If you’ve seen an array of solar panels, you’ve probably noticed they’re tilted at an angle and might even be programmed to follow the sun’s movements. What does this mean for you if you want to install solar panels on your roof? What angle should you place your solar panels to optimize their energy collection abilities? Is it worth the cost to install solar panels if you’re not able to fully optimize them for efficiency?
What Is the Ideal Angle for Solar Panels?
The ideal angle at which to place solar panels depends on your own unique situation and energy needs. There isn’t an “optimal” placement that can be universally applied to every solar panel installation. Your home’s location, the layout of its roof, and your own daily energy needs all determine the ideal angle at which to install solar panels. However, there are a few guidelines you can consider when thinking of how to place yours.
Solar panels that lie perpendicular to the sun are able to gather the maximum amount of energy. The sun tracks above and below your latitude throughout the year, meaning your latitude represents the average position at which the sun is directly over your home. Most of the continental US lies between the 30th parallel north and the 45th parallel north. Coincidentally, most residential roofs in the US are built at 30-45 degree angles, meaning you can probably lie your solar panels flat on your roof and achieve near-optimal output.
While your home’s latitude provides an important guideline, it may not be the deciding factor when determining the proper angle for your solar panels. If your peak energy usage is during the summer or winter, you might choose to tilt your solar panels 15 degrees lower to better capture summer light or 15 degrees higher to better utilize the winter sun. Additionally, solar panels in the northern hemisphere should face south, but your home’s roof may not be configured to support this placement. However, even a sub-optimal placement could be more than worth the cost of installation thanks to the savings you’ll get.
What Is the Optimal Angle for Solar Panels in Nevada?
Las Vegas lies at 36.1699° N, which means if you want the sun to hit your solar panels perpendicularly, you’ll want to face them south and angle them at approximately 36 degrees. However, this likely isn’t the only consideration you’ll have in mind when deciding to install solar panels. You’ll want to tilt them closer to 21 degrees to reduce your summer electricity bills, given how high cooling costs can be. On the other hand, if you’re primarily concerned about winter heating costs, angle your panels at 51 degrees so they have an easier time absorbing the sun.
You’ll also need to decide if you want your solar panels to be fixed or adjustable. Fixed solar panels can’t be adjusted throughout the year to capture more sunlight. However, with adjustable panels, you’ll need to go onto your roof several times a year to adjust the angle of your panels or hire an expert to do it for you. However, as a perfectly calibrated solar panel angle can only generate about 20% more than a flat solar panel, you may opt to simply go with the fixed angle.
Choosing the right angle at which to tilt your solar panels is an important factor to consider, but it ultimately has a relatively marginal effect for most homeowners. You can still realize tremendous annual savings even if you aren’t able to perfectly position solar panels on your roof. Your specific energy needs may dictate that you’re better off sacrificing some overall efficiency to maximize energy collection during your peak use hours. Even with an optimal placement, it’s unlikely your solar panels will ever operate at maximum efficiency for sustained periods of time, meaning it’s more important to look at your potential overall savings when deciding whether or not to install them.