How Does Panel Direction Affect Power Production?

Solar power is one of the best alternative energy sources today. It is clean, sustainable and we have it in abundance. Installing solar panels on your roof can bring your home a wide variety of financial benefits.

But the orientation your solar panels face can greatly affect electricity generation. To ensure your solar system maximizes energy production during daylight hours, it needs to face the right direction.

If you want to say goodbye to grid power and improve solar electricity production, you need to know the best direction for solar panels on your home.

The best placement for your solar panel installation depends on the pitch or angle of your roof, your home's orientation towards the sun, and the latitude of the place you live.

Best Solar Panel Direction

Best Solar Panel Direction

Having invested in a solar panel kit, you want to get the most value out of it. The correct placement can help you save a lot of money and wean you from utility companies. Solar panels produce more electricity when the sun's rays hit them perpendicularly. Making sure that they are facing in the right direction and at the appropriate angle will help ensure that your solar panels are producing the maximum amount of electricity.

  • Northern Hemisphere

In the northern hemisphere, solar panels should face true south. This will allow them to receive light directly from the sun throughout the day.

  • Southern Hemisphere

In the southern hemisphere, your solar panels should face true north.

Having your solar panels facing true north or true south will ensure that they receive the maximum direct sunlight throughout the day.

Regular vs True South

There is a difference between regular or magnetic south, and true south. 'Magnetic' south/north is what shows up when a compass is used because it points to the Earth's magnetic south/north.

However, in order to produce solar power efficiently panels need to face solar or geographic south/north which points to the geographic south pole. This is also known as true south.

South-facing-solar-panels

Professional solar installers can help you determine true north or south. But you can also do this by placing a stick standing straight on flat ground at around midday on a clear or sunny day! When the sun is highest in the sky, the shadow will be the shortest and will be aligned with true north or south.

Is It Okay For Panels to be east/west facing rather than south-facing?

Ideally the best direction is to have your solar panels facing south. However, not all people have a roof that faces southwards and some will have east or west facing roofs.

If your system is for self consumption, it's okay for panels to face east or west. East facing panels will produce more power in the morning while west facing panels will generate more power in the afternoon. This is because the goal of self consumption is to generate what is needed rather than to produce the maximum.

How Does Pitch/Angle Affect Electricity Production?

Flat roof solar Install panels

The angle of the solar panel can affect electricity production. The angle should be set so that panels produce as much electricity as possible in a given year, as determined by your home's geographical latitude.

For example, if your solar array is located at 50 degrees latitude then optimal tilt angle is also 50 degrees.  Generally, the closer a solar panel is to the equator the more it should be pointing upwards (horizontal). If you're located near the poles, solar panels should tilt towards the equator.

Homeowners with flat roof can angle their array to a 30 - 40 degree angle for best energy production. 

How To Maximize Solar Panel Efficiency?

You can improve power generation of your panels to reduce electric bills. Aside from orientation, here are some ways you can improve solar panel efficiency.

  • Buy an efficient system. Solar panels have come a long way and panel manufacturing has greatly improved the efficiency of new models. Check out systems by Renogy and Giosolar!
  • Buy panels with Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Cells. This is a highly efficient cell with panels that can reach up to 40% efficiency!
  • Avoid installing panels in shaded areas. Solar cells need exposure to the sun in order to produce energy. Tall trees and buildings are the main offenders when it comes to shading solar panels.
  • Get a reputable company to install your solar panels. Experts will consider the different factors of your home and location so that your modules will face the right direction and have the correct tilt.
  • Clean your solar panels. They don't have moving parts but the surface can accumulate dust and dirt which contributes to a 5% to 20% decline in power generation.
  • Monitor power output using energy management software.

What Is A Solar Panel Tracking System?

A solar panel tracking system is basically a device that orientates panels in the direction of the sun. This device follows the sun's path throughout the day. This technology will increase energy generation.

What To Do If Your Roof/House is Not South Facing?

A southward facing roof or house is the ideal when it comes to solar panel installation. However, as stated above you can still enjoy energy savings even if your rooftop faces east or west.

Other Places You Can Install Solar Panels

If the direction of your rooftop is not southward, there are still other areas you can install solar systems.

  • Roof  - install it on the roof anyway.  A simple 1000 watt solar panel can still produce energy even if they are not facing southwards.
  • Wall - a south facing wall is a good alternative for homes with roofs that don't face the ideal direction. Make sure that the wall is shade-free.
  • Solar array on the ground - a ground mounted solar system is another great location. This area is easy to maintain and install and is a great alternative for those without other options.
Wall solar panels

Are Some Types Of Solar Panels More Efficient Than Others?

As stated above, new solar panels come with better efficiency and technology. The type of solar panel you buy is a big factor in energy production. Here are some types of solar panels and their efficiency rates.

  • Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI) - ~20%
  • Polycrystalline Solar Panels (p-SI) - ~15%
  • Thin-Film: Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels (A-SI) - ~7 to 10%
  • Concentrated PV Cell (CPV) - ~41%

Installing these panels at your home can be a cost-effective and efficient way to power refrigerators, air conditioners, lights and other appliances.

New Technology for Solar Panel Direction

Technology is always producing new discoveries. Here are some exciting developments in the solar industry:

  • Watch these robots that change direction of your solar panels so that it automatically follows the direction of the sun. Estimates state up to 40% increase in energy generation.
  • Smartflower system is a ground-based solar array. It unfolds its petals as the sun rises and changes directions. This system was inspired by sunflowers that turn to follow the sun.

Benefits of Solar Energy

Solar power is one of the best and greenest energy alternatives. If you cannot have south facing solar panels, it is still worth considering for your home.

As long as you can site the modules in an area they will receive a good amount of sunlight, you can still reduce those bills from your utility company!

  • Some of the benefits include:
  • Reduce electricity usage from fossil fuel or nuclear power plants. By converting to solar energy, you are reducing the earth's dependency on non-renewable and polluting energy sources.
  • Reduce water usage. Fossil fuel plants usually need a water source which can lead to contamination of the source. Solar panels do not need water for power, they only need the sun!
  • Help fight climate change with solar energy thanks to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • With more solar panels installed around the world, everyone can experience reduced pollution levels which is beneficial to our overall health.
  • Increase the value and desirability of your home!

Conclusion

Knowing the best solar panel direction is of great importance because it can help save you money in the long run, through generating more energy.

One household can save between $10,000 to $30,000 during the lifetime service of their system. This means that solar panels aren't only good for the environment, they're good for your wallet too.

Local installers are easy to contact and will usually visit your property to check factors like power usage and roof direction, so that they can come up with a good estimate for your installation.

You can browse for reliable installers online. Most of the time, you can simply submit your email address and ask for quotes.