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Which direction should solar panels face?

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 05/23/2012 in
Updated 11/03/2017
which direction should this solar panel face?

Most solar panels are fixed in place, and can’t be faced wherever you like, unlike this one on a ‘heliostat’

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 the U.S. (or elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere), your solar panels should face true south (though there is an exception).

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 south, they’ll receive light throughout the day.

What’s the difference between regular ‘south’ (magnetic south) and ‘true south’?

which direction should solar panels face - true south

at exactly noon, wherever a shadow points is true south (flip that if you’re talking about the southern hemisphere)

When you look at a compass, it’s showing you magnetic south, not true south. What’s the difference? A compass points toward the south pole of the earth’s geomagnetic field. It’s the right general direction—but not exact. The earth has a fluid outer core made of iron and nickel, which pulls the needle of your compass slightly away from true south. The “pull,” or magnetic declination, will vary in direction and strength depending on your location.

The direction solar panels should face is true south, a.k.a. solar south or geographic south. To correct the compass reading, your solar installer will calculate the magnetic declination of your site. True south can also be calculated at noon, when shadows from vertical objects run north-south. Another simple method is to look at your house on Google Earth; after centering the image on your home, you can view the north-south grid lines Google provides. In the View menu, select “Grid”.

(In most places though – true south ain’t all that much different than magnetic south, and facing them magnetic south is almost just as good. At least you’re not facing them north and getting basically zero energy… and yes, I have seen this happen).

Where should I install solar panels if the direction of my roof doesn’t face the south?

solar panels face the same direction of your roof

Since they typically lay flat, solar panels most often face the same direction as your roof, and your only choice is really: “WHERE on my roof?”

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 southern-facing roof. One solution is to compensate by increasing the solar collector area, either using more panels or larger collectors. You may also be able to mount the panels on racks that orient them to face south, 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 just ain’t done barely ever).

Another option is to mount the panels somewhere other than your roof. Although this is more unusual, some people choose to mount panels on a south-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 south 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. A simple rule to follow in the United states is to multiply your latitude by 0.76, then add 3.1 degrees. That should work from Key West to the northern tip of Maine, and there is only 1 (very large) state that isn’t covered in that range. For more information about optimal tilt of solar panels, check out our friend Charlie’s site that is dedicated to exactly that.

Although most people select a fixed position, it’s possible to adjust the angle based on the seasons to squeeze even more power out of your solar panels. Basically, as you get closer and closer to the equator, the more you want your solar panels to face straight up, and vice-versa, as you get closer to the poles, you want to aim them lower in the sky, but still toward the equator.

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

As with anything in life, there are situations in which this cardinal rule doesn’t hold true—or rather, situations in which it’s advisable to break the rule. In the case of solar panel direction, the reason you’d want to break the rule is if you can get a greater benefit from a different orientation, and that’s the case if you live in a place with expensive time-of-use (ToU) rates.

You see, in many places, electricity consumption goes way up in the evening when people come home from work and school and turn on their air conditioners, microwaves, TVs, and Playstations (or Xboxes, or Wiis, we don’t discriminate). Some electric utilities try to avoid the huge spikes in usage that can occur during these periods by increasing the cost of electricity during them. That’s where solar owners come in.

Having panels on your roof means you’re drawing less electricity from the grid, which means you’re spending less on that expensive afternoon (aka, “Peak”) power. But if your panels are pointed south, they won’t be generating as many kilowatt-hours (kWh) as they could if they were aimed to take advantage of the late-afternoon sun in the western sky.

Here’s an example:

In California, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (aka SMUD, the best utility name ever) has a new ToU plan for 2016-17 under which super-peak electricity during the summertime (from 4 to 7 pm) costs 30.9 cents/kWh, while off-peak electricity is just 8.67 cents/kWh. That’s a 350% increase, and if you can avoid paying it by having solar meet your needs, you come out way ahead.

ToU rates like this and others in CA are a great way for solar to make more cents (groan).

Connect with a solar expert to see if you can take advantage of ToU billing, or whether you’d be better off with panels on a south-facing roof.

