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Direction Solar Panels Should Face

There has recently been a lot of buzz about which direction solar panels should face. It seems the initial conversation was prompted by a Pecan Street Inc. report that looked at output from real solar arrays and found those facing west tended to have better power output alignment with summer peak power demand – something different than maximum total annual energy production. Not long after, Greentech media ran an article titled “Are Solar Panels Facing the Wrong Direction?” that was reblogged/run/wired through other outlets including National Geographic, USA Today and others. Recently, the New York Times and Popular Science even purported that solar panels should face west, rather than south, to avoid unintended consequences. However, each of the above only considers the simplified case of west- or south-facing panels. Just like the amount of sun that a place receives, the answer is not the same everywhere.

Why South-Facing?

Let’s start with the easy answer. With solar panel placement, it’s all about finding a happy balance between the arrangement of panels and the number of panels. The desired goal is to offset as much of your electricity as possible while still adhering to a predetermined budget.

To get maximum production from your panels, you need to arrange them such that they’ll get the maximum amount of sunlight annually. More direct sunlight means more generation potential.

See Also: 5 Factors that Affect Solar Panel Efficiency

We live in the Northern Hemisphere, so the Sun will always be in the southern portion of the sky. Sometimes it will be higher in the sky (summer) and other times it will be lower in the sky (winter). So roofs with a south-facing exposure with receive more sunlight throughout the year than any other roof face.

So provided you have this roof orientation (or one that’s as close to south-facing as possible), then it’s just a matter of tilting the panels to that happy median angle, and voilà — you’re on your way to energy independence.

What if You Don’t Have a South-Facing Roof?

You should still go solar is what! While south-facing roofs are ideal for maximizing the electricity production for the individual panels, it’s not the end of the world if your home has and east/west orientation.

The only roof face you would never install solar panels on is the north face (assuming you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere). If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, everything is flipped though if you have an east/west-facing roof, you’ll be able to go solar in either case.

To compensate for the decrease in individual panel output, you simply need to add more panels to produce the same amount of overall electricity. So if you had a gabled or hipped roof with a perfectly west-facing roof face and a perfectly east-facing roof face, you’d essentially have two peak production times during the day instead of the one you’d get with a south-facing solar power system. Your east-facing solar panels would max out in the morning (since the Sun rises in the east), and in the late afternoon your west-facing panels would peak (the Sun sets in the west).

See Also: What is a Solar Microinverter?

Not sure of your roof’s orientation or what the best solution is for your home? Let our solar designers crunch the numbers and maximize your home’s solar potential. Click the button below to receive your free solar estimate. Our solar specialists will also be able to tell you the most up-to-date information about local and federal rebates and incentives to get you the best deal.

Don’t forget to download your free copy of our Solar Information Packet to learn the answers to many other frequently asked questions about going solar.

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