When you install solar panels to power your property with green, sustainable, renewable energy, there are things you need to keep in mind to make those panels the most productive. One thing is how to angle the panels for your environment, climate, and location. The correct angle for solar panels can make a huge difference in the productivity levels of your panels.
So, let’s take a look at the best angle for solar panels for maximum efficiency in your region.
Does the Angle Matter and Why?
It seems a minor thing, the tilt of your solar panel, but it can make a huge difference on how effectively your panels are or are not in producing energy for your home. The tilt does change, however, based upon season, environment, location, and a few other things.
During winter, for example, in the northern hemisphere, the sun is low in relation to the horizon, so a steep angle (60-degrees) is best. Springtime? It’s 45-degrees. Summer, only 20-degrees.
Both the slope and the orientation is critical for best meeting your needs. But the best roof angle for solar panels has less of an impact on all of this productivity than the direction (orientation) in which your solar energy system faces.
How the Season of the Year Affects the Optimum Solar Panel Angle
Different seasons affect your solar panels in different ways. Specifically, wintertime is the most questioned issue when it comes to solar production, with the lower position of the sun in the sky, et cetera.
Good news, though, solar panels do work well in the wintertime, but you’re likely to see a dip in the total energy production on the especially bad weather days due to snow covering your panels. This will, of course, reduce their power output.
One way to deal with this potential issue is to install your solar panels at a lower angle than your latitude. This will set up your panels to perform more efficiently all winter long, since they will be facing the sun more directly from the lower point in the sky. It’s worth adjusting to this lower angle if you’re able to do so.
The one issue with this, however, is that setting an angle of 15-degrees or less can prevent snow from naturally sliding off the array. This can mean longer-lasting snow cover and lower energy production. If you’re able to clear off the snow regularly, this solution could be your ticket to success. If you cannot, however, you may need to angle as “usual” and be at a lower efficiency level for the winter.
Dates For Adjusting by Season Twice Annually
Adjusting to summer angle – March 30 to September 29
Adjusting to winter angle – September 10 to March 12
Dates For Adjusting By Season Four Times Annually
Adjusting to Spring angle – March 5 to September 4
Adjusting to summer angle – April 18 to October 18
Adjusting to Autumn angle – August 22 to February 21
Adjusting to winter angle – October 5 to April 6
Ultimately, What’s the Best Angle For Solar Panels in the USA?
As we’ve mentioned, there is no one “best” angle for all regions in the USA. However, it’s fair to say that the general overview range that’s “good enough” in most places in the country is between 25 and 35 degrees.
The Tilt Question
The goal with solar energy is to produce as much energy as possible to power home or business electronics and appliances. But to do this, many factors come into play – the best tilt angle for solar panels, direction of the sun, location of the panels, climate, latitude, the season, and more.
Specifically, the tilt of the panels has an effect on the efficiency of the energy production of energy panels, so it’s important to understand what angle is best for your locale.
The easiest way to deal with this is to look up your city’s latitude and doing the calculations as below. Here’s a list of angles in several cities across the USA.
- Birmingham, AL – 35005 – 28.59°
- Little Rock, AR – 72002 – 29.5°
- San Francisco, CA – 94016 – 31.8°
- Denver, CO – 80014 – 33.3°
- Orlando, FL – 32789 – 24.78°
- Las Vegas, NV – 88901 – 30.58°
- Concord, NH – 03301 – 35.93°
- Salt Lake City, UT -84044 – 34.07°
- Burlington, VT – 05401 – 36.9°
- Seattle, WA – 98101 – 39.28°
If you live in another area, use the formula below to calculate your ideal solar angle.
Ultimately, the tilt question comes down to this: do you keep your panels at a single angle year-round, or do you make the efforts to adjust two to four times yearly?
For the most productivity, you’ll need to adjust by season. You can adjust by season per these formulas.
- If your latitude is below 25°, multiply your latitude by 0.87.
- If your latitude is between 25° and 50°, multiple your latitude by 0.76, plus 3.1 degrees.
- If your latitude is above 50°, you’ll need to do some more advanced calculations or consult someone. Latitudes higher than 50° require a bit more complexity than standard formulas. Of course, the easy solution is investing in solar trackers, which do the adjustments for you.
Are There Solutions for Automatic Tilting?
There are devices called solar trackers, which are rising in popularity, thanks to their ability to track the angle of the sun and deal with the automatic adjustment of solar panels. They are complex, though, and need to be understood before employed.
Solar trackers automatically adjust the angle of your panels to “track” with the progress of the sun across the sky, which maximizes the energy output from the panels. As you can imagine, these are more expensive, more complicated, and potentially more productive than fixed mounting systems for panels.
There are some advantages and disadvantages to these adjustable mounts.
Advantages of Solar Trackers
- Solar trackers do generate electricity than their fixed mount counterparts, thanks for the increased direct exposure to sunlight. This can increase productivity anywhere from 10 to 25 percent, depending on the climate, terrain, and position of the tracking system.
- Solar trackers only use up approximately the same amount of space as fixed mounts – so no surface space is lost to their installation.
- There are a number of solar tracker types, including single and dual axis trackers. Each is perfect for a unique situation. Installation size, degree of latitude, local weather patterns, and electrical requirements all factor into which system should be used.
- In some states, some utilities offer Time of Use rate plans for solar power, which means that utility will purchase the power produced by your system during the peak daylight hours at a higher rate. If this is the case, producing more energy during those peak hours can be of great benefit – and may make a solar tracker that much more valuable.
Disadvantages of Solar Trackers
- The most obvious disadvantage is that solar trackers are a bit more expensive that standard stationary mounts. They’re more complex, so require more moving parts.
- Solar trackers are usually designed for climates with little to no snow fall, so they aren’t as viable in heavy-snow areas. Fixed mounts are more suited to harsher environmental conditions.
- Generally, solar trackers require more maintenance than other solar panel systems, thanks to the additional moving parts. The quality of the tracker, of course, does play a significant part in how much additional maintenance is required, however, so always invest in a higher-quality option than not.
- Solar trackers are more complex than fixed mount systems, so preparations for installation are usually more advanced and may require assistance from professionals.
Overall, solar trackers are highly efficient and generally worth the investment for anyone looking to produce as much solar energy as possible.