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What Is the Best Angle for Solar Panels? (2024 Guide)

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Default Author Icon Written by Tamara Jude Updated 04/24/2024

The angle of your solar panels determines how much direct sunlight they receive, which directly impacts the amount of electricity they generate. As a general rule, the best angle for solar panels is roughly equal to your latitude, but several factors can impact this calculation. This includes roof pitch, shading, and season. Our guide explains how to choose the ideal solar panel angle and the various factors affecting even top-performing solar panels.

Why Solar Panel Angle Matters

The angle of solar panels directly affects how much sunlight they absorb and, therefore, how much energy they generate. Photovoltaic (PV) panels must absorb as much sunlight as possible to operate at peak performance. The more direct sunlight hits the panels, the more efficiently they can convert solar energy into electricity.

Since the sun’s position in the sky changes constantly, the panel angle is crucial for capturing the most sunlight during all available daylight hours. Solar irradiance, or the amount of solar energy that reaches a location, varies across the United States. Most areas receive between three and five peak hours of direct sun per day. With the right tilt and orientation, solar panels can maximize the amount of sunlight captured during this limited time frame.

The sun’s position also changes seasonally, which means the ideal angle for your solar panels might change throughout the year. In summer, the sun is higher in the sky, and your panels might receive more direct sunlight. Conversely, during winter, the sun sits lower. The sun’s position also changes seasonally, which means the ideal angle for your solar panels might change throughout the year. In summer, the sun is higher in the sky, and your panels might receive more direct sunlight. Conversely, during winter, you may experience less direct sunlight.

To achieve the best solar panel angle, consider two vital positions: the orientation (or cardinal direction) and the angle (or vertical tilt) of your panels. Factor in both of these positions to maximize your panels’ solar energy absorption and improve energy output.

Solar Panel Orientation

The ideal orientation for solar panels is an alignment with the true directions of north or south. True direction aligns with the Earth’s axis and differs from compass direction, which aligns with the magnetic poles.

The right orientation offers the most prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays, yielding the best solar production. Homeowners in the Northern Hemisphere (above the equator) should install solar panels facing true south. A south-facing roof helps, but solar panels can still work effectively with other orientations. In general, the closer you are to the equator, the less critical true south-facing orientation becomes. Homes in the Southern Hemisphere (below the equator) should orient their solar panels true north.

If your panels face east or west, power production drops by 20%. North-facing panel orientation is the least effective for Northern Hemisphere homes. Even the most efficient solar panels won’t perform as well in less optimal orientations. In these situations, consider alternative solar panel installations, such as a ground-mounted system with axis tracking to adjust panel direction all day and maximize sun exposure.

Solar Panel Angle

Besides facing the right direction, the panels’ tilt angle also significantly impacts energy production. The angle of your solar panels refers to their vertical tilt. Ideally, your panels should be perpendicular to the sun’s rays during peak sunlight hours—or as close to that as possible.

The best angle for your solar panels depends heavily on your location. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), optimal tilt aligns with your home’s geographic latitude. If your home is at a latitude of 25 degrees, your solar panels should be angled at 25 degrees. The optimal angle increases the further you are from the equator. For example, New York residents have a higher optimal tilt angle than Florida homeowners.

If you’re curious about the latitude of your home, enter your home address or ZIP code in Google Maps to find your location. Right-click the area on the map to open a pop-up window, which will display your latitude and longitude in decimal format at the top. 

Professional solar companies will assess your roof layout, home orientation, and local conditions to find the most practical and effective tilt angle for your system. Finding the ideal angle requires precision, so we recommend having a professional installer handle this process.

Find A Solar Installation Company in Your State

When determining the best panel angle, several factors affect your final positioning, such as time of year, roof structure, and latitude. We cover each contributing factor in detail below.  

Your Location

An optimal angle maximizes available sunlight and ensures your panels produce as much electricity as possible. Your panel angle should be close or equal to your home’s latitude. For most U.S. homes, this angle falls between 30 and 45 degrees. However, the ideal angle varies based on location.

The optimal angle also varies by season. As a rule of thumb, reduce your optimal angle by 15 degrees during the summer months and add 15 degrees during the winter months. 

A solar installer will consider your home’s latitude and location when determining the ideal angle for your panels. 

Existing Roof Design

Most roof designs have a 30- to 40-degree pitch, making it easy to install panels flush against angled roofs. However, some roofs are oriented at a higher or lower pitch, complicating installations. 

