Image source: Unbound Solar
A solar panel angle calculator is important to determine the best angle for installing your solar panels. The right angle helps you optimize the performance of your photovoltaic system. This is achieved by tilting each panel to make it face the sun directly. Since the position of the sun changes throughout the day, month, and season, most calculation methods consider key variables to incorporate these changes. Using different calculation tools, you can find the best tilting angle for each season, as the panels need to be adjusted to follow the sun better – especially during winters. This allows them to capture the sunlight as best as possible, which always improves the efficiency of your overall system. In general, a solar panel will generate maximum electricity when it is placed perpendicular to the sun. The sunlight reaches the panels at a 90° angle which enables maximum conversion and electrical usage. For example, by installing your panels at a 40° angle from the surface level, you can make them face the sun perpendicularly.
Calculating the perfect angle also depends on the peak time of the year during which you will use the solar panel system more frequently. The height of the sun during summers will give you different angle results compared to the winter months. So, you will have to install the panels based on their expected summer/winter performances. Some homeowners may simply use one permanent angle and will not adjust the panels at all. However, if you take the time to adjust the angles seasonally, you can optimize your solar-powered systems all year long. Panels that can follow the sun during strategic times can actually help you manage your energy footprints – if long-term sustainability is your goal.
Solar panel angle calculator
Before installing your solar panels, it is important to work out the right mounting angle. This tilt or elevation angle is made between a panel and the rooftop surface where it will be installed. Ideally, the panels are more vertical during winters and more tilted in summers because of the sun’s position. The tilting differences give your panels better access to direct sunlight. The optimum tilt will expose your panels to maximum sunlight throughout the day – repeated throughout the month or season as well. To determine the most suitable angle, you will have to consider the current time of the year. This can help you decide if a fixed installation will be more productive or if you need to plan regular adjustments to follow the sun.
In most angle calculation methods, you will have to enter factors like your time zone, zip code, latitude/longitude coordinates, city name, region, current location, etc. You will also choose the option for fixed or adjustable installations, which means that the calculated angle should either be for a fixed solar panel or one that you can adjust twice a year, seasonally, or monthly. The angle is usually a value between 0° and 90°, with flat placement being the minimum angle and vertical placement being the maximum angle. Winters require you to tilt your panels further also because of snow accumulation problems, so the near-vertical position allows snow to slide off easily.
Some people may choose to invest in a tracker designed to automatically track the sun and adjust your panel’s position accordingly. Solar trackers use sensors and electric motors for this automatic functionality. These features allow your solar arrays to move in response to the rising and setting sun, so they always face it directly. However, tracker devices can be quite expensive. At the same amount you would invest in a tracker per panel, you can easily buy additional panels for your solar-powered grid. Instead of deriving more power from a tracker-enabled panel, you can achieve the same result by buying an extra panel if there is enough rooftop space. So, there is a tradeoff between available space and higher price – make sure to choose wisely!
Countries in the northern hemisphere will install solar panels facing towards the south, whereas those in the southern hemisphere will have their panels facing the north. This is because solar panels need to face the equator to deliver maximum efficiency. So, wherever you are in North America, you will typically point your solar panels to the south. This general rule allows homeowners and businesspeople to work out a relevant angle based on where they live and how the sun’s orientation affects their day.
You can calculate your solar panel angle using both manual and online tools. Your chosen method should ideally provide annual tilting angles for your specific location. Manual methods will require a latitude value which you can access from your location pin on Google Maps. You can then use this value with any manual calculation equations. The benefit of using online calculator tools is that they will display year-round angles for your convenience. They can also generate seasonal and monthly angles in a simple tabulated form. This can save you a lot of time if you want to calculate both fixed and variable angles to incline your solar panels. In the same calculation, you can receive all the angle values for different times of the year, so you can adjust your panels easily. This eliminates the need to do multiple manual calculations for different seasons.
- The first equation you can use is [latitude + 15] or [latitude – 15]. Just pick your latitude value from Google Maps, subtract 15° during summers, and add 15° during winters. This gives you simple seasonal adjustments. For more frequent monthly adjustments, you can adjust the latitude value by 5°.
- The second equation is more inclusive and accurate than the first one. In summers, [(latitude x 0.9) – 23.5°] gives you a better panel angle. In winters, [(latitude x 0.9) + 29°] gives you the optimum tilt.
Make hay while the sun shines!
The tilt angle is an important part of efficiently designed solar-powered systems. It helps you improve the overall power output for each panel. By ensuring that your panels fully face the sun, you can make the best out of your environment-conscious lifestyle. Season-friendly angle values allow you to consider your local factors and install panels accordingly. This gives each panel maximum access to direct sunlight to get some electronic photosynthesis in action!