One of the first things you’re going to ask yourself when considering solar power for your home is: “Which direction should my solar panels face?” In other words, what’s the best direction for new solar panels on your roof so that they will produce maximum power?
Basically, your solar installer will help you pick the perfect placement and you should feel quite comfortable with their explanation of where and why. But in general there’s one big rule: if you’re in Australia (or elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere), your solar panels should face north.
The more sunlight reaches your solar panels, the more electricity you can generate and the more money you’ll be able to save on your electric bill. If your panels face north, they’ll receive light throughout the day. Unfortunately, it also means that if your roof doesn’t face north, your options are limited.
Where should I install solar panels if the direction of my roof doesn’t face the north?
If your roof faces east-west rather than north-south, you have a few options. Solar panels facing east or west won’t get as much light as those on a northern-facing roof. One solution is to compensate by increasing the solar collector area, either using more panels or larger collectors. But then you’d just be spending more to be less efficient. You may also be able to mount the panels on racks that orient them to face north, although this will be more expensive than a standard installation.
(Sorry, I know that’s a buzz-kill for some, but basically it’s too expensive and inefficient from an installation perspective, there are serious wind implications, and well, it’s just almost never done).
Another option is to mount the panels somewhere other than your roof. Although this is more unusual, some people choose to mount panels on an shade-free north-facing wall. If you have space in your yard, the panels can also be mounted on the ground. This is less expensive, and also gives easy access to the panels if you need to clean them, brush off snow, or do any other maintenance. Ground-mounted solar panels can even be placed on trackers, which adjust the position of the panels throughout the year in order to maximize the amount of sunlight reaching them. If ground or wall-mounted panels don’t work for you, solar panels can also be mounted on a building near your house, like your garage or a storage shed.
Any of these options can also work well if your roof faces north but happens to be heavily shaded from trees or nearby buildings.
But what about the direction your solar panels should face from an ANGLE perspective?
After finding the best place to install your solar panels, your installer will select the ideal tilt. The angle is calculated based on your latitude. Although most people select a fixed position, you can buy special tilt-able frames for your array that allow you to adjust the angle based on the seasons to squeeze even more power out of your solar panels.
This helpful guide from Australia’s “Your Home” website discusses the proper tilt for solar panels. Their recommendations are based on what the panels will be mostly used for. If a solar power system will be mostly responsible running refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in a hot climate, the panels should be tilted to your latitude minus 10 degrees. If the system will be used mostly for running heaters in cooler climates, the best angle is your latitude plus 15 degrees. The difference is based on the position of the sun in the season of highest use. Adjustable frames allow for the tilt to be changed for each time of the year.
Here’s a helpful image using Sydney’s latitude, courtesy of the Your Home site:
Bottom line? Which direction should solar panels face? For most people in Australia, the direction you want your solar panels to face is true north, and with between 20-50 degrees of tilt depending on how southern or northern you are.
Last modified: September 27, 2016