If your home has a steeper roof angle, installers will place solar panels directly on the roof because they won’t be able to achieve optimal angles with traditional racking mounts. However, steeper roofs often fall outside ideal angles for maximum solar absorption. In contrast, lower-pitched roofs may require special equipment to compensate for the angle difference. Installing panels flush against this type of roof would reduce energy production and savings. 

On homes with flat roofs, installers can use racking systems that tilt the PV panels at an ideal angle. This installation method helps improve solar panel performance but could cause problems. For example, this orientation limits you to certain panel sizes, reducing options for more customized systems. In addition, tilted panels are more susceptible to shading one another and require scattered orientation to avoid this problem. As a result, your solar panel system will be smaller than installations that employ rows of panels across the roof. 

Expect an increase in solar installation costs if your roof requires special mounting equipment or complicated panel designs. 

Time of Year

The time of year affects the amount of sunlight available for solar panels. Summer offers plentiful sunlight, while colder months bring cloudy and shorter days. Many homeowners offset these changes by installing solar batteries to store excess energy to keep their homes powered year-round.

Although solar panels produce energy more efficiently during colder months—as they produce more voltage when it’s cold—you’ll typically see a dip in panel production in winter due to fewer full-sun days. The sun is usually lower on the horizon during winter months, making it more difficult for panels to capture the sunlight. In addition, many homes in northern states receive heavy snowfall, which covers panels and lowers their efficiency. 

In addition to storage options, homeowners should consider making seasonal angular changes to their panels to improve performance. Panels can be adjusted to a steeper angle, ideally around 60 degrees, to counteract seasonal issues. A “winter angle” positions solar panels to absorb more sunlight, encouraging snow to fall off.

How To Maximize Solar Energy Production at a Suboptimal Angle

Not everyone can install rooftop solar panels with the ideal tilt and orientation, but that’s okay. Here are some ways to make up for a less-than-ideal panel angle:

  • Microinverters or power optimizers: These devices are installed on individual panels or groups of panels to mitigate the impact of partial shading. They can optimize power output to prevent affected panels from dragging down the entire system’s performance.
  • Adjusting for seasonality: In some cases, it’s beneficial to adjust the panel tilt a few times a year to align better with the sun’s path in different seasons. This can help boost overall energy production throughout the year.
  • Prioritizing the right orientation: If you can’t achieve the optimal tilt, focusing on getting the panels facing as close to true south (Northern Hemisphere) or true north (Southern Hemisphere) as possible will still make a significant difference compared to east or west-facing panels.
  • Ground-mounted panels: Residential rooftop panel installations work well for many homes, but their performance may be limited by roof size, angle, and shading. Ground-mounted panels cost more upfront but offer more flexibility in positioning for optimal sun exposure.
  • Panel technology: Opt for high-efficiency solar panels. These panels generate more power per square foot, which can help compensate for less-than-ideal angles.
  • Tracking systems: Some solar panel mounts have a tracking system that can automatically adjust tilt and orientation throughout the day, maximizing production.
  • Alternative mounting systems: Pole mounts elevate panels above the roofline, potentially reducing shading issues and allowing adjustment. Other options include solar carports or pergolas, which serve a dual purpose by providing shade or shelter while also housing solar panels.

If you’re still in the research phase, check out the video below, where home technology expert Ross Trethewey breaks down the five most important things to consider before installing solar panels on your house:

Our Conclusion

The best solar panel angle combines the ideal orientation (true south, for homes in the U.S.) with the right tilt for your location. This maximizes sunlight exposure and boosts energy production. Installing solar panels in suboptimal directions will lower their exposure to sunlight and reduce their energy production levels.

Professional solar companies carefully analyze your specific conditions to determine the optimal angle for your system. We recommend requesting quotes from at least three companies and comparing their installation designs. During consultations, ask how they’ll tailor the panel angle to your home’s latitude and whether any specialized mounting equipment is needed for optimal results.

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FAQ About Solar Panels

Is it better to have solar panels flat or at an angle?

It’s better to have solar panels at an angle because it helps them receive more direct sunlight and boosts energy absorption. Flat-panel installation is typically used on steeper roofs that wouldn’t benefit from a traditional racking system. In this case, panels are laid flush against the roof to utilize the existing roof angle. 

What is the best angle and orientation for solar panels?

The best angle and orientation for roof-mounted solar panels in the U.S. is facing true south with an angle between 30–45 degrees. This positioning offers the best production levels and energy savings. 

What is the benefit of tilting a solar panel?

Tilting a solar panel increases its exposure to the sun for a longer period of time. This allows the panel to absorb more sunlight and generate more electricity, maximizing energy production and improving system efficiency. 

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