Last modified: November 3, 2017

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BAF
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BAF

True South, determined with sticks or a sundial, is based on Solar Noon, which is complicated, and changes daily. This, or declination of a compass, is on the web. I recommend Timeanddate.com and the Crowd-Mag compass app for smart phones with magnetometers.

Nicole M
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Nicole M

HI, I live in Hawaii, 96740, and have a South facing roof. Debating on A/ having part of my solar panels (6 out of 20) facing West to catch some sun in the winter….OR B/ Am I better off making more sun (all facing South) and “banking” that extra power made in a partial credit from the electric company for use in the winter time? I’d appreciate your advice. Lots of neighborhood people either have it all on the South or have orientation split between S and W. 2 months before install but I need to decide this question ASAP… Read more »

Nicole M
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Nicole M

I forgot to add that our system will have a Pika energy battery storage system….IF this matters to your answer for me.
I do appreciate your advice and expertise since I haven’t uncovered the info myself…
Thanks!

Vibhuti nath Jha
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Vibhuti nath Jha

Zip code 800029, In which direction to install solar panels.

M Schmidt
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M Schmidt

I live in Florida and I get the best and longest direct sunlight from the east. Should my panel face east?

SAQIB
Guest
SAQIB

IF I INSTALL PANEL ON SOUTH WEST DIRECTION LET SA 10 KW INSTEAD OF TRUE SOUTH ( BECOSE OF MY HOME DIRECTION) , WHAT COULD BE THE PRODUCTION LOSS IN UNITS .

Penford Magara PG
Guest
Penford Magara PG

I am in Northern region in Tanzania. Which is the best direction of solar panel should be, and which is best in saving in billing.

Tim
Guest
Tim

what direction or degree of azimuth and angle is best for zip code 37355

Ben Zientara
Admin

Tim- Point your panels true south, which is magnetic south minus declination. Here’s an article on how to find true south. In Coffee County, TN, you’re looking at a magnetic declination of 4.2° E, so use a compass to find magnetic south, and count back 4.2° east and you’ve got true south. Panel tilt should be set to your latitude times .76 plus 3.1 degrees. Coffee county’s at about 35° N, so 35 * .76 = 26.6, and 26.6 + 3.1 = 29.7°. 29.7° tilt up from the ground. Most house roofs are pitched 30°, so if that’s the case… Read more »

Alwyn Hall
Guest
Alwyn Hall

I live about 60 miles SE of Des Moines, Iowa Zip 52595. Had solar powered attic fan installed on my house, but discovered that it was installed on North side of roof with 5 / 12 pitch. What % of power will that produce in comparison to what it should if installed on south facing 5 / 12 pitch roof?

Waheed
Guest
Waheed

Hello i am living in Afghanistan i want to in stall solar panel on the flat roof of my house in wich digree should install and how much should be the space between two line of solar in order to avoid shadow of on an other

chas
Guest
chas

I am building an off grid home in Costa Rica. My roof faces east/west. Because of our remote location I want to face the panels West away from the public road to discourage theft. Would this make too much difference in the energy consumption as opposed to facing East?

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hey Chas-

West would probably be better overall, mainly because the early morning sun tends to shine through clouds, fog and mist more often, and the afternoon sun usually has more clear skies. So you’re good!

Larry Klein
Guest
Larry Klein

does motorizing the panels to move with the sun through the day make economic sense? I saw that someone designed a little circuit board to make the angle adjustments through the day

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hey Larry-

Technology exists to track the sun along both a horizontal and vertical path, but these kinds of tracking require ground-mounted “tables” of panels, which means concrete footings, 11-foot tall poles, and lots of extra structure to hold and maneuver the panels. For home solar, just putting panels on the roof makes much more sense, both financially and from a land-use perspective.

Cheers,
Ben

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I live in Haiti. Which is the best direction for our solar panels? Thank you for your help!

Asma Pathan
Guest
Asma Pathan

my home is in southern hemisphere so what will be the direction of my panel??

