Does it matter which direction my panels are placed?
In the olden days, way before drying machines were developed and manufactured across the globe, pretty much everyone dried their clothes by hanging them. Whether it was through a clothing line that hung from one building to the next or in one’s very own backyard, optimal placement was a must if one wanted to dry their clothes quickly.
So to answer the question: does solar panel direction matter? Absolutely.
It’s unfortunate that I can’t say that it works well at any angle or direction, but facts are facts so what can we do? Modify the best we can. That’s why PV is an energy field that continually advances through research and testing.
The most optimal direction points the solar panels where it will capture the most sunlight. Some panels have active trackers that allow for automatic angle adjustment by tracking the movement of the sun throughout the day.
How does Earth revolve around the Sun?
It does so by spinning counterclockwise along its axes. This helps determine the best positioning for solar panels.
As you may have read elsewhere, solar panels should face true south. That is the rule of thumb for the Northern Hemisphere. For the Southern Hemisphere, solar panels should face true north.
The other important factor is angle. The angle will vary depending on location, but in general, the value is roughly 30 degrees where we are in Northern California.
The season actually plays a big role in determining the optimal tilt of your panels since the sun is higher during the summer and lower during the winter. If you install fixed panels, you can manually adjust the tilt accordingly by seasonal change.
Of course, one of the main things we must also account for besides general orientation matters is obstruction. Trees and other buildings can make positioning tricky, so this is a factor that should be analyzed before making a decision on placement.
How should your solar panels be tilted during the summer and the winter?
As mentioned above, for summer days, a lower tilt works best since the sun sits high above us. For winter days, a higher degree of tilt works best since the sun sits lower. For some, there is also an option to tilt the solar panels accordingly by all four seasons. That allows for more energy capture.
Tracking solar panels are more effective than passive, fixed solar panels since they adjust to capture more sunlight as the sun moves; however, that does not mean that everyone should get tracking solar panels.
Sometimes, depending on need and personal wants, having fixed solar panels is more than enough.
The best way to determine the positioning of your solar panels is to have your home or building assessed by knowledgeable professionals. Even though it’s encouraged and important to do your own homework for personal knowledge, it’s always good to have someone do the calculations for you. This will not only give you a piece of mind but help validate your own assessment as well.
Conclusion: Angle and orientation matter. Don’t guess it.