How Much External Space Do You Have
For solar PV, youll need around 10 square metres of unobstructed roof space to mount a meaningful array. This is around the size of a typical car parking space. For most homes, this wont be an issue, but do check for vents and skylights you might have forgotten about to make sure you have enough space.
Where To Install Solarinstead Of On The Roof
You love everything about solar energythe environmental impact, the high-tech vibe, and especially the utility savingsbut you cant quite fall in love with the way they look. Luckily, you dont have to choose between a bulky rooftop solar installation or nothing at all. Homeowners these days have all kinds of options to make use of the suns energy. And many of the best designs integrate seamlessly into a homes exterior or add a unique outdoor feature to lawns or gardens beyond. Ready to dive in? Here are some of our favorite ways to get all the power of solar without adding panels to your roof.
Explained: Impact Of Direction On Solar Panel Output
Turning solar panels away from true south will generally result in output losses of less than 30%, but in some extreme cases losses of close to 60% may be seen.
The precise drop in energy production is determined by three factors:
- Distance from south: The number of degrees the panels are turned away from true south
- Your latitude: How far north your home is located
- The pitch of your roof: This determines the angle solar panels installed on there
Distance from south
To state the obvious, the greater the turn away from south, the bigger the loss in energy production. So a turn to the south-west will see a small drop, turning west will see a moderate drop, and turning north will see the biggest drop.
When it comes to latitude, the further north you are, the bigger the fall in energy production when you turn away from south. All else equal, solar panels in Seattle, WA will see a much bigger output drop in non-south alignment than a home in Miami, FL.
As for roof pitch, the steeper your roof, the greater the output drop for non-south facing solar panels. For instance, in Charlotte, NC a roof with a pitch of 2/12 would see a 16% loss by turning their solar panels from south to north a roof in the same location with a steeper pitch – 4/12 – would see a much larger drop of 29%.
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Solar Panel Orientation And Tilt
So we can see that as well as moving across the sky , the sun also moves up and down throughout the year making it difficult to provide a fixed solar panel orientation. Then for maximum conversion of sunlight into solar electricity, solar panels need to be mounted at an angle for them to point directly at the sun.
Depending upon how the panel is mounted, it may be kept at a permanent angle, or adjusted throughout the year to take full advantage of the suns solar energy. Adjustment of a static mounted photovoltaic solar system can result in 10% to 40% more power output yearly making a considerable difference to the charging time for batteries.
Which Solar Panel Direction Will Maximise Your Self Consumption
The best panel direction to maximise self consumption of solar electricity will depend upon a households electricity usage patterns. Panel directions and the type of households various orientations generally best suit are given below:
North Orientation: Panels that face north will produce the most electricity overall. North facing solar panels are often the best choice for people who are at home during the day. Not only because they are there to use electricity when it is produced, but also because it is easy for them to shift demand by using washing machines, clothes dryers, pool filters and other devices in the middle of the day. Because north facing solar panels produce the most electricity overall, they will have the greatest environmental benefit.
North-West Orientation: Solar panels that face north-west will produce around 5% less electricity overall than north facing panels. Their electricity production through the day will be between that of north and facing panels and that of west facing panels. They produce slightly more electricity during the afternoon and slightly less in the morning.
North-east Orientation: Panels facing north-east provide will produce around 5% less electricity than north facing solar panels and their production through the day will be between that of north facing modules and east facing ones.
An east/west split can suit both people who are home through the day and those who are at home in the morning and the afternoon.
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Planning Your Electrical Route
Youll want to plan your electrical run beforehand, taking into consideration which type of system youre installing.
Again, safety is of the utmost importance: make sure you wear the recommended protective equipment and install the wiring according to your wiring diagram.
- Systems with multiple inverters can use an AC sub-panel to combine the AC circuits into a single set of conductors.
- Dedicated solar sub-panels must not contain any load breakers.
