What is the Best Angle for Solar Panels?
Many people ask us about the optimal angle to face their solar panels to capture the most energy. We are surprised to see that many people get this one wrong! The rule of thumb you will usually find online is to set the tilt to the same angle as your latitude.
Most sources suggest that if your house is located at 40 degrees latitude, your solar panels should be angled at 40 degrees to match. This is actually not the right angle for best results. At this latitude, the best angle is 33-34 degrees. You increase the angle as you move north, so that the solar array is perpendicular to the sun. Similarly, the closer the panel is to the equator (south), the array pitch decreases or flattens to meet the sun.
It’s also important to consider the angle or tilt of a solar panel. The angle that a solar panel should be set to produce the most energy in a given year is determined by the geographical latitude.
A 6-7 degree angle may not seem like a big difference, but over the course of days, months, or even years the compound savings are too significant to pass up.
The “North or South” Facing Strategy
The general rule for solar panel positioning in the northern hemisphere is to face them true south (and in the southern hemisphere, vice versa). Because solar panels receive direct sunshine throughout the day, this is usually the best direction.
There is, however, a distinction between magnetic and true south. The "south" depicted on a compass is magnetic south, which points to the Earth's south magnetic pole.
Solar panels, on the other hand, must face solar or geographic south, or the direction that leads to the South Pole. In the same way, if the solar panel is in the southern hemisphere, it should face true north instead.
Depending on how solar panels are being used, it may also be beneficial to have a slight rotation away from due south. For example, depending on the use solar panels used for a home should face slightly south-west. These panels collect more energy when they face due south, but the energy is more useful if it comes later in the day. This adjustment allows the solar panels to produce more electricity at the hours when it is needed. Sun would allow the panels to produce more energy in the evening when people are home and using more appliances. If the panels are pointed slightly south-west, in the direction of the setting Sun, it would allow them to produce more energy in the evening, when people are at home and using more appliances. The decrease in total production is balanced by the electricity available when it is needed most. In most areas, there is enough electricity available from other sources in the morning and midday.
When solar collectors are used for heating and lighting specifically - particularly in the form of fenestration such as windows - it is actually best to have these collectors facing somewhat east. Warming the house for the day means morning sunlight is needed most” With utility NET Metering, time of use is no longer a factor. Maximum solar collection on an annual basis will be best suited for NET Metered Individuals.
Best Angle for Solar Panels in Winter
Even though the common “north or south-facing'' strategy is best for year-round solar production, there are other strategies for optimizing your solar energy during peak hours.
We recommend tilting panels 15 degrees higher than geographical latitude in winter, so they can provide optimal performance throughout the season. One of the advantages of working with solar panel companies is you have experts on-hand to make adjustment recommendations and help you install your solar panels at the best angle and orientation.
The angle of solar panels can also be influenced by the power output due to climatic and environmental factors. In northern climates, snow accumulation on low-tilt panels can reduce or completely block the Sun's rays from reaching the solar panel during the winter months.
Although this effect will vary for every location, one study in Canada concluded that the annual energy loss due to snow accumulation ranges from 1.6% at optimal tilt (53o) to 5.3% at low tilt (15o). Low-tilt solar panels are more susceptible to "soiling" by dirt and debris, which can also partially block the Sun's rays.
Guided Solar Installation with Experts
As you can see, there is a certain level of complexity that comes with every solar installation. With the right experts, your first solar panel installation can be the only one needed for the lifetime of your living space. Contact us to have our experts determine the optimal panel configuration for your environment.