Aradee
Guest
Aradee

I’m in Accra, Ghana Please which direction should my solar panels face?

lalit jung rana
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lalit jung rana

my location is kathmandu nepal, what is the angel of solar panel for maximum radiation

Brihat Energy
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Brihat Energy

Hi Everyone…!! We are devoted to help you find the best energy solutions for your home or office. Our range of solutions to meet every needs ensure the best returns on your investments on solar installation plans. Speak with our Specialist – Call on : +91 80 4281 2345 Visit our portal : http://www.brihat.in

Bob
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Bob

My home is located at 42 degrees 38 minutes north latitude and its mailn roof’s south facing aspect is 10 degrees east of true south and sadly my pitch is only 10 degrees as well. I have solar panels installed aqnd we are on ToD billing. My home’s smaller secondary roof runs perpendicularr to the main roof so its west facing side is oriented 10 degrees south of west. Although it would receive sun late morning and in the afternoon, It receives shading after 7pm (daylight time) in the summer and after 3:30pm (standard time) in the winter. Winter snow… Read more »

Phil Geil
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Phil Geil

We have ground mounted panels arranged two roys high, using Unirac 14′ rails cut to 7′ plus Unirac 72″ legs to mount an array two horiontal panels hign on a home built triple 2×6 wooden beam base. Using additional home cut 1.5″, 1/8″ thick square Al tubing, 15″ long I retilt 4 times/yrar at the optimum angles for our site (central Illinois. The angles are 12°, 38°, 65° and 38° summer, fall, winter and spring. This has resulted, in the last 3 years, in 13% greater production than installer estimated values for a constant 30° tilt ground mount and 33%… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

35.9375 Latitude and 14.3754 Longitude which best way to position solar panels?

Dishan
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Dishan

Hello! I’m from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I need to install solar system for my farm. Please suggest me the direction that my panels should face and also please mention the optimum angel of panels throughout the year. Thanks in advance!

adrian
Guest
adrian

note to self: don’t use shift+enter. If you are supplying to the grid and in your area there is lots of solar panels then at noon grid gets overloaded with lots of solarpower. In that case east and west makes more sense because of more spread during the day. If grid pays you different at different times (eg more in the afternoon then early morning or vice versa) then choose either more west (afternoon) or east (morning).

Ben Zientara
Admin

Thanks for all your replies, Adrian! There certainly can be an advantage to facing panels west, especially if you’re in an area with Time-of-Use (ToU) billing, which often charges more for that late afternoon electricity.

adrian
Guest
adrian

Also you should take into account what you are doing with your electricity? Store it in your own batteries and almost never supply it to the grid? Get south facing and get as much as possible out of the same surface.

adrian
Guest
adrian

@George Ajibose you are basically on the equator for you tilt and direction are exactly the same: straight up.

George Ajibose
Guest
George Ajibose

im in south west Nigeria, what is the right facing direction & tilt, please? Thanx 4ur kind assistance

Dave
Guest
Dave

My roof faces east/west. If I’m installing 4 panels am I better to install all 4 on the east or west side near the peak or 2 on the west and 2 on the east side near peak.

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hi Dave,

As long as neither side of your roof is shaded by trees or other obstructions, we’d say west side, angled on racks as much toward the south as you can get without causing one panel’s shadow to touch another’s.

John
Guest
John

Hi guys, i hope you can help me compute this, I don’t know how much tilt shoud i need with my panel, here’s my location 14.533381,121.009514. thanks in advance

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

My husband and I are planning to install Solar System on our home. We live in Las Vegas, NV. We have interviewed 3 different companies and all agreed that most panels (due to roof layout) are to install on the South (based on your replies from this website…we agreed with them); however, 2 out of 3 are saying the rest are to install on the west. The company that we are leading toward is saying the east. Can you help determine which direction and angle are best suit for our situation? Thank you so much for your help and we… Read more »

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hi there! Generally, any panels that aren’t south-facing should face west, because the available sun at sunset is “more valuable” to the grid. This is especially true if you partake in NV Energy’s Time-of-Use (ToU) plan, which charges much more for energy between 2 and 7 pm, when the sun is in the western sky. ToU billing can save solar panel owners a ton because the sun is usually brightest during those hours of peak usage. In some cases, you will pay 5-10 times less for electricity after 7 pm and before 2 pm, and your system will offset all… Read more »

my name is Amanda
Guest
my name is Amanda

Im at CapeTown Stellenbosch can you please tell me which direction should my solar face

