What Direction Solar Panels Should be Facing for Maximum Performance

When it comes to solar, the energy production of a system varies based on where solar panels are installed on the roof and which direction they face.  It’s common for today’s homeowners to get quotes for a solar power system with a diagram of where panels would be installed on their rooftop. Homeowners have differing reactions to quotes: some may not particularly pay too much attention, some don’t care, and some express where they would prefer solar panels to be mounted thinking production is all the same.  The fact is, it’s quite important to pay close attention to where solar panels will be installed on your roof because it determines several key variables that eventually affect your pocket book.

Where solar panels will be placed on your rooftop actually depends on which direction your home is facing.  Yes, your home’s direction makes a big difference ultimately affecting the suggested system size, the output performance, cost, and the electricity savings you’ll achieve for the life of your solar power system.

So, what is the ideal direction of a home that optimizes the performance of a solar energy system?  In general, for homes located in the Northern Hemisphere like us here in the United States, a south facing home (or shall we say a roof facing that direction) is optimal.  On average, our location being above the equator gets the most exposure to the sun throughout the entire year, and a south facing rooftop with solar yields optimal performance and power output.

That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if your solar power system isn’t perfectly facing south.  It simply means panels pointed in other directions will generally output less than they’re capable of in comparison to those directly facing south.
The maximum energy output performance of a solar panel can vary by as much as 30% based on which direction it faces.  With south being the best, east/west facing panels have an expected lower output of up to 15%, and north at 30% are the least desirable when it comes to direction.  However, there are also advantages to the other directional options with east and west facing installations such as energy production required for the morning or the afternoon.  For the most part, if achieving the best yearly power production level is the goal, then south facing is the most ideal.

Here are four illustrations of how size, performance, output, and cost will vary based on the direction a solar power system faces.  Each system in these examples is designed to produce 10,500 kWh, the average household electricity consumption for 100% offset.  You’ll notice the size and number of panels change to generate that same yearly 10,500 kWh output.

Facing South 01
Facing West 01 01
Facing East 01 01
Facing North 01 01
A south facing solar installation is what most solar installers pursue when it comes to residential applications here in Southern California.  But in reality, it all depends on the below criteria where solar panels will ultimately reside on any rooftop.
  • Home orientation (where it faces),
  • Roof positions and shapes,
  • Available space on the roof to accommodate solar panels   

It’s impossible for every single solar installation to face south like we want.  If your roof perfectly faces south with ample space for solar, then you’re in luck to have a system that will perform and produce at its optimum level. Because roofs come in all different shapes and sizes, there are many solar installs that will face multiple directions to accommodate the size of the system and/or optimize the system by where they will perform best.  And, if a solar system can’t face south for maximum sunlight exposure, then the lack in power output is compensated with additional panels. 

Solar Power Supply uses a robust, sophisticated solar design software that analyzes the most productive position on every rooftop.  Not only does it know where sunlight hits the roof best, but it also delivers true shading analysis that results in quotes with realistic and more accurate energy production numbers.

If you’ve been wondering what direction solar panels should face on your home for maximum performance, give us a call to discuss the details.  We can put together an estimate for a system that will produce the power you need to offset your electricity bills.  Let’s FACE IT, it’s time to find an alternative to expensive power from the utility company.    

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