When looking at Solar often the question comes up, what direction should solar panels face? Often the answer is, the direction your roof lets you put them on. Most solar panels are retrofitted to properties so the direction they face is usually already dictated for you.
It has traditionally been thrown around that North facing is the ideal direction for solar followed by East and West with South not even worth your time. While this is true to some degree East and West facing panels have some serious merit and South can still be very viable in a lot of scenarios.
Let’s dive into some of the science behind direction and understand the best way your solar panels should face and why.
Firstly, there are so many variables that impact your solar panels energy production it can cloud your judgement if you try and consider them all. From lower average temperatures in the morning to more average cloud cover in the afternoon, it can be a lot to take on.
We are going to cover off what we believe are the key considerations and factors so you can understand how your panel direction impacts your system and savings.
Firstly, when reading or watching this in Australia the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. The sun tracks closer to the north especially during winter, hence it was common place that everyone thought panels should face north. In the Winter we get the least amount of sunlight and in Summer we get the most.
So, given the tracking of the sun, systems that face more to the west will generate better afternoon energy and systems facing more to the east will generate better morning energy. North facing systems will perform the best overall and south facing systems can work however will be heavily impacted in winter.
Finally, when you use a kilowatt hour of power that you have generated yourself within your own home you save around three times the amount you would get from sending it back to the grid for a feed in tariff. This is because when you buy a kw it costs around triple what your retailer will give you as a feed in tariff.
Remembering for every kilowatt hour you use rather than sending to the grid you save on average around three times more. If you are using more power in the morning or afternoon you should consider angling your system to favour your usage. So if you’re a morning household, consider more east facing and if you’re an afternoon household consider more to the west.
If you have an East/West existing roof with plenty of space, you can ask your installer or retailer (they should do it anyways) to balance the panels to support your usage with some on each side.
When it comes to sunshine the further north you are the more north the sun is in the sky and it means it is more flexible for your panel locations. The further south you go, like Hobart, it gets tricky.
Don’t over think this one too much because you can’t change where you live however, the closer you can get your panels to the perfect angle, the better when you live in the deep south.
If you are looking at nothing but pure numbers around system yields, North is the best. To achieve around 99% of your maximum energy yield you really want to aim your solar panels as close to due north as possible however you do have a fair bit of room each side.
However, when you begin to consider your energy usage, the cost of power and where you live East and West can financially work a charm with even South facing panels coming in ok as well.