Installing solar panels will usually save you money on your utility bills, but only if the panels are placed in the right location. Solar panels improperly placed will be ineffective at producing electricity and saving you money. This article gives instructions on picking the right location for solar panels.


To get the most out your solar panels, you need to take the time to choose the best location for the solar panels. Solar panels placed in the right location around your home will be highly efficient for many years, saving you money. Solar panels placed in a less than optimal location will not work properly and may even become damaged, which can cost you money.

Direct Sunlight

You want your solar panels located in an area that receives direct sunlight for most of the day from morning until evening. Any shade covering even part of the panels not only reduces effectiveness, but can also damage some panels. Solar panels have a string of cells that work together to make and transport the electricity. If some of those cells are shaded, the entire panel and electrical capacity is negatively affected. Some solar panels are designed to be “shade tolerant.” These panels can reroute power around the shaded panel. However, even with shade tolerant solar panels, any shade will dramatically reduce the electrical output of the panels. If you want solar panels to perform at an optimal level and save you money, then locate the panels in an area that does not become shaded.


Facing South

If you live anywhere in the northern hemisphere, then you want your panels to face south to receive the most direct sunlight possible during the day. It’s important to note that the panels need to face true south and not just magnetic south as your compass will direct you towards. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a magnetic declination calculator online. You can use this to calculate the difference in magnetic south and true south at your home by entering your zip code.


Other Considerations

Other considerations as to where to locate your solar panels include potential damage to the panels, ease of access, and the amount of space the panels will need. Panels placed on the roof take up space that is out of the way and otherwise unusable space. With the panels up on the roof they’re less likely to become damaged. However, panels on the roof are not as easy to access for repairs or to change the angle as the seasons change. Placing panels down on the ground in the yard can take up a lot of yard space. Panels in the yard are more likely to be damage by kids or pets playing in the yard. However, panels placed in the yard are easier to access to change the angle and for repairs and are therefore less expensive to repair.


To determine the right location for your solar panels, you may need to spend a few days experimenting and becoming familiar with the sun and shade patterns around your home as these are the most important factors. One way to do this is to lay out a piece of wood or cloth that’s the same size as the solar panels and check for shade and sun exposure each hour throughout the day. The location with the most sun that faces south is the best location for your solar panels. Whether you choose to install the panels on your roof or in the yard is more of a personal preference.




References

MACS Lab: Optimum Orientation of Solar Panels

macslab.com/optsolar.html

National Geophysical Data Center: Magnetic Declination Calculator

ngdc.noaa.gov/geomagmodels/struts/calcDeclination