If you’re in search of an answer, here’s a simple one: South-facing solar panels can be the ideal choice for the majority of homeowners.
But, if you’d like to know greater detail about how solar panels are oriented (direction) and direction, read further. I’ll explain:
- Why is south the most suitable solar panel direction? In most instances?
- The only instance where south isn’t the best option
- The effect on the roof is not being a south-facing roof
An important note: The directions I’m using within this post are built upon the geographical (true) poles. I’ll use the term “south” to refer to the authentic south (or solar south) i.e. directly towards the Equator.
Best solar panel direction overall
South is the most optimal orientation for solar panels to be facing generally. In most cases homeowners can enjoy the most savings on their electric bills and the shortest payback time by pointing your solar panels to the south instead of any other possible direction.
A solar panel facing towards the south can boost the value of solar energy in the following ways: it increases the output of solar, it enhances the potential of net metering, and enhances your capacity to make use of batteries for storage.
We go over each of these motives in greater detail in the following paragraphs.
South is the most optimal direction to maximize the solar panel output
The Northern Hemisphere, where the United States is located, solar panels can produce the highest power production when they face south.
It’s because, in general, sunlight shines directly above the Equator all throughout the year.- the Sun travels across the southern portion of the sky year-round.
That is to say solar panels that are oriented to the south in the United States will face the sun throughout the entire year.
South is the best choice for homes that have net meters
If you’re in an area that has full retail (1:1) net meters available the best direction for solar panels is to the south.
If there is a 1:1 net metering system available Your goal should be to get the best results from your desired solar power, without consideration of when or when it is generated.
Let me explain. Solar panels that face south generate the highest amount of power However, they also produce the majority of that power during the midday hours. The time of day when you consume is at its lowest and there’s bound to be plenty of excess power generated. Through net metering, excess power is actually a great factor: you could export that power to the grid, in exchange for credits on your bill that are equal to the total retail value.
If, for instance, you’re located in a region with one-to-one net metering that doesn’t matter if you’re making solar energy. You’ll need an array of solar panels that can generate the entirety of your electrical usage with the least cost. This is possible by turning the solar panels to the south.
The South is ideal For battery systems.
South-facing panels are the best option when you are planning to build an energy storage system for batteries like Tesla Powerwall or the Tesla Powerwall or sonnen Eco.
This is because, if you’re using an electric battery you want to create the most power you can during the course of the day. The south-facing panels will enable you to fulfill your needs during the day and, most importantly, produce an abundance of power to power up your battery. Then, you can use the battery to meet energy needs during peak times as well as when grid power is out of commission.
The combination of solar panels coupled with battery technology lets you increase the amount of energy you consume. This means less dependence on grid power or the capability to eliminate the grid completely.
South towards south-west ideal for TOU rates.
The solar panels should be oriented between southwest and south is a good idea if you have a utility that makes use of Time of Use (TOU) billing.
If TOU charging is permitted, utilities are likely to charge higher rates for electricity later during the day, which is peak rates starting at 4 pm and onwards. Since Grid electricity can be more expensive during high rates and your solar power production is also more valuable during this time.
Solar panels that face the south-west get more light from the sun’s setting they are able to produce more power during the last part of the day. However, this comes with the cost of lower overall solar output for the entire day.
Therefore, the optimal position will be determined by the peak rates in relation to rates that are off peak. When the peak rate is three times off-peak, the best direction is to be slightly towards the west, rather than south. However, if rates rise up to three times the off-peak rate (or greater) the solar panels must be facing southwest.
Solar’s software developer Aurora Solar performed an analysis of the most optimal orientations using the different TOU rates that are offered in California. The analysis found that in all cases the most optimal orientation was in between the south and west. The closest location to the south-west is San Diego Gas and Electric’s YOU-DRESS, which is very expensive at peak cost, but less expensive at off peak rates.
A solar technician can look over your roof and inform you of the ideal orientation given the TOU rates for your region.
If you’d like to know the cost and savings from going solar on the roof you have currently taking into consideration the utility costs at your place you can enter your address here to get an estimate.
Solar panels placed on roofs facing either southeast or southwest will typically produce around 8 percent less power than panels with a south-facing roof.
Panels facing west and east
Panels that are mounted to a roof with a normal pitch, facing west or east will generate around 15% less power than panels that face south at similar pitch.
Panels facing toward north
Panels that are placed on a typical pitch roof that face north – that is far from sun will produce around 30% less than those that face south.
Explained: Effect of the direction on output of solar panels
The removal of solar panels from the south’s true direction generally results in losses to output of lower than 30 percent. However, in certain extreme instances, losses as high as 60% can be experienced.
The exact decrease in production of energy can be determined through three variables:
- Distance from south Degrees the panels are deflected from the true south
- Your latitude is how far north your home is situated
- The slope of your roof will determine the angle of solar panels that are installed there
Distance from south
To be clear The more you deviate from the south, the more reduction in production of energy. Therefore, a turn south-west will result in a slight drop, turning to the west will result in a slight decline, and turning to the north will show the most dramatic reduction.
As for latitude, the farther to the north, the more the decrease in energy output as you move away from south. In all other respects solar panels situated in Seattle, WA will see an even greater drop in output in a non-south alignment as compared to a house situated in Miami, FL.
In terms of roofing pitch, the more steep your roof is, the more the loss of output for north inclined solar panels. In Charlotte, NC a roof with an average pitched of 2/12 (9.5*) will experience a loss of 16% decrease in output when they rotate the solar panels from north to south while a roof with a more steep pitch of 4/12 (18.4) could suffer a more significant loss of 29 percent.
What happens if your roof isn’t facing towards the south?
Except for a couple of possible exceptions the rooftop solar energy system should always be in the south to maximize efficiency. But, it’s not always feasible: the majority of homeowners do not have roofs facing in this direction!
The good news is that it isn’t a major issue. There are many homeowners with roofs that are not south-facing, who have solar panels and are able to enjoy enormous savings on their electricity bill.
Here are a few solutions for homeowners with no south-facing roofing:
Put solar panels up on the roof, however.
It is possible to compensate for the less sunlight by adding additional solar panels. In the case of a solar panel installation the solar panels make up a tiny part of the total cost. You can include a few additional panels without increasing the cost to a significant extent.
This is the one the majority of homeowners opt for in the event that they don’t have a roof that faces to the south.
Install an array of solar panels on the ground
It is also possible to install an underground solar power system in your backyard. It’s less expensive than constructing racks on your roof or putting them up on the wall, however, it requires lots of space in your yard.
One of the greatest benefits of solar panels that are mounted on ground is their ease of maintenance. It is possible to clean leaves and snow off them without climbing on top of your roof.
Systems for solar panel tracking could boost the efficiency of a system by ensuring continuous direct exposure to sun, both throughout the day as well as throughout the year. Axis trackers can generate more electricity through the use of similar space as fixed systems.
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