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Last Updated on February 7, 2024
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west: this much we know. But which direction should solar panels face to capture the most solar energy?
Solar panels should face the south for most homes, although there are exceptions. This may be contradictory to what most homeowners believe, so it’s a good idea to do your research before adding solar panels to your roof.
In the next few sections, we’ll explain why south-facing solar panels are usually best, and we’ll describe the specific cases when they are not.
We’ll also answer some of the most common questions concerning solar panel installation, including the best orientation and angle for maximum efficiency.
South-facing Solar Panels
If you live in North America, there’s no denying that south-facing solar panels collect the most sunlight throughout the day.
By placing your solar panels on the south side of your roof, you’ll experience the highest energy savings, which means you’ll make your money back on the investment faster. And this isn’t even including credits from rebate programs (if this is an option in your area).
Why is this the case? South-facing solar panels:
- Maximize solar output – In other words, your solar panels will face the sun directly for a few hours a day every day all year round because you live north of the Tropic of Cancer.
- Maximize net metering – If you are in a 1:1 net metering situation, your solar panels will be producing much more power during the middle of the day, when you aren’t really using that much. Just let your excess be exported back to the grid. Your electric company will give you credits for this excess power.
- Are best for reducing grid reliance – South-facing solar panels work best with battery systems because of what we just discussed. You’ll be producing more power during the day than you’ll need, so this electricity can be used to charge your battery system. Battery power can be used at night, during power outages, and during peak times.
- Are best for reducing high Time of Use rates – Facing your solar panels south to southwest will help out if you are on a Time of Use billing plan. TOU billing charges more for electricity used during peak times. By angling your solar panels to the south or slightly to the southwest where the sun is setting, you can reduce the amount of grid power you use in the later part of the day.
When a Different Direction May Be Better
Homes in the Northern Hemisphere get sun on their southern side all year, which is why we recommend placing solar panels on that side of the roof.
However, if you are using a hybrid system, or if you only need the boost of solar power in the evenings, we’d recommend placing them on the west side of your roof.
Most people use the highest volume of power between 4 PM and 8 PM, and this is precisely when the sun will be in the western sky.
Solar Panel Orientation FAQs
In addition to knowing that the south side of your roof is the best place for solar panels, it could be helpful to know the answers to these common solar panel installation questions.
What is best angle for solar panels?
Solar panels are most efficient when placed at a 30-45 degree angle facing the sun.
Roofs are designed at angles ranging from 18 degrees up to 70, and there are even some outliers even beyond those extremes.
Your solar panel installation team will use brackets and mounting equipment to set your panels up at exactly the right angle, taking into account the slope of your roof.
Is it better to put solar panels on East or West?
As we explained above, south is the best direction for solar panels, but if that’s not possible, face them to the west.
This will allow them to catch the setting sun’s rays and give you more solar power when you are home in the evenings and likely to use more power.
Do solar panels need to be south facing?
Solar panels don’t really have to face south, although it is best. If your roof doesn’t face south, there are a few things you can do to improve their efficiency:
- Install more solar panels on a non-south facing roof. A few extra panels should make up the difference.
- Install them on the ground so they can face south. Many homeowners are willing to give up a little yard space for the benefit of solar energy.
- Install solar trackers. Solar trackers are pricey, but they can make the most of solar panels that don’t face south by following the sun across the sky from sunup to sundown.
Final Thoughts on Solar Panel Orientation
Installing solar panels on the south side of your home maximizes their efficiency, and this can be even more beneficial if you are able to use the excess solar energy collected during the middle part of the day.
But don’t be concerned that you can’t utilize solar panels if you don’t have a south-facing roof. Just because south is the best direction for solar panels, there are creative ways to install them on any roof.