As you contemplate the prospect of installing solar panels at your residence, several queries are bound to pop up in your mind. You'll likely wonder about the ideal size of your system, the projected cost, the best vendor for your panels, and crucially, whether your rooftop can bear the weight of a solar panel system.
Almost every kind of roof can physically handle solar panels, but not every roof has the necessary size, sunlight exposure, or correct orientation to make the installation economically viable.
While planning your solar project, these factors are critically examined to ascertain the optimal orientation and direction for your solar panel system.
The direction your solar panels face is critical to their energy production capacity and the subsequent savings you stand to gain. It may seem like an easy answer: Point them in the direction where they'll receive the most sunlight throughout the day. However, the reality is a bit more complex.
This article delves deeper into this subject to arm you with the necessary knowledge as you embark on your solar project.
Understanding Net Energy Metering and Time of Use
The orientation of your solar panels heavily depends on whether your system is tied into net energy metering (NEM) and operates under a time of use (TOU) payment framework. Since most solar panel users connect their systems to the grid, we can categorize them into those under a TOU payment structure and those who are not.
Net Energy Metering is a system where solar panel owners earn energy credits for any surplus electricity that their system generates. These credits can be used for future energy purchases, leading to considerable savings on your power bill.
The TOU payment framework is quite widespread across the US, and particularly dominant in California with its NEM 3.0 model. Under TOU, consumers pay a higher rate per kWh of electricity during peak hours compared to off-peak hours. Peak hours may vary for each utility provider but typically align with times when most consumers use the most electricity, or when electricity production costs are highest for the utility. This usually coincides with early afternoon to evening when people are returning home from work.
But, how does this impact the direction that your solar panels should face?
Positioning Panels West for TOU Subscribers
For those under a TOU payment system, maximizing savings on your electricity bill means generating more energy during peak hours than off-peak hours. Therefore, your solar panels need to be oriented to optimize energy production within this time frame, which is achieved by pointing them west.
By directing your solar panels westward, you're not maximizing their total energy production. Instead, you're optimizing your energy production to maximize savings with your utility provider.
Directing Panels South for Non-TOU Subscribers
For those not subscribed to a TOU model, the optimal direction to face your solar panels is southwards. This orientation ensures your solar panels capture as much sunlight as possible, thereby optimizing their energy production.
In the absence of a TOU structure, consumers aren't obligated to focus on maximizing energy production at a specific time of the day. Consequently, their goal is to generate as much energy as they can throughout the day.
It's Best to Consult a Solar Expert
Given that every home is unique, it's prudent to consult with a solar expert to understand the best placement for your solar panels on your roof.
Beyond TOU, significant factors influencing your solar panels' direction include shading and other obstructions that can affect the panels' sunlight exposure. The environment in which your solar panel system is installed will be the major determinant of whether you fall under the TOU framework.