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What Is the Best Angle for Solar Panels? (2023 Guide)

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The angle of your solar panels is key to the success of your solar panel system. Considering the angle during installation helps ensure the system achieves peak energy production. The ideal angle depends on your home’s location, your roof design, and other factors that impact system performance. This guide explains how to choose the ideal solar panel angle and covers factors that affect even top-performing solar panels.

Why Solar Panel Angle Matters

The sun’s energy plays a significant role in solar power systems. Photovoltaic (PV) panels capture sunlight and convert the energy into usable electricity. Panels must absorb as much sunlight as possible to operate at peak performance.

The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and moves throughout the day. Much of the United States receives between three and five peak hours of direct sun per day. Solar panels are angled to capture more sunlight to maximize this limited time frame. 

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. This differs from compass direction, which aligns with magnetic poles such as the North Pole. 

Homeowners in the Northern Hemisphere, who live north of the equator, should install solar panels facing true south. Having a south-facing roof isn’t necessary to install panels at this orientation, but it will help optimize your system’s energy output. In contrast, homes below the equator in the Southern Hemisphere should orient their solar panels true north. The right orientation offers the most prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays, yielding the best solar production.

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. For example, a ground-mounted system uses axis tracking to adjust panel direction all day and maximize sun exposure.

Solar Panel Angle

The angle of your solar panels refers to the vertical tilt of the panels themselves. Panels are angled to collect sunlight efficiently. Optimal solar panel tilt varies based on your geographic location. The general rule is to align the panels at a perpendicular angle, or as close to it as possible, to the sun’s rays during peak sunlight hours.

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. Your optimal angle increases the further you are from the equator. For example, Florida homeowners have a lower optimal tilt angle than New York residents. 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 inspect your roof layout and home orientation and offer recommendations for your solar panel installation. Finding the ideal angle requires precision, so we recommend having a professional installer handle this process.

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Factors That Affect the Optimal Solar Panel Angle

When determining the best panel angle, several factors affect your final positioning, including 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 absorb as much sunlight as possible. Your panel angle should be close to or equal to your home’s latitude. For most U.S. homes, this angle falls between 30 to 45 degrees. However, the ideal angle varies based on location. In addition, the optimal angle varies during different seasons. As a rule of thumb, reduce your optimal angle by 15 degrees during the summer months and add 15 degrees during the winter months. 

Residential rooftop panel installations remain at a fixed angle year-round. 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. Steeper roofs often fall outside ideal angles for maximum solar absorption. 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. In addition to storage options, homeowners should consider making seasonal angular changes to their panels to improve performance. 

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. 

Panels can be adjusted to a steeper angle, ideally around 60 degrees, to counteract these seasonal issues. A “winter angle” positions solar panels to absorb more sunlight, encouraging snow to fall off.

Our Conclusion

The best solar panel angle has an ideal orientation to maximize peak solar hours and the right tilt to improve direct proximity to the sun’s rays. Installing solar panels in suboptimal directions will lower their exposure to sunlight and reduce energy production levels. Solar companies consider all factors to choose the best angle for peak panel performance. 

When shopping for solar panels, we recommend requesting quotes from at least three companies and comparing their installation designs. Ask for details about your home’s latitude, ideal seasonal tilt, and need for any specialized mounting equipment.

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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 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 improves its efficiency, leading to better energy production. 

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