What is the Best Angle for Solar Panels? A Comprehensive Guide
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity for your home or business. When the sun hits a solar panel, its energy is absorbed by the panel’s cells, creating electrical charges that respond to an electrical field in the cell. This process allows electricity to flow.
Perhaps the biggest reason people invest in solar panels is their positive environmental impact. Solar energy is renewable, which helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevents further climate change. Climate change is harmful to wildlife, people, and our ecosystem as a whole, so investing in solar panels is a step in the right direction for our planet.
Today, we’ll talk about an essential part of using solar panels: angling them correctly. We’ll go over why that matters, how to find the right angle, and things that might affect the placement of your solar panels. We’ll also answer frequently asked questions about the proper angle for solar panels.
Why Does Solar Panel Angle Matter?
When a solar panel is perpendicular to the sun, it’s able to collect and produce the most energy. The optimal angle for solar panels is the one that puts them in this position. Without the correct angle, you’ll be wasting money on your investment since you won’t be getting enough electricity from your panels.
Solar panel direction also matters because you want the sun to hit your panels as directly as possible. Having your solar panels facing the correct direction will help with this. We’ll discuss the best direction for your solar panels a little later.
Angling your solar panel correctly will ensure it works well for your specific roof during all four seasons.
How to Find the Right Angle for Solar Panels
Finding the ideal angle for solar panels doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s based primarily on your location. Your hemisphere will dictate the direction of your solar panel, and your zip code will help you determine the angle.
The further you get from the Equator, the greater the tilt of your solar panel. In New Jersey, your solar panels should have quite a bit of tilt because the state is relatively far north.
Your solar panel angle will also depend on the season. You’ll need to tilt your panels differently during different seasons if you can. We’ll talk more about that later on.
Solar panels are typically fixed onto your roof, so they aren’t easy to readjust as needed. You can install a solar tracking system if it’s within your budget. This apparatus tracks the sun’s axis to change the angle of your solar panels. It will ensure that your solar panels are always perpendicular to the sun. Solar tracking systems can be expensive, but they’ll make sure you’re getting the most out of your solar panels all the time.
Solar tracking can produce up to 40% more energy than panels without tracking! The only downside is that they can increase your energy costs due to your solar panels absorbing more sunlight. However, this may be preferable over having solar panels that don’t work as efficiently as they could.
Solar Panel Angle by Zip Code
New Jersey is rather far north, so your solar panels will need to sit on a steep angle for optimal efficiency. Determining the best solar panel direction by zip code is a great way to figure out how to position your panels. Your contractor should know which angle works best for your zip code, but it’s good for you to also be aware.
Here are some solar panel angles by zip code in New Jersey:
- 08527 (Jackson): 31.6 degrees
- 07305 (Jersey City): 31.8 degrees
- 07047 (New Bergen): 31.9 degrees
- 07055 (Passaic): 31.9 degrees
- 08701 (Lakewood): 31.6 degrees
- 07087 (Union City): 31.9 degrees
As you can see, the optimal angle for solar panels in New Jersey is around 31 degrees. This doesn’t consider other factors that could affect the angling of your solar panels. Instead, these measurements are a good starting point for the angle your solar panels should be at.
What Factors Might Affect My Placement of Solar Panels?
A few different things can affect the placement of your solar panels. Most of them are out of your control, but your contractor should be able to work around any obstacles these factors may bring. If you’re using a roof-mounted solar panel system that doesn’t have much room for adjustments, your contractor should tell you how these factors will affect the efficiency of your solar panels.
Your latitude is perhaps the most critical factor for determining the best placement for solar panels. The angle of your solar panels should equal your latitude, which is why zip code is so important – every zip code has a slightly different latitude. You can figure out your exact latitude by Googling your town or zip code. Sometimes, Wikipedia even has this information under “coordinates.”
Your roof’s tilt will affect your solar panel placement. If your roof has a steep tilt, you might not want to use a traditional racking system for your solar panels. Similarly, it may be harder to install solar panels on roofs without much of a tilt. You may need to invest in specialized racking if this is the case for your roof. Additionally, roofs without much of a tilt will attract more energy during the summer, and steeper roofs capture more solar energy in the winter. This may make a difference when it comes to your solar panel placement.
You may be concerned with how your solar panels look on your roof, which can affect how your contractor places them. While efficiency is the most important thing, you don’t want to install a system you don’t want to look at every day as you pull up to your house. Talk to your contractor about choosing a plan that looks good and works well.
Lastly, whether or not you’re using roof-mounted panels will impact your placement of solar panels. If your solar panels are mounted to the roof, you can’t change their tilt to suit your needs. Instead, you’ll have to work with the tilt of your roof (hopefully at an optimal angle). Another option is to have an adjustable array that lets you change the tilt of your solar panel as you need to. If an adjustable array doesn’t make sense for your roof, you can add more solar panels to increase the surface area and produce more energy.
The Impact of Seasons on Solar Panel Placement
Since the sun moves throughout the year, your solar panels will also need to. In the winter, the sun sits lower in the sky, and in the summer, it’s higher. If you don’t move your solar panels to mitigate this, you won’t get the most efficient usage out of them. If you have solar tracking installed, you won’t need to worry too much about the extra effort this takes.
