In the new age of renewable energy sources, plenty of people have started investing in solar power. Trendy companies like Tesla have taken the energy market by storm in the United States by inventing technologies that are easier to use and more efficient. Together, solar power can save you money if you know where to put your setup.
Which side of the roof do solar panels perform best? Solar panels located in the northern hemisphere perform best when they face the south. The optimal location for solar panels is when they are installed in areas that receive the maximum amount of direct sunlight during the day.
Understanding the best place for your solar panels is the first step towards saving you money on your utility bills every month. This article addresses geographical aspects of both the region you live in and where you should put the solar panels on your property. By placing the panels in the best location, you can maximize the power you generate.
Location For The Best Solar Power Setup
If your home has a large, flat area where your solar panels can receive direct sunlight for the entire day, you have the ideal environment. For most people, however, you will need to evaluate how much shade buildings and trees nearby cause and try to find a place where your panels will not languish in the shade for hours at a time.
Most people tend to use their roof as a convenient location for their solar panels. Depending on the house’s shape and the number of stories, the roof is often a broad surface that is relatively flat. However, the best part of a roof is that it is elevated, so you will not have to worry as much about trees looming over the panels and blocking the sunlight.
If you live in a house without much of a backyard, the roof might be your only option for solar panels, and you should be able to generate enough for general use. In a perfect world, tilting the solar panels increases the amount of direct sunlight the panels can absorb, but most people do not notice a large difference in the harnessed energy from a flat surface.
The direction that your solar panels face is another important factor. For people living in the northern hemisphere, the south is the best direction. FOr people living in the southern hemisphere, north is the best direction. This article delves into directionality more below, but those directions help your panels absorb the optimal amount of sunlight throughout the day.
As everyone knows, living closer to the equator means that you receive more direct sunlight than living in a region farther away from it. The reality of living on a planet with a tilted axis is that some places are just more convenient for using solar power than others. However, that does not mean that solar energy should be limited to those places.
In fact, living very far north, you might notice that the temperature is often low, even when the sun shows its shining face. It might be too cold for you to sit outside comfortably, but your solar panels do not care about the ambient temperature. All they need is the sun’s rays to generate the electricity to power the heater in your home.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, the optimal direction for your solar panels is to have them face true south. Not everyone’s property has a convenient spot that faces true south. However, a couple of degrees to the east or west might not impact your solar collection if you can manage to tilt the panels and capture the sunlight.
For people who live in climates where you are no stranger to snow, sleet, and hail, you may find yourself needing to clean off the solar panels more frequently than someone who lives in a more arid region. Snow can freeze overnight, which could end up shattering your solar panel if the temperatures drop far enough, so you should always keep them clear.
Why Angles Matter
As mentioned in the previous section, angling your solar panels to catch the sunlight’s radiation increases their efficiency. Turning the solar panels can compensate for looming buildings or trees, depending on how you can prop up the panels. However, the installers angle them; the panels must face the sun.
Typically, in the United States, the best angle for your solar panels is one that equals your latitude or one that is the closest approximation. Having your solar panel face as close to true south as possible is more important than the panels’ angle; however, many people simply lay their panels flat and still find them useful.
If your installer can angle the solar panels, they can increase the number of hours during the day that direct sunlight hits them and therefore absorb more energy. The farther away from the equator you live, the more the solar panels should be tilted for maximum efficiency. For example, in Los Angeles, you would ideally tilt the panels 34 degrees.
When the solar panels are perpendicular to the sunlight, they can work at the peak of their efficiency. That tilt allows more sunlight to hit their surface so that there is more energy to absorb. You will notice that you produce less energy during the winter because the days are shorter, but the angle can allow you to take advantage of the sun you have.
Obstacles For Solar Power
If you live in an area with ample sunlight, you might think that solar panels are the perfect way to generate electricity and save money on your utility bills. However, there are certain obstacles that your property might face that can reduce the effectiveness of solar panels because they are not located in direct sunlight for the majority of the day.
One or two trees can be avoided by careful placement of the solar panels, but if you live in a heavily wooded area, you might find that solar panels are not the right choice for your house. Trees, especially those with wide leaves, cast long shadows that can interfere with the sunlight exposure for your solar panels.
Additionally, many regions of the United States are quite mountainous, and those mountain ranges might block a lot of the sunlight. The radiation from the sun is what the solar panels capture from the sun’s rays, and mountain ranges can block some of that radiation, depending on their location relative to your house.
Even if your house is not in direct shade from the mountains during the day, for people in the northern hemisphere, the majority of the sun’s radiation comes from the south. If you live north of the mountains, they can obscure some of that radiation before it has a chance to be absorbed by your solar panels.
Where Is Solar Energy Used The Most?
The country with the largest number of households who rely on solar energy is China, followed by Japan, and then the United States. As of 2018, these countries have installed the largest number of solar energy systems to generate power for their citizens. Despite that, there are a large number of places in the world that could benefit from solar power.
Everyone on and near the equator could potentially benefit from gathering solar energy. Solar power infrastructure is lacking in many countries, however, which can keep private citizens from installing their own solar energy panels, regardless of their ability to afford it. Within the United States, California has the largest number of households using solar energy.
