The positioning of your solar panels on top of your home or office has to be done correctly because once they are in the proper position, you’ll end up getting much better results in the end. Although theoretically, you can place your panels anywhere on the roof, they’ll get more sun for a longer period of time if they face in the southern direction, but you may ask yourself, why do solar panels face south? I intend to try and explain that question in this article.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels soak up the sun’s rays during the day, storing energy in a battery bank that can be used once the sun goes down. They operate 24/7 because even when it’s dark outside for long periods of time, most panels are designed with a “reserve” that allows them to operate for up to two weeks without the sun. Panels that face in the southern direction can soak up more sun for longer periods of time so they can get more direct energy a lot sooner than if you faced the panels in another direction.
This is the basic answer to the question “why do solar panels face south?” so it isn’t difficult to understand why south-facing panels are preferred by nearly everyone. Having said this, it isn’t necessary for your panels to face south just to get them to work. In fact, in many older homes in the United States as well as many homes throughout Europe, there are no sections of the roof that face south, meaning that the panels have to be installed facing another direction. In these instances, they still soak up the sun’s rays and store the energy until it needs to be used; they just don’t do it as quickly.
A Few Tips to Remember
If your home or office has any type of southern exposure, including southeast or southwest exposure, you can have the panels installed facing in that direction. Remember that if you end up with panels that do not face the south, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to soak up a lot of energy throughout the day but southern exposure is always best. If you think about any type of building, home or office, you’ll notice that the north side is always in the shade and the east and west sides are in the shade much of the day, although they do get some direct sun during the day.
The south side, however, is the section of the roof that gets the most amount of direct sun for longer periods of time. Since solar panels rely on the sun to do their job, this is simply the best direction for them to be facing.
What If My Roof Doesn’t Face South?
There may be instances where your roof does not have a southern facing. This does not mean that installing solar panels is off the table completely. There are alternatives that you can look into doing.
Installing Wall Solar Panels: This can be an option if you have any of your home’s exterior walls receive a lot of direct sunlight. Installation of wall-mounted solar panels tend to have a higher cost so be aware and can be limited because of the number of panels that can be installed. Other limitations to take into consideration are the amount of shading that occurs over the course of the day and seasonal changes to the sun’s path.
Installing Ground Solar Array: Another option is to install a ground-mounted solar system in your backyard. There are advantages to doing this type of installation because they tend to cost less than installing solar panels on your roof. Another advantage is its easy maintenance and cleaning since you don’t have the added hazard of climbing up onto your roof.
Of course, you can definitely choose to install the solar panels on your roof even if it doesn’t face the southern direction. In some countries, many homes intentionally install their panels facing either east or west. This is often because if every home installed their panels facing south, it could be difficult for the grid to handle. This is especially true during the midday hours when the largest amount of sun is being soaked up by the panels. In the United States, this usually isn’t a problem because there are so few people currently using solar power for their homes or office buildings.
If you decide to install your panels facing directly east or directly west, you should still see a savings on your utility bill that is roughly 20%, proving that they don’t have to be facing directly south for you to notice a difference in your monthly utility bill. There are even online calculators that can help you determine an estimate of how much you’d save if you decided to install solar panels in your home.
Now that the question of why do solar panels face south has been answered, it should put your mind at ease even if your home isn’t facing the “right” direction. Naturally, other considerations need to be looked at before deciding to install these panels on your home, including the amount of sunshine your city typically gets, whether you should get a panel system installed on your home or on the ground, and, of course, your budget. You can check out my article that covers the basics of solar power for additional information.
To be clear, this facing recommendation only pertains to homeowners in the Northern Hemisphere because the sun moves along a more southern trajectory from east to west. This means that for homeowners living in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun takes a more northern trajectory so it is recommended that if you live south of the Equator you need to install your solar panels facing north.
Fortunately, there are consultants who will come out, inspect your home, and answer all of your questions, making it much easier to choose the right system in the end. To make it even better, they usually do this for free, which means that your only expenditure is your time.