Best Direction and Angle for Solar Panels (Tips to Maximize Output in 2022)

Best Direction and Angle for Solar Panels (Tips to Maximize Output in 2022)

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

  • How roof direction affects solar efficiency
  • What factors influence solar energy production
  • How to determine if your roof is a good candidate for solar
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Basics of Solar Panel Orientation

As you prepare to install a solar system on your home, you’ll want to set it up so that your solar panels operate efficiently. The type of solar panels that you use plays a big part in how effective your system is, but two aspects that many homeowners overlook are the direction and angle that their solar panels face.

You obviously wouldn’t want your panels facing the ground since that would limit their exposure to solar rays, but what is the best orientation for your solar panels? We’ll explain the factors that determine the most optimal positions and angles of solar panels to help you maximize energy production.

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What is the Best Direction for Solar Panels?

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.

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.

To get a free, no-obligation quote and set up a consultation with a top solar company near you, click below.

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What is the 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.

find the best angle for your solar panels
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

How Seasons Affect Solar Panel Angle

The angle of the sun changes depending on the time of year, and so therefore will the ideal angle of your solar PV panels.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, the sun sits lower in the sky during the winter months, so your solar panels would get more direct sunlight if they’re placed at a steeper angle than your latitude. In the summer months, the sun sits higher in the sky, so you’ll want the panels a little less steep.

To keep your solar panels at an optimal angle year round, you’d need a solar tracker and a way to adjust your panel tilt accordingly. You could install a tracking system that acts as a solar angle calculator, but it would significantly increase the cost of the solar equipment and most homeowners don’t find that it’s worth the added cost in terms of increased power production.

Most solar panel systems are installed at a calculated fixed angle optimal for the best average annual solar electricity production for your home.

best angle for solar panels varies by season
Source: Lighting Research Center
Learn More About Best Solar Panels by Watt

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.

Is Your Roof Positioned Well For Solar Panels?

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, click below.

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FAQ: Best Direction for Solar Panels

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Josh Hurst
Article author
Writer and editor with more than a decade’s experience in journalism. Josh worked for Christianity Today for seven years, and has contributed to special assignments for Apple Music and iTunes. Josh lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife, Kati, and two sons, Henry and Dylan.