Great, you’ve decided to go solar. Now, it’s time to focus on finding the best direction for solar panels to face at your home. Luckily, if you’re working with one of our ADT Solar Energy Specialists, we’ll help you with the perfect placement. Schedule a free solar consultation and you’ll get a custom design with the optimal direction for your solar panels.

South tends to be the best direction for solar panels, but many factors depend on the location you should choose. The truth is what works for your townhouse in Florida might not be as perfect for a mansion in California. However, whether you live in one of the sunniest cities in the U.S. or not, you want to make sure your panels have the most access to sunlight. That way, you can make the most out of your panels.

Finding the best direction for solar panels to face doesn’t have to be rocket science. For those interested in learning, let’s take a look.


Finding the Best Direction for Solar Panels to Face

top down view of a home roof

So, you’ve learned all you can about how using solar energy can impact the world. You’ve even consulted a Solar Energy Specialist and your pocketbook is yearning for a stack of solar savings. Now, if you’re curious about determining the best direction for solar panels to face, here are some of the basics.

Read some commonly used terms:

  • Roof Pitch – This is the angle of a roof. Also referred to as the roof’s tilt. Here’s a blog that delves into roof pitches further.
  • Peak Sun Hours – 1 peak sun hour = 1000 W/m² of sunlight per hour. This is the maximum amount of sunlight a home can receive at a specific time.
  • Axis – An imaginary straight line that the Earth spins around. The Earth’s axis is why different areas receive different amounts of sunlight at different times.
  • Tilt – Solar panels need to be tilted at an angle that allows them the most access to the sun. Optimum tilt is the perfect position for solar panels to catch the most sunlight.

Let’s explore some of the options for solar panel placement.

Do Solar Panels Need to Face South?

Ideally, solar panels should face south for optimal sunlight and electricity production. According to the US Energy Information, “the simplest way to maximize total annual system output of a fixed-tilt system is to tilt the panels south.” The rationale is pretty simple. In the northern hemisphere, South is the direction of the Earth’s axis. When you consider the best direction for solar panels to face to be true south, they have more access to direct sunlight throughout the year. When facing south, the optimum tilt for solar panels is between 30 and 45 degrees. But that’s not the only reason solar panels should face south. Here are the others.

Which direction should solar panels face for net metering?

Net metering is a program available through most utility companies. It enables homeowners to sell back their unused solar energy to receive credits on their electricity bill. South-facing solar panels generate the most electricity overall, but especially when they produce during the middle of the day. In fact, the Global Monitoring Laboratory has actually created a solar calculator that will tell you when your house will receive the most sunlight.

net metering illustration

Typically, midday is when energy consumption is at its lowest and there’s a surplus of power. Net metering allows for that excess energy to be sent back to the grid. There have even been cases when homeowners have had a negative balance because of this program. So, for homeowners with a solid net metering program in place, the best direction for solar panels to face is south. Need a crash course in net metering? We’ve got you covered.

Which direction should solar panels face with a solar battery?

Installing a solar panel battery backup is a great idea if you live in an area prone to power outages. Solar batteries store your solar energy for when you need it most. That’s why south-facing solar panels can generate more than enough electricity to power your home through the day. But also produce solar energy in excess to keep your battery charged. The best times to use your battery are during peak energy consumption times, through times when solar panels don’t have much access to the sun, or during a blackout. Solar panels and a battery backup are the perfect combination that will reduce any homeowner’s reliance on an unstable power grid and monitor your personal energy consumption.

enphase battery

Should Solar Panels Face East or West?

South-facing isn’t the only option when considering the best direction for solar panels to face on your home. Homeowners might decide to go with east or west-facing solar systems. Due to the Earth’s rotation, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you want to learn more, here’s some information about the sun’s position in the sky.

While the location of a home will determine how many hours of sunlight the home will receive, the position of your solar panels will determine how much electricity you can produce. East-facing solar panels will produce the most electricity in the early morning when the sun rises. West-facing solar panels will produce the most when the sun is setting. When compared to south-facing, however, both will result in a 20% reduction of energy generation overall.

Time of use (TOU) billing is a huge factor in choosing west. Homes with east-facing solar panels would need to use the majority of its energy during the early morning to get the most cost-effective benefit. It might be nice for early-risers, but for the rest of us, there’s a stronger argument for west-facing solar panel placement.

The Wild West: Time of Use Billing

As mentioned above, sun peak hours are when your panels will have the most access to sunlight. The problem with this is that most families aren’t home during the day to get the most out of their solar energy. Time of use billing is a rate system that utility companies use to charge more for electricity used during peak times. This is usually between 2pm and 7pm.

By turning your solar panels west, you’ll likely miss out on your peak hours with the sun. However, you can receive optimal access to the sun during times when your energy usage will be higher. According to an NYTimes article, this means that the solar panels have a chance to produce at 55% their output, instead of the standard 15% that south-facing panels would be able to generate at this time. This is great news because the electricity your panels generate won’t be from the power grid. Subsequently, homeowners with west-facing solar panels can save more money at this time, even if they lose out on overall production.

Say No-Way to the North Facing Solar Panel

If you live in the northern hemisphere, a north-facing solar system is typically discouraged. By placing solar panels on the north side of your home, you’re essentially limiting the amount of sunlight available. However, if a north face solar installation is your only option, consider mounting them in opposition to the slant of the roof.

What’s the Best Direction for Solar Panels to Face?

While the best direction for solar panels to face is south, take the guesswork off the table. The best way to know for sure what works for your home is to consult an ADT Solar Energy Specialist. Our trained technicians offer an extensive knowledge of all things solar and we’re with you at every step of your process. Get in touch today, and see how solar panels can benefit your home.