When installing home solar panels, it’s important to install them at the best possible angle to maximize their sun exposure. Not only can this affect energy production, but it also directly impacts how much money you may save on your electricity bill. If you want to learn how to get the most out of your investment, keep reading to learn:
- The importance of solar panel orientation
- The optimum angle for solar panels
- The factors that influence the optimum tilt angle
Why Are Solar Panels Installed At An Angle?
Solar panels work best when they get as much sunlight as possible. The more they get, the more electricity they can create. Ideally, you would just point the solar panel directly at the sun, and follow the sun as it moves through the sky.
Unfortunately, solar tracking systems that can follow the sun are prohibitively expensive for most residential uses. It’s usually more cost-effective to just buy a few more solar panels, compared to the cost of a solar tracker, so a tradeoff must be made.
In general, solar panels should be installed to where the sunlight hits them at as close to a perpendicular 90-degree angle for as long as possible during the day. To achieve that goal, most solar panels face the equator (in the US, that means south-facing) and are installed at an angle between 30 to 45 degrees relative to the horizon.
- For homes in the northern hemisphere, solar panels should face south.
- For homes in the southern hemisphere, solar panels should face north.
If solar panels aren’t installed at the correct angle, they aren’t generating the maximum amount of electricity possible, and you could be missing out on additional savings that the additional energy could provide.
Tilting solar panels so they receive the greatest possible amount of sunlight throughout the day enables them to maximize their electricity production. They might not get all possible sunlight in the morning or evening, or during the winter, but when the sun is directly overhead in the summer months, they will be pointing directly towards it.
What is the Right Angle for Home Solar Panels?
As a rule of thumb, the optimal solar panel angle is the latitude of where your home is located. For example, Miami, Florida is at 25.7617° N so solar panels on homes there should be installed at around a 25° angle. In comparison, Portland, Oregon is at 45.5152° N so panels there should be angled to around 45°.
Determining the optimal tilt angle is not something most people should do on their own, especially if you have no expertise in the area. Since the sun changes its position throughout the day, and rooftop solar panels are not designed to be moved once installed, that makes the process of determining the right solar panel tilt angle a little tricky. In most cases, the calculations should be left to professional solar panel designers and installers.
Tilt Angle vs Azimuth Angle
When it comes to positioning solar panels, there are two angles to consider:
- “Tilt Angle” - This describes the vertical angle of the solar panels, and is also known as “Elevation Angle”. The lower the angle, the more “up” towards the sky they face.
- “Azimuth Angle” - This describes the horizontal angle that solar panels face in relation to the Equator.
We mentioned that solar panels in the northern hemisphere should face south, so you might think that calculating the azimuth angle is easy - just point them south! However, it’s important to know that solar panels need to be angled towards true south, not the reading on a compass, which is magnetic south. Depending on where in the United States you live, that could mean your ideal azimuth angle is a difference of as much as 20° from magnetic south.
3 Factors That Determine the Best Angle for Solar Panels
Your location, your roof, and your weather directly influence the best angle for your rooftop solar panels:
1. Your Location
Your location in respect to latitude and longitude is the most important element in determining the ideal angle for your solar panels. The equator is where the sun is directly overhead for a majority of the year, so the goal is to point your panels towards that location.
- The closer you are to the equator, the lower the angle can be. If you lived on the equator, you could point your solar panels directly up and be optimized for solar power generation.
- The further you are from the equator, the more a steeper angle is needed. If you lived on one of the poles, you’d almost need to point your solar panels at the horizon to maximize your solar energy production.
Your location also impacts the number of peak sun hours your home receives. We are not talking about the hours between sunrise and sunset. Think of peak sun hours as the amount of time each day when the sun shines brightest.
2. Your Roof
To maximize your energy production, the roof of your house must meet some essential requirements. Experts from a professional solar power company can look at your roof and tell you if any of these three sub-factors might affect the optimum angle for your solar panels:
The Angle of Your Roof
Every house is unique, and so is every roof. From the steep roofs of a snow cabin to the flat roofs of a modern desert home, there are several roof angles to consider. Depending on what the angle of your roof is, your solar installer may need to add additional support structures to increase or decrease the angle of your solar panels. These calculations can become even more complex if your roof includes a variety of pitches, corners, and forms.
The Shape of Your Roof
The shape of your roof is an essential element of solar panel placement. Gable, hip, and flat roofs are usually considered ideal for solar panels, and all of them can provide optimal sunlight exposure. However, the more architectural elements on your roof, the more difficult it can be to determine where your solar panels should be placed, and how they should be angled. Again, this work is best left in the hands of experienced solar professionals.
The Shading on Your Roof
Since solar panels create electricity by absorbing sunlight, anything blocking them from the Sun's rays could significantly reduce their electricity generation. It is important to place your solar panels where the least amount of shade falls on them since even partial shading is bad for your solar power system. To prevent shading, it is important to consider all times of the day, and all seasons of the year, to make sure no nearby object can cast a shadow onto your roof as the sun moves east and west.
3. Your Seasonal Weather
Your location on the Earth can influence the amount of sunlight you’re expected to get in a given season. Since the height of the sun changes from place to place and season to season, solar seasonality has a big role to play in determining the optimal angle of your solar panels. For example, if your area gets a lot of early morning fog, you might angle the panels to optimize for late afternoon production.
The other factor to consider is that the ideal angle changes from summer to winter, so solar panels are typically installed at an angle that will balance the needs of both seasons. Returning to our previous example, the reason Miami, Florida gets installed around a 25° angle is that the ideal summer angle is closer to 10°, while the ideal winter angle is closer to 40° degrees, so the 25° angle is a compromise between the two.
Regardless of your location and situation, working with a professional solar company like Palmetto will get your solar array installed at the optimum angle for maximum efficiency.
The Best Angle for Solar Panel Installation
To maximize the potential of your solar panels, they must be placed at the right angle to generate the optimal amount of electricity for your home. That “ideal” angle depends upon a variety of factors, including location, roof shape, and seasonal sunlight. As a result, what works for you may not work best for your friend who lives down the street, in another part of the country, or on the other side of the world.
Determining the optimal angle for your home solar power system can lead to lower energy bills, and help in the fight against global warming. But as much as solar panels are beneficial for homeowners, you should not install them or calculate the solar panel tilt angles yourself. The average homeowner simply does not have the knowledge or training required to do that work safely or effectively.
To get your panels installed at the best angle, you need to work with a reliable solar company like Palmetto. Not only do we account for all the factors that determine the optimal angle to install your solar panels, but we also handle every step of the installation process. We can ensure that your solar panels generate the electricity you need to meet your family’s consumption needs at any time of the year, regardless of what season it is.
If you are looking to move one step forward towards a greener future, the best way to start is by installing solar panels on your home. Try out Palmetto's Free Solar Design and Savings Estimate Tool today, and we can help design a system with the best possible solar panel angle for your home.