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

my house location is in Manila, what is the best position of my solar panel

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

helllo! i m in kathmandu,capital city of nepal.what should be the angle and direction in which should I install my solar panel system?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

my location is 6° 45′ 0″ North, 3° 25′ 0″ E. Kindly help with the angle of tilt for this area. Thank you

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

17.4968° N, 78.3614° E, how much tilt do I need to keep my solar panel to get maximum benefit. Thanks in advance.

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hello! Since your latitude is within 25° of the equator, you use your latitude multiplied by 0.87. That’s 15.22°. Angle toward the south.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

your kind advice is highly appreciated for Sana’a _Yemen homes

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

hi Dave, I hope you are doing weltl

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Try this again and not hit the “ENTER” button this time. Hi Ben, good write up here and I appreciate it. John Conner here from Boise Idaho and I have the same redundant question as most of the others have for you, just different location. Which direction and angle is appropriate for Boise, Thank you in advance…

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hello ! I am in lubumbashi (DRC Congo) which angle and direction can put my solar panel

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hello Sir, I am from Yemen,Hodeidah Could please tell to which place i have to direct my panels?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I ;ove in SUNYANI, GHANA. Please tell me the direction & angel of tilt for the panels on my roof to get the MAXIMUM amount of energy produced.Eric

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I am in Lagos (South west of Nigeria). Please advise me on which angle and direction to place my solar panels.

Ben Zientara
Admin

In Lagos, you’re at 6.4°N latitude. Take that times 0.87 to find your degree of tilt. For you, it’ll be 5.6°, aimed toward the south.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I’m in Lebanon, what should be the angle and direction in which should I install my solar panel system?

Ben Zientara
Admin

In Beirut, the latitude is 33.9° N, so the calculation is (33.9 x .76) + 3.1°. Your panels should be tilted 28.9° from the ground and aimed south.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

hi there, I’m in namibia,windhoek. which way should my panels face

Ben Zientara
Admin

Windhoek is at 22.57° S latitude, so point your panels north and tilt them at 17.15° from the ground.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I am in Northern Nigeria. Which way direction should i arrange my collector and at what angle. Will the direction and angle be applicable to CSP collectors?

Ben Zientara
Admin

Because you’re within 25° of the equator, you can use your latitude multiplied by 0.87 to determine the necessary tilt. Face the panels toward the south.

We don’t know much about CSP, but with a system that costly and complicated, you’d want to invest in sun-tracking racks that capture the maximum possible amount of insolation.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

i want to install solar panels in ghaziabad india where what should be the angle and direction in which should i install my system

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hello! In Ghaziabad, you’re at 28.67° N latitude. Your panels should be angled 24.89° from the ground. If you have no shade on a south-facing surface, install them pointed true south.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I’m a bit confused.. The information in this writeup seems to contradict the information in these.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Why it is necessayr to place the solar panel with certain angle rather than placing perpenducular to the Suns’s direction? And We want to installa solar panel in Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh- india. Please suggest the latitude, multiplication factor, direction and angle

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

We want to installa solar panel in Tamil Nadu- india. Please suggest the direction and angle

Ben Zientara
Admin

Hello! Tamil Nadu, India is located at 13° N Latitude. The general rule for Latitudes under 25° is to multiply your latitude by 0.87. Therefore, your panels should be tilted 11.31° relative to the ground. Because you’re in the northern hemisphere, point the panels to the south. Here’s hoping for many sunny days in your future.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

im in centeral N.C witch way should i point my pannels. and at what angle

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

is it posible for solar power to power a full house enery for a month even in clowdy days

Ben Zientara
Admin

Yes!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hello is anyone there?:(

Dan Hahn
Admin

Yes, we’re here, do you have a question?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Why couldn’t more home builders have consulted this article before building East-West roofs?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

if you have a single fixed solar panel, is it best to orient the panel such that the panel is in a portrait or landscape position perpendicular to true south?

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