o, you’ve made up your mind to install solar panels on your property. Now you have to determine the most suitable solar panel location, as it will have a major effect on your solar system’s performance. Here's a quick overview of the options to help you decide where to place your PV modules.
The best placement for solar panels
Rooftop solar panels
Installing solar panels on the rooftop is a go-to solution for most property owners. This is hardly surprising, given that access to direct sunlight is key to maximum solar efficiency, and placing solar panels on the roof is the best and surest way to capture as much sun's rays as possible.
While exposure to sunlight is the most substantial benefit, installing solar panels on the roof offers a broad range of others. For example, rooftop solar systems keep your backyard free for other uses, which is definitely a great plus point for homeowners who have a small outdoor space. In addition to this, they can keep your house cooler by creating shade on your rooftop. According to some estimates, installing solar can decrease the amount of heat reaching the roof by as much as 38%. And finally, solar panels can even act as a shield against bad weather e.g. heavy rain or hail.
But for all its advantages, rooftop solar isn’t suitable for all. Your roof has to be strong enough to support the weight of solar modules, so if it isn’t in good condition it is better to consider other solar mounting options. Also, keep in mind that the size of the solar system will be limited to how much space you have on your roof.
The difficulty of access is another negative aspect of rooftop solar. This means maintaining and fixing solar panels will be a bit more challenging than in the case of a ground mount solar setup.
Ground-mounted solar panels
Ground-installed solar panels are less widespread, but this location may fit some homeowners better. First of all, ground-mounted designs offer you an opportunity to freely place your solar panels in any open space on your property, which means you can choose an optimal angle and direction to harvest as much solar radiation as possible.
Solar panels installed on the ground are much easier to clean and repair, which makes them a great choice for those who would like to avoid the risks associated with getting on a roof. And of course, ground-mounted solar panels are the only way to go solar for those with rooftop limitations, be it lack of sturdiness or limited space.
But you should be aware of the drawbacks as well. Ground-installed solar panels are more expensive, as more installation parts and labor are involved. Plus, they take up quite a lot of space on your site.
Alternative spots for installing solar
And don’t forget that roofs and backyards aren’t the only options you have for setting up solar. For example, if you have detached buildings on your property, such as garages or sheds, you can easily use them to install solar modules. Sometimes they may have better orientation and fewer obstructions allowing you to get the most out of your solar PV.
The best solar panel orientation
South-facing solar panels
The direction of your roof will largely determine how much sunshine your PV panels will get. The sun mostly shines directly over the equator, that’s why it is generally recommended that homeowners living in the northern hemisphere place their solar modules facing south, whereas solar panels in the southern hemisphere should be facing north. So to harvest more sunlight and get the most mileage out of your solar system, south-facing panels will work best.
Solar panels facing other directions
However, in some cases installing south-facing solar panels isn't an option. Hence the question: will solar panels work if installed in another direction? The answer is yes, but you will most definitely have to sacrifice some of their output. Solar arrays facing east or west will generate about 15% less energy than the arrays directed toward the south, while north-facing panels will lose approximately 30% of their efficiency.
The best solar panel angling
Solar panels are almost always put at an angle to capture more sun’s rays. This angle depends on your latitude — the further your location is from the equator, the higher the solar system's tilt should be. For most U.S. homeowners, the best solar panel angle is 35-40 degrees.