Two angled solar panels on a snowy house roof.

The Quick Guide To The Best Angle For Solar Panels

Dec 1, 2022

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If you’re considering putting a solar power system on your roof, you might wonder how to maximize its energy production. Installing solar panels at the ideal angle and azimuth, or the direction the sunlight is coming from, helps boost your electricity output. However, there isn’t an ideal angle for all homes and applications because it varies by the property and location.

Solar panel installations are customized based on your latitude, climate, roof, shading from trees, project budget and goals. Let’s examine the factors that contribute to the best solar angle for your home.

Why Do Installers Mount Solar Panels At An Angle?

Your solar panels will produce the most energy if they are mounted perpendicular to the sun. Therefore, your latitude is a critical factor in determining the optimal angle. In most of the United States, installers mount solar panels at an angle of between 30 and 45 degrees, which is the same as the location's latitude.

Most solar systems are fixed and stay in the same position throughout the day and seasons. However, in some cases, a tracking system is used to help follow the sun at the ideal angle. Other systems are designed to be manually adjusted by the season. Although trackers boost solar output, they also increase the maintenance associated with the system.

Your panel orientation is an essential factor for ensuring optimum solar energy production. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you will want your solar panels to be south-facing and as close to true south as possible.

If they face slightly east or west, that is alright. Yet if they are pointed straight east or west, it can decrease your output by about 20 percent. Unfortunately, facing your solar panels true north will dramatically lower your solar electricity production unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere. So, if a north-facing roof is your only option, exploring alternatives, such as a garage roof or a ground mount, is a good idea.

What Is The Optimal Solar Panel Angle?

Because latitude impacts the ideal tilt angle, solar installers consider this information when designing your system. The best year-round tilt angle of your solar panels is likely the same as your latitude. So, if you live in a northern state, the optimum angle is higher than if you live further south. Following this general guideline, a solar system in Washington, Wisconsin or New Hampshire will produce more electricity if it is around 45 degrees. However, systems in New Mexico, Louisiana or Florida would generate more at 30 degrees.

The sun is higher in the sky during the summer than in the winter because the time of year determines the sun's path across the sky. Solar installers usually average out the optimum summer and winter angles to come up with the best year-round angle. Therefore, the angle of your solar panels will also impact seasonal electricity production.

For example, if you want to maximize winter generation, a higher tilt angle is usually a good idea. This is because the sun’s rays are lower in the sky during winter, so a steeper slope is better. However, as a rule of thumb, most solar installers consider total annual energy production when determining the optimal tilt angle, especially in areas with net metering. If you have an off-grid solar system and your home needs a lot of winter energy production, a steeper angle might be better.

How To Determine The Ideal Angle For Solar Panels

Solar design specialists consider many factors when planning your array.

Your Roof

Often, the ideal angle for your solar panels is highly impacted by your roof because they are usually mounted flush on the roof. However, the panels are typically angled using a metal racking system if you have a flat roof.

The characteristics of your roof will impact your solar energy production. For example, if the roof is shaded, it will decrease your electricity output. Likewise, dormers, skylights, vents and chimneys will reduce the available space for panels.

Your Weather Throughout The Seasons

Your local climate also impacts the ideal angle and azimuth of your solar system. So, if you live in an area with a lot of morning fog, your electricity output will be lower if the system faces east or southeast. If you live in a snowy climate, having your panels at a steeper angle will help them shed the snow more quickly.

The weather and season can also impact your energy needs. For example, electric vehicles are less efficient in colder weather, so you might need more electricity to recharge your vehicle. Likewise, if you use a lot of air conditioning, your electricity bills might be higher in the summer.

Your Location

Because where you live impacts your latitude, your location is very important for the ideal tilt angle. It also has an impact on your sun number, which is a scoring system for the photovoltaic solar energy potential of your home that takes many factors into account, such as your climate, electricity prices and shading on your roof.

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FAQs: Getting The Best Angle for Solar Panel Production

Many solar shoppers have questions related to the tilt angle of their solar panel systems.

What angle is best for my solar panels?

In the United States, the ideal angle is usually between 30 and 45 degrees. However, aesthetics are another consideration because most solar systems on pitched roofs are flush mounted. Consult your solar installer for personalized recommendations.

What direction should my solar panels face?

Ideally, your solar panels will face true south, but this might be impacted by the orientation of your roof. If the panels face southeast, you will have slightly more morning production at the expense of some afternoon output. The reverse is true for systems that face southwest.

What if my roof doesn’t face south?

Solar panels can still be a wise investment if your roof doesn't face south. However, you do not want to install solar panels facing north. If your roof faces east or west and you have sufficient space, adding a couple of extra solar panels can help make up for the reduction in energy production from not having a south-facing roof.

Should I get solar trackers for my solar array?

Most solar tracking systems are used on ground-mounted systems, not on rooftop solar systems. Although solar trackers do increase electricity production, they also add to the cost and maintenance of your system. If your solar system doesn’t have a tracking system, it will not have moving parts and will require less maintenance.

The Bottom Line: The Right Panel Angle Can Improve Solar Energy Production

Optimum solar system design will impact your solar energy production for decades. Two of the biggest factors are the azimuth and tilt angle of your solar panels. If your solar panels are mounted at a very steep or too shallow of an angle, it can decrease your total output for the life of your array.

Take the guesswork out of their solar system design by speaking with a Rocket Solar advisor.