Roof Mount Electrical Route
- You can run your wiring through your attic to hide it from view, but make sure it is accessible to connect to the array, breaker box, panel, meter, and other parts of the system.
- Use cable clips to secure wiring from solar panels and micro-inverters/power optimizers. The clips should hold the wires in place during strong winds.
- Do not allow exposed wiring to make contact with the roof surface.
- Run the wiring from the solar source to a junction box, then transition to your conduit run. The wiring must remain in the conduit run until it reaches the inverter or charge controller .
- Use conduit mount flashings to secure rooftop conduit runs in place.
- If possible, use conduit penetration flashings to transition conduit into your attic to hide it from view.
A conduit run held in place by a Quick Mount conduit penetration flashing.
Ground Mount Electrical Route
Mount The Solar Panels
Carefully place a solar panel on one end of the railings, securing it with retaining clips. Connect the positive wire of one panel to the negative wire of the next solar panel. Making a series connection is more convenient than a parallel method.
Perform the same procedure with each solar panel, securing every section with retaining clips and connecting the wires. Connect the cables to a charge controller, which allows you to manage your solar and battery power more efficiently.
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Pros And Cons Of Solar Panels For Your Home
Like most things, solar power has its benefits and drawbacks. At the same time, some economic costs may be defrayed by the social benefits to the environment and lowering your carbon footprint, which exceeds pure monetary evaluation.
Green energy that lowers your carbon footprint
Net metering allows you to sell back excess energy produced
You may be eligible for certain tax breaks
Installation and maintenance costs still high
Solar only works when the sun is out
Parts of the system need to be replaced every few years
Some tax breaks may have expired or will be expiring
Challenges To Vertical Solar Panels
As weve seen, the orientation of solar panel is key to reap all the benefits of solar. When it comes to installation panels vertically you might face few challenges:
- Lower Production Yes, snow and dust cover are no issue, but what about loss during the summer months? Installing solar panels is a money saving investment, but lower energy production would mean more time for the system to pay off that investment, typically it hurts your ROI.
- Installation Challenges Installing vertical solar panels on the side of a building demands staging, unique mounting hardware, and higher safety considerations than installing horizontal solar panels on the ground or roof.
- High Installation Costs Installation challenges undoubtedly mean higher installation costs, which increases the overall expenses.
- Tough Maintenance/Repair In event of post-installation breakdown or malfunctioning, hands-on troubleshooting could turn into a big issue with vertical solar panels. To solve the issue, panel or technicians would have to either build scaffolding or drop down from the top. Both of these ways are not easy and involve life risks.
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Using Pole Mounts And Ground Mounts In Backyard Solar
Lastly, backyard solar uses different mounting methods. Typically backyard solar installations use either a ground mount or a pole mount.
Ground-mounted solar panels have several metal poles secured in the ground. A racking system attaches to these poles, holding the entire solar array above ground. Pole-mounted solar panels use one large post that suspends a solar array in the air.
Checking If Your Roof Is Right For Panels
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Connecting The Array Of Solar Panels
Once you have your stanchions and rails installed properly, have the solar panels mounted, its time to connect the solar panels together.
What we will be doing here is connecting the solar panels you installed in PARALLEL. This will help to keep voltage the same while at the same time, increase amperage. As mentioned earlier, it is VERY important your entire array of solar panels are exactly the same in size and WATT output.
Also, when you wire everything together use as little wire as possible because long wires lose energy due to resistance.
Lets say you have 4X 100 watt solar panels and you want to connect them all together in parallel, all positive cables are connected together and all negative cables are connected together. What you get in the end is just two cables which represent all inputs from our solar panels.
Side Note: To connect all solar panels together, since most use the MC4 connections, we recommend you get the appropriate MC4 Y adapters found here.
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Planning A Home Solar Electric System
There are a number of steps to follow when planning to power your home with solar energy. After choosing which option is best for you to use solar , follow the steps afterward that apply to you. Your solar energy installer and local utility company can provide more information on the exact steps you will need to take to power your home with solar energy.
