Finding the Best Site & Tilt for your Solar System

Adrienne SorensenSeptember 12, 201814580

Finding the Best Site & Tilt for your Solar System


It’s essential to determine what you need prior to installing panels system on your house. You must make sure you have the proper site so that the system will operate efficiently and productively. Finding the right site for your residential solar panel system is the first step you should perform before discussing energy requirements to determine whether a system would be economical.



Once you determine your location, you can determine the amount of energy you need and the size of the panel array needed to achieve this power. Once the size of the system has been determined, the economics of such an investment can be evaluated.

Finding the right site for your panels is comprised of three factors including the panel orientation, the panel tilt, and the panel shading. If you have a good position, a good tilt, and no shading, then your solar panels will work efficiently. The panels should face the middle of the sun's daily path within 15 degrees east or west of true azimuth of true south.


Panels are typically mounted on rooftops, but can also be placed on the ground. Depending on the conditions, any of these positions may give optimal sunlight. The factors that finalize positioning and orientation include the direction the roof and/or property is facing, the angle or tilt of the roof, the roof’s strength, the type of weather and obstructions that may cause shading.


Rooftops are popular for its positioning due to retrieving the most sunlight and its out of the way, but sometimes roof-mounting isn’t practical due to certain limitations such as space. So, in cases like that, ground-mounting may be the best option. If you want to find out where the best placement for your solar panels would be, it would be a good idea to ask a professional in addition to doing your own analysis and observation so that you can better understand your system.


Panel Tilt

The tilt of the panels on your roof depends on how your roof lines up with the sun.  The panel should face the middle of the sun's path to collect the most power throughout the day. The middle of the sun's path is an angle from horizontal equal to the latitude. The general rule followed for the tilt of the panels in the northern hemisphere is to position the solar panels of latitude plus or minus 10 degrees.


Variations of 10 degrees in either way will not seriously affect the total annual collection of the system. Winter system performance, however, can be optimized with the solar panels at a tilt of latitude plus 10 degrees, because less energy collection time is available during this period and also because heat loss is greater as a result of lower ambient temperatures. Panels will still work in the cold and in the heat though.

Shading is a very important factor. No more than five percent of the solar panel array should be shaded between 9 am and 3 pm when the greatest solar potential exists. By knowing the altitude and the azimuth of the suns path throughout the year, you can determine if a shading problem might exist for your location.

A solar window is actually the plot of the sun's path during the year at a particular latitude. We can derive what is called a Mercator projection from these sun path diagrams, which graphically depicts altitude and azimuth for each month onto a flat map for each variation of latitude. If you want further information, click here. 

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