Although places like California and Texas are further south and can achieve a lot of solar energy because of their locations, northern states should not shy away from solar energy. By correctly angling the solar panels and placing them in spots on your property away from shade, you can still generate a large amount of electricity from the panels.
How Solar Power Works
Solar panels are easy to use after they have been installed. Essentially, a solar panel needs to be wide and long, without being very thick. No one ever installs a single solar panel because you need as much surface area as possible to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight. As the sunlight strikes the surface, it is absorbed and harnessed into energy.
When the sun’s rays enter the electromagnetic fields covering the solar panels, energy is released from the process. That energy is what the solar panels capture for your use. Solar panels are a convenient way to harness energy because they are light enough to provide no threat to the roof and can sit up there absorbing all day.
Solar power works by harnessing the energy from direct sunlight. Surprisingly, this is not related to how hot the region actually can get. So, even if you live in an area that gets very hot during some seasons or months unless the sun is directly shining on the solar panels, you will not be able to generate enough energy to power anything.
On the other hand, in an area that does not ever get very hot at any time of the year, your property may still receive enough direct sunlight to allow you to generate enough energy to power your house and maybe have enough to spare to sell through energy certificates to utility companies for a little bit of extra money in your wallet.
How Much Does Solar Power Cost?
The major roadblock that most average families run into when it comes to solar power is the initial cost. Solar panels alone can cost thousands of dollars to purchase and install. However, both federal and state governments offer incentives to compensate for those high costs and promote the use of solar power in society.
The United States government currently offers a tax incentive of up to 22% for homeowners who choose to rely on the power of the sun. Your local government may offer similar incentives, so it is never a bad idea to look into it before making a decision. However, despite those incentives, the average cost for solar power is between $15,000-$25,000 in the United States.
Your location makes a big difference when it comes to solar power expenses. In addition to considering the local tax incentives offered, you might find it more expensive to have a certified installer come out to your house if you live in a rural region.
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The most important part of the setup is the actual solar panels. They absorb the sunlight and generate electricity to power your home. These panels are connected to your home’s electrical wiring for certain outlets or devices, depending on how many panels you bought and what they can safely power in your house.
However, besides the core components, many people choose to use additional services or components to achieve optimal energy production.
Many people choose systems that include a way of tracking the amount of energy generated each day, as well as the amount of energy your household expends. In analyzing these energy use trends, you can better understand when you might want to cut down on the amount of energy being used based on the cost.
Tesla also offers an additional option for people who really want to get the most out of their solar power. The Tesla Powerwall allows solar energy to be stored for the future if your panels produce more than you can use. This can be used as a backup generator during power outages, so you never have to worry about being left in the dark.
Is Solar Power Cost-Effective?
Only you can determine whether solar power would be cost-effective for your household, but there are a few things to consider when making the decision. The first step is to consider how much you are currently paying in your electrical bill each month. Depending on where you live and how much energy you use, this bill can vary enormously.
By determining the amount you pay per year in electrical bills based on your current energy usage, you can figure out how long it would take you to recoup the costs of purchasing solar panels and having them installed. Generally, if you would recoup the costs in less than five years, it should be a no-brainer.
Additionally, you will need to consider your geographic location and the space available on your property. If you cannot install the panels on your roof and you do not have enough of a backyard for the panels, it likely will not benefit you to install a small number of solar panels because they will not generate enough energy to make it worth it.
Although the federal tax incentive has dropped to 22% in 2021 from 26% in the previous year, that can still cover enough of the cost that solar power might be available for less affluent households. If you have been looking for a way to save money on utility bills and you live in an area with sunlight to support solar power, it might be right for you.
Permits And Approvals
Before you begin the process of buying solar panels and scheduling installation, you will need to look into the possibilities of permits and approvals. If you live in a community with a Homeowner’s Association, you will likely need to request their permission before installing solar panels, but it does not stop with the HOA.
Most companies who install solar power systems offer to help you with the approval process because it differs between regions. You should always look into local regulations and codes to determine whether you need to apply for extra approvals to abide by the local laws.
Based on where you live and the brand of solar panels you are installing, you will need to check the company’s credentials to ensure that they are licensed by the manufacturer for installation. This is assuming you are not doing the installation through the manufacturing company. If the company is not licensed, you might inadvertently void the warranty.
Although most homeowners decide to place their solar panels on the roof for the height, the roof does come with some downsides. For example, the panels will need occasional cleaning and maintenance. Hauling out the ladder and scrambling up onto the roof whenever you want to clean them might be enough of a deterrent for some people.
Besides cleaning, your solar panels should not need maintenance very often and, in ideal conditions, can last for up to 20 years before needing to be replaced. If you keep up with the cleaning, your solar panels are likely to last for longer without needing to call the repairman out for a home inspection.
If your family has been considering switching to solar power and have been wondering where to place your setup for maximum efficiency, know that there are three important factors. Make sure your panels face the south, keep them in direct sunlight for the majority of the day, and be vigilant about clearing off stray leaves or debris.