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What is the Best Angle and Placement of Solar Panels?

January 18, 2024 | Reading Time: 6 minutes

Solar panels can save homeowners thousands of dollars if they’re producing enough energy to sustain the home. Zero dollar electric bills are completely possible, but only when the panels are strategically placed and angled to optimize their production rates.

How do my solar panels make the most power?

Your solar panels make power by absorbing sunlight. The easiest way to maximize your solar panels energy production is to expose them with direct sunlight for as long as possible.

Several factors determine the best way to angle and position them to max out their sun exposure.

Location

Your geographic location plays a big part in the optimal positioning and angling of your solar panels. When your solar installer designs your system, they’ll consider:

Latitude and Longitude

Your latitude and longitude align with your zip code. This is important in determining the best angle for your panels. Calculating the angle based off your zip code, considers the precise path the sun follows above your community.

For year round performance, it’s recommended to tilt your panels at an angle equal to your latitude.

Example: The city of Boston’s longitude is 42.4 degrees and therefore, solar panels in Boston should be titled at 42.4 degrees to optimize their year round energy production output.

Hemisphere

Whether you are located in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere will play the biggest role in determining the best direction for your panels to face.

In the Northern Hemisphere, panels should face the south to generate the highest energy output. In the Southern Hemisphere, panels should face the north.

Can I still get solar if my roof faces the east or west?

Yes, it is possible to still qualify to get solar and have an efficient system with an east or west facing roof.

As long as the panels are exposed to sun on a daily basis, they will be able to produce energy. Panels are just more efficient if they are exposed to direct sunlight for a longer period of time (south facing in the Northern Hemisphere).

Time of Year

The sun’s path changes throughout the year as we experience different seasons and Earth moves around its orbit. Therefore, your panels will produce the greatest amount of energy at an angle that shifts with the sun’s ever-changing path. This shift can be up to a 15 degree difference in the year round angle.

In the summer, it is best to decrease your angle by 15 degrees and in the winter, it’s best to increase your angle by 15 degrees.

Example: Boston’s optimal year round angle is 42.4 degrees. In the summer it is 27.4 degrees and in the winter it is 57.4 degrees.

CityBest Year Round AngleBest Summer AngleBest Winter Angle
Boston, MA42.427.457.4
Providence, RI41.826.856.8

How do I tilt my panels with the sun?

Titling panels that are installed on a roof can be very difficult and quite costly. It may be possible by installing adjustable mounts but not every home is suitable for this. Regardless, the energy production lost by not titling your roof panels with the seasons is less than 10% and therefore, should not cause a significant decrease in your energy production. Their elevation typically allows for more sunlight exposure than ground mounted panels.

Ground mounted solar panels can easily tilt with the sun. Tracking devices that mirror the sun’s path and adjust as the planet moves throughout the year are an automated way to ensure your panels are always optimally angled.

Roof Design

Your solar system’s design is heavily dependent on the layout of your roof. The shape, size, and angle of the various parts of your roof will determine whether panels can be installed on that area and if so, how many. Other components like chimneys, plumbing vents, and skylights reduce viable roof space and local building codes require the panels to be set back from the roof’s edge, lessening the usable area even more.

Your solar installer will create and custom solar system layout using a design tool that virtually places the panels on top of your roof and tests the system’s functionality. It is important for your solar installer to work with your most updated roof blueprint to ensure they design a system that fits and maximizes your energy output.

Other FAQs

What is the ideal angle for my solar panels?

According to The Department of Energy, solar panels work best when mounted on a south-facing roof at an angle between 15 and 40 degrees.

How efficient can my system be if it not facing south or mounted between a 15 and 40 degree angle?

Your system can still function efficiently even if it is not ideally positioned. As the cost of solar continues to fall against the cost of electricity, more roof orientations and slopes are becoming acceptable for solar because produced energy, while it may not be as much as a south-facing 27.5 degree system, will still cost the homeowner less than purchasing electricity traditionally.

Expect a 15-20% drop in production efficiency when installing a system on a roof that is not ideally positioned. Despite this drop, your system can still produce enough electricity to power your home and mitigate your electricity bills.

Which factors impact my system’s production efficiency the most?

The orientation of the panels is usually more crucial than their angle. While the angle is important, most roof slopes are suitable. But limited roof space and significant shading are more likely to negatively impact a solar system’s effectiveness than the direction of the roof.

Can solar systems be installed on flat roofs?

Yes, solar systems can be installed and perform efficiently on flat roofs. Many commercial buildings are equipped with flat roofs but remain great candidates for solar. It’s often easier in fact, to install southern tilted panels on flat roofs than sloped roofs.

Your Experts in Solar

At Isaksen Solar, we design systems that are custom to you and your energy goals. We take every aspect of your home into account while creating your solar energy system; your home’s location, your roof’s design, your household’s demand for energy, your future energy needs, and much more.

We’re experienced and knowledgable. We’ve helped thousands of Rhode Island and Massachusetts residents achieve net-zero and we want you to be next! Give us a call, (508) 717-3820, or request your free quote today.