Which Way Does Your Home Face
The orientation of your roof is very important in determining the amount of sunshine you receive during the day. The closer your roof is to a southerly orientation, the more efficiently your system will work. Again, that doesnt mean that if you are in a house which has a west to east facing roof you cant have solar just that you need to account for this in your calculations.
Solar Power For The Home: Benefits
A significant benefit to PV installation is a lower energy bill, but the magnitude of this benefit depends on the amount of solar energy that can be produced given the available conditions and the way in which utilities charge for electricity.
The first consideration is the solar irradiation levels available in the home’s geographical location. When it comes to using solar panels, being closer to the equator is generally better, but other factors must be considered. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory produces maps for the U.S. showing solar irradiation levels the tools on its website provide detailed solar information for specific locations within the U.S.
Similar maps and data are available in other countries as well, often from government environmental agencies or renewable energy organizations. Equally important is the home’s orientation for rooftop arrays, a south-facing roof without trees or other objects obstructing sunlight maximizes the available solar energy. If this is not available, panels can be mounted on external supports and installed away from the house, incurring additional costs for the extra hardware and cables.
The final benefit is the potential effect on a home’s value due to the addition of a solar array. In general, it is reasonable to assume that solar panels would raise the value of most homes.
How Solar Panels Work
Before we answer any questions first we need to know how solar panels work, solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, also called solar cells.
These cells absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. This is possible because each cell has a pair of electrodes on either side with semiconductor material placed in between them.
When sunlight hits this material, some of its photons or packets of light energy knock electrons loose from their atoms, allowing the cell to generate an electric current.
Additionally, the cells are wired together and mounted on a flat surface such as your roof.
A solar panel converts about 15 percent of incoming sunlight into electricity this is referred to as its efficiency rating.
The more efficient the solar panels, the less space they take up and the more power they can generate.
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Solar Panel Direction: Which Way Should My Solar Panels Be Facing
Five or six years ago the question of which direction solar panels should face was easy. Because high feed-in tariffs were available, they simply had to have an orientation facing north in order to maximise the amount of electricity they produced and so earn the most feed-in tariff money possible.
But now high feed-in tariffs are a thing of the past, so the question of orientation is more complicated because of the importance of maximising self consumption, which is making sure your home uses the most solar electricity and the least grid electricity possible. The concept of self consumption is the key to tiny electricity bills with solar panels if you dont know why, read this and then come back.
Using your own solar electricity instead of grid power is far more cost effective than receiving a low feed-in tariff for sending electricity into the grid. The more you are charged for grid electricity and the lower your solar feed-in tariff, the more important it becomes to maximise self consumption.
The Best Direction For Solar Panels
- Chapman University
Solar panels are gaining popularity as an environmentally friendly investment that will produce renewable energy on a large scale for many years to come. Even after you make the initial decision to switch to solar panels, there are still a few things to considerand among the quantity, size, and power capacity, youll want to research the best direction for solar panels to face. Whether the system is mounted on the roof, carport, or ground, the direction your panels face is a major factor in how much energy your system produces.
Learning the direction that your roof faces will help determine the best positioning for your rooftop solar panel system, since it determines how much natural sunlight the panels will receive throughout the day. If you have a company installing your panels for you, they should be able to help give you an idea of the most optimal direction, but another option is to use Google Maps. Simply type in your address and compare your roofs direction on the satellite imagery to the provided compass grid.
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Measure Your Roof And Mark Where The Panels Will Go
Now that youve ordered your panels and know how many will be on your roof, its time to take some measurements. The manufacturer of your solar panels should provide you with measurements for the panels and their mounting brackets, so while youre waiting for them to ship, you can start planning where the panels will go. Head on up your roof and begin marking where the drill holes and mounting brackets will go with chalk lines and pencil.