Solar panels produce power from sunlight. For optimum production, they should be facing towards the sun throughout the day.
However, you solar panels are more likely to remain stationary throughout the day, so you will need to choose the direction they will face.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, i.e. USA, Canada, Europe or Northern Asia, your solar panel must be facing south. This gives you ideal solar power production throughout the day.
Let’s look at ways to optimize power production from your solar panels.
Consider Your Geographical Position
Before you decide which way your solar panels should face, consider where you live.
If you live in the northern hemisphere of the globe, your solar panel should be facing south. If you live in the southern hemisphere, the panel should be facing north.
In both situations, it isn’t efficient to have the panels face east or west.
If panels are placed facing east or west, they will generate a good amount of energy only during the morning or the evening. To get maximum results, you will need the panels to face north or south.
Angle of the Solar Panel
Another important thing to consider is the angle or tilt of your solar panel. The angle of the solar panel should be based on your geographical latitude.
A general rule of thumb is to set the tilt of your solar panel equal to the latitude. For instance, if the location of your solar panel array is 50o latitude, the most efficient tilt angle is also 500. That means the closer you are to the equator, the straighter your panels should be.
If you live away from the equator and closer to the poles, your panel should have a steeper tilt, facing towards the equator.
Seasonal Effects on Efficiency
The seasons also affect the efficiency of your panels based on their angles. In June and July, the sun moves closer to the tropic of cancer which means your panels don’t need as much tilt.
In December and January, the sun moves to the tropic of Capricorn and your panels will need to be highly tilted to catch sunlight.
The angle of solar panels also influences the power output. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you may get snow that falls on the panel with low-tilt. This can partially or completely block the sunlight and reduce output.
Cloudy weather and rains also affect solar power production during the monsoon period.
Roof Direction’s Affect on Power Production
If you are fixing the solar panels on your roof, the level of tilt you can get will be affected by the slope of the roof. If your roof is flatter, you can lay down the solar panel facing up with less tilt. This gives you maximum productivity during summer months.
However, the production is less efficient in the winter when the sun has moved relatively south.
If your roof is steep your solar panel will also have to be tilted. This can work when you live close to the poles, like in a Canadian city.
If you live in Texas or Florida, you may want to keep the tilt to a minimum. You will need to add a support base on the roof for installing the solar panels.
It is best to ask solar panel installation companies in your area to determine the best tilt and direction.
Remember, the goal is to maximize the fall of sunlight on your solar panel.
A solar panel tracking system is a specialized mount that automatically rotates the direction of your solar panel throughout the day. Research shows that axis tracking systems can generate much more electricity throughout the day, while using the same amount of space as a fixed system.
The axis rotates to let the panel face towards the east in the morning. The tracker slowly shifts the panel’s direction during the day to keep it facing towards the sun. Kind of like a sunflower.
The solar tracking base can significantly improve a system’s output by ensuring that the PV cells get constant, direct exposure to the sun. The tracking system can even adjust the tilt based on the season for optimum efficiency.
So if the axis rotators are so efficient, why doesn’t everyone use them? There are two reasons why they are not popular.
First, solar axis trackers are expensive. They can almost double the cost of your solar panels.
Second, solar trackers consume power. They can eat up proportionately more energy than the extra power they produce during the day.
The only time they actually save power is when they are installed for larger panels, like the ones installed at a commercial solar power plant.
What To Do If Your Roof Doesn’t Face South?
If you are looking to install solar panels on your roof, but the roof doesn’t face south, then there are several ways to fix this.
- If you live in a double storey property, you can install the solar panel on a wall that is high enough to get plenty of sunlight.
- You can install the panels on a roof that faces southeast or southwest. The result may not be most productive but good enough to save you money.
- If you have a large yard, you can also fix solar panels in an array on the ground.
As we discussed earlier, the majority of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere. It is very likely that any solar panels that you install on your property will need to face south.
With the right angle and tilt, you should be able to improve efficiency as well. Solar panels that face in the right direction will help you generate adequate power for your personal needs.