to investors and the public tie most closely to climate change and global warming?

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

The world's biggest banks gave fossil fuel companies $3.8 trillion in financing in the years following the Paris agreement, according to a new report.

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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.
L: Owner Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 15, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Billie Weiss /Getty Images R: The New-Indy Containerboard paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina. WFAE / Google Maps
In less than a year, a South Carolina paper mill has become one of the dirtiest polluters in the United States.
Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A New Yorker attempts to wade through a flooded subway station in Manhattan on July 8, 2021. @PaulleeWR / Twitter Screengrab

By Jake Johnson

Footage of New Yorkers struggling to wade through filthy, waist-deep water at a Manhattan subway station as heavy rainfall engulfed the city's aging and long-neglected infrastructure on Thursday added fuel to progressive demands for a robust federal spending package that confronts the climate crisis — which is making such extreme weather more frequent and destructive.

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.

Emergency workers spent five hours putting out a blaze in the Gulf of Mexico Friday after an underwater pipeline run by Mexico's state-owned oil company burst. screenshot / azfamily

By Julia Conley

A fire that raged for hours in the Gulf of Mexico Friday offered the latest illustration of the climate emergency and the urgent need to end fossil fuel extraction and invest instead in burgeoning renewable energy industries.

An underwater gas pipeline controlled by Mexico's state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, also known as Pemex, burst in the early morning hours, sending flames "resembling molten lava" to the water's surface.

Read More Show Less
Trending
© 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
The corner of Jefferson and 7th in Hoboken, N.J., is flooded on Oct. 30, 2012 following Superstorm Sandy. Alec Perkins / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Kenny Stancil

The city of Hoboken on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against multiple Big Oil players—including ExxonMobil, incorporated in New Jersey—joining an increasing number of state and local governments using litigation in efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for defrauding the public about foreseen climate crisis damages and to make companies "pay their fair share" of the costs of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a warming planet.

Read More Show Less
A fire burns at the ExxonMobil Olefins Plant in Baytown, Texas on July 31, 2019. michelmond / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

A Norwegian hedge fund worth more than $90 billion has become the first major financial institution to divest from companies that lobby against action on the climate crisis, The Guardian reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
A humpback whale, one of the species affected by the Pacific marine heat wave, breaches in Kenai Fjords National Park in the Gulf of Alaska. Kaitlin Thoreson / National Park Service

By Hannah Thomasy

From 2014 to 2016, the Gulf of Alaska experienced the worst marine heat wave of the decade. From single-celled organisms to top predators, practically no level of the ecosystem was left unscathed. During the Pacific marine heat wave, tens of thousands of dead seabirds washed up on beaches, unusually low numbers of humpback whales arrived in their summer habitats, and toxic algal blooms spread along the West Coast of North America.

Read More Show Less