A good rule of thumb is to add 15 degrees to your optimal angle in the winter and subtract 15 degrees in the summer. This ensures that your solar panels remain perpendicular to the sun at all times, giving you the most energy you can get out of your investment.
Some calculators online will show you the best placement of solar panels based on the month. Use these (along with your contractor’s recommendations) to determine the best angle for solar panels throughout the year.
How Do I Know the Best Direction for Solar Panels?
When it comes to the best direction for solar panels, it is more important than the angle. The azimuth indicates the compass direction your solar panels are facing. Based on your hemisphere, it’s easy to determine this. New Jersey is in the Northern Hemisphere, so your solar panels should face true south if possible. That’s because the sun is always in the southern portion of the sky. This is true even during the summer solstice when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. If you’re reading this from the Southern Hemisphere, point your solar panels at true north because the sun will be in the northern half of the sky.
It’s important to remember that your compass won’t tell you where the true south is — instead, it will tell you where the magnetic south is. You or your contractor can use a special tool to determine true south.
Placing your solar panels facing east or west will result in 15-20% less output than if facing south. You would get the least amount of energy from your solar panels if they were facing north in New Jersey, since direct sunlight will never hit them. If the only place you can put your solar panels faces true north, solar panels might not be a good investment for your home.
Generally speaking, you will save the most money with panels pointed south. However, if you have “time of use billing” with high peak rates, you may benefit from pointing your solar panels southwest instead of true south.
Not everyone’s roofs will point exactly south, but that’s okay. You can point your solar panels to some variation of south, like southwest or southeast. Even indirect sunlight can produce a bit of solar power. That being said, you should still avoid pointing your solar panels north at all costs since this will be the least effective way to get solar energy.
What is the Best Angle for a Solar Panel in Winter?
If your solar panels don’t move with the sun, you’ll no longer get the most efficiency out of them. Believe it or not, cold weather makes solar panels work better. However, increased cloudiness, shorter days, and precipitation will make your solar panels less efficient overall. Therefore, there are a few things we need to keep in mind when using solar panels in the winter.
As discussed, you should add 15 degrees to your solar panel angles during the winter to mitigate some of the issues stated above. Angling your solar panel more in the winter may also help keep snow off of it, as it’s easier for snow to slide down a steeper slope. If you have an adjustable array, you can temporarily tilt your solar panel more if you’re having trouble getting the snow to fall off it.
Let’s take a look at the best angle for solar panels in the winter by zip code in New Jersey:
- 08527 (Jackson): 46.6 degrees
- 07305 (Jersey City): 46.8 degrees
- 07047 (New Bergen): 46.9 degrees
- 07055 (Passaic): 46.9 degrees
- 08701 (Lakewood): 46.6 degrees
- 07087 (Union City): 46.9 degrees.
Unfortunately, not everyone can tilt their solar panels as the seasons change because they’re mounted on the roof. Using a solar tracking system can ensure that you get optimal energy in the winter months.
If you’re unable to adjust your solar panels for winter, there are some steps you can take to reduce the amount of energy you’re using to save money on your electric bill.
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs (15-watt works well)
- Turn down your thermostat – use blankets and extra layers if you’re cold
- Turn off lights when you are not in the room or at home
- Unplug any appliances or devices you’re not currently using
What is the Best Angle for a Solar Panel in Summer?
During the summer months, solar panels have fewer obstacles. Summer weather tends to be less cloudy than winter weather, and there isn’t any snow to deal with. Your solar panels should naturally operate more efficiently during this time of the year.
Since we will be subtracting 15 degrees from your solar panel tilt in the summer, these are your summer solar panel angles by zip code:
- 08527 (Jackson): 16.6 degrees
- 07305 (Jersey City): 16.8 degrees
- 07047 (New Bergen): 16.9 degrees
- 07055 (Passaic): 16.9 degrees
- 08701 (Lakewood): 16.6 degrees
- 07087 (Union City): 16.9 degrees
Should I Adjust My Solar Panels in Fall and Spring?
While adjusting your solar panels in the summer and winter is most important, you can get some additional benefits from adjusting them for all four seasons. Adjusting the tilt of your solar panels every spring, summer, fall, and winter gives you slightly more energy than if you just adjusted for two seasons. If you need to fully optimize how much energy you’re getting from your solar panels, it may be worth adjusting it more than twice a year.
How Can I Measure the Best Angle for Solar Panels?
The easiest way to measure the best angle for solar panels is by putting your zip code into a solar panel angle calculator. This tool will give you a rough idea of the best angle based on your zip code’s latitude. Of course, you’ll still need to consider your roof’s tilt and whether or not you’ll be installing a solar tracking system.
Your contractor should know the best angle for solar panels, assuming they are local to your area. Choose a contractor with plenty of experience installing solar panels in your state. Your contractor should be aware of your state’s unique solar panel installation needs and consider other things for your home.
Consider EMT Solar for Your Solar Panel Needs
Installing solar panels is an excellent way to support our environment since it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. If you are able to invest, they are well worth it.
When it’s time to consider installing your solar panels in New Jersey, contact EMT Solar to learn more about this process. We are here to provide the best quality, performance, and service for your solar panel and roofing needs.
Contact us to learn more about the benefits of solar panels and how we can add even more value to your home. We look forward to hearing from you!