It is common knowledge that in the United States, rooftop solar panels work best when positioned facing south. In the northern hemisphere, solar panels facing south will provide the greatest amount of electricity. Since the United States is in the northern hemisphere, it is best for households to install south-facing solar panels.
In some circumstances, however, that might not be a choice. You may need to install your solar panels on another part of your roof if your house is surrounded by trees or if the south side of your house is heavily shaded by mountains or other obstructions.
How Solar Cells Work
The basis of solar panels are solar cells. Solar energy is captured and converted into electricity by these cells. This transformation is made possible by the space filled with semiconductor material that each cell has between a pair of electrodes on each side.
When sunlight strikes this material, certain packets of light energy release electrons from their atoms, allowing the cell to generate an electric current. Therefore, the only thing a solar panel needs to work is exposure to sunlight.
Why are south-facing panels optimal for solar production?
Throughout the year, the sun regularly rises and sets above the equator. The best way to get the most sun if you live north of the equator is to face south toward the equator. The southern half of the sky north of the Tropic of Cancer is covered by the sun every day of the year. This area covers most of America.
What to do when installing panels that cannot be mounted on a south-facing roof
You can still benefit from solar power even if your roof isn’t perfectly south facing for your panels. Several options to consider are listed below:
- To increase electricity production, you could add more solar panels to your roof.
- If your budget allows, you can use solar panel tracking systems.
- Finally, another option is to install solar panels on a roof with a east orientation
What is the performance of solar panels on east-facing roofs?
When it is not practical to place south-facing solar panels, using an east-facing roof is a great alternative. It is much more effective than west or north, making it the second best direction. Only 20% less energy is produced by east-facing panels compared to a south-facing system in a location with optimal sunlight conditions. Another advantage is that east-facing roofs receive light all day in winter, from early morning to late afternoon.
There are a few setbacks to using this method. Due to morning shade from structures and trees, energy production is typically reduced when panels are facing east. In addition, in the summer, when it is most needed, there is less sunlight accessible to the system, due to its orientation. While less efficient, facing your system east still produces 80% of what a south-facing roof would, which is a significant amount.
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