Easy DIY Solar System Site Assessment Guide For Homeowners

Veronica LeeMay 18, 201723511

This is an introduction to the fundamentals of the Solar Site Assessment, particular to the location and orientation of your home relative to solar radiation (excluding initial financial costs and ROI, you can read more about that here). As a disclaimer, we must state that the following information will help you bypass a professional solar assessment, in theory, however, professional advice from your local installer is still strongly advisable.

Making this decision can be complex and confusing for the average homeowner without some basic understanding of solar solutions and solar radiation. Typically, many homeowners can handle most of the paperwork themselves. This guide is designed to help Northern California residents looking to invest in solar and take a larger measure of control over their energy production and solar future. Even if you choose NOT to go solar, HahaSmart hopes that you will share this information with people in your own network who are interested but afraid of making the initial investments.

However, installers are responsible for performing site assessments, obtaining building and electrical permits, handling interconnection applications and of course, the actual installation job.

The Basic Homeowner’s Solar System Assessment Fundamentals

Peak Sun Hours

Peak hours are the number of hours per day when the solar insolation equals 1000 kWh/m^2, where the energy received during total daylight hours equals the energy received if the sun shines for 5 hours at 1000 w/m^2.

For example, in the northern hemisphere where the sun is predominantly in the southern sky, solar collectors or photovoltaic (PV) modules would point toward the southern sky to maximize energy collection. Using this information, consider where your home is located hemispherically to determine whether this is the best decision for you.

Orientation of the Proposed Array Surface

The orientation of the sun’s location from east to west is called “azimuth” (measured in degrees). Daily performance and efficiency from your future “cheap home solar system” is dependent on the fixed mount collectors, if faced true south or 0’ degrees. The sun’s height above the horizon is called “altitude” which is measured in degrees above the horizon.

Percent Shading at Proposed Array Location 

Calculating detailed solar shading and overshadowing is a problem for most building analysis tools (this should be left to professionals).

It is important to a whole range of building performance criteria, from thermal and daylighting analysis through to solar access and rights-to-light. However, to do it properly can take a frustratingly long time.


Solar energy has much more to offer Northern California homeowners. With the financial incentives available in this state, solar is more affordable than ever. This is our attempt to reach as many Northern Californians (Sacramentans) and spread awareness about the amazing benefits of going solar through community outreach and education.

Keep these things in mind when selecting a site and performing the assessment:

Be sure that the array is not shaded from 9 am to 3 pm on any day
Be sure that the array is not shaded in any month of the year during the solar window.

Identify the obstacles that shade the array between
9 am and 3 pm

Feel free to browse the rest of our site to start designing your own home solar system, and register to stay updated on the many benefits of going solar for cheap. 

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Comments (1)

  • • February 15, 2018 0 1

    Good article.

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