What tilt angle should I install my solar panels in? A question many of us asks when the decision to finally install a solar system in our home is finally made. Naturally you will get the most energy from your photovoltaic solar panels when these are pointed exactly towards the sun. But because the sun moves across the sky and will be higher or lower depending on the time of day an optimal tilt angle needs to be calculated. This is necessary for your panels to be able to catch the most sun during the whole course of the day. The best solar panel angle for you depends on where you live but it also is a matter on what time of year you will be using your solar panels the most.
If you have a summer vacation house for example that u use only during the summer months of the year you would benefit from angling the solar panels in a way that is optimal for exactly the summer months but maybe not as effective for the winter part of the year. The low power output during wintertime won’t bother you because you won’t be spending time in your vacation house during that season anyway. And because of the summer optimized solar panel angle your power production during the summer months will be higher than if you would angle the panels to be mediocrely good the whole year round. In general a steeper slope is preferable during the summer as the sun will be higher in the sky. During winter the sun is lower and to catch more of its light the best solar panel angle would be more tilted. At some places as much as a vertical tilt of the panels is needed to get the maximum output during wintertime.
Solar panels with a fixed tilt angle
For panels that you will want to use all year and not have to touch once they are installed, you will want to install at a solar panel angle optimized for just that.
On the Picture below is a easy to understand map. Showing with clear colored lines what your best solar panel angle will be depending on where on earth you live. These numbers are approximate but will still give you a god hum on what tilt will be best for you. To give you a point of reference a 0° tilt angle would mean that the panel is lying flat down on its back facing directly upwards. As the inclination increases the panel would be adjusted to face more and more to the front, just like a mirror or a painting would hang on a wall. For a more exact tilt angle you will need to make a little calculating. If you read on we will show you how to best find the most optimal angle for your solar energy installation.
The more exact way to count out the best tilt angle is done as follows:
- for a latitude up to 25° take your latitude and multiply it by 0,87
- for a latitude between 25° to 50° take your latitude multiply by 0,87 after that you will add 3,1 degrees
- for a latitude over 50° the most ideal angle will end up being approximately 45° degrees
As you can see you will need to know your current latitude to be able to count out the most ideal angle to position your solar panels in. The easiest way to do this is to make a search for your location on Google maps and then right click on the location and choose “what is here”. A green arrow will then appear, if you click on that arrow you will get the GPS coordinates for that spot on the map. The first numbers is the latitude of the spot. Use that number in your calculations.
Movable and adjustable solar panels
If you would like to get the absolute best performance from your solar panels you should put them up on movable scaffolding on the yard, or on special movable panel holders or frames on your roof. This way you could adjust the tilt angle and direction of the solar panels to an optimal level. You could do this manually in witch case it would be advisable to only adjust the angle of the solar panels depending on if it is summer, fall, winter or spring. This way you would only need to adjust the panels a couple times a year although still ensuring that you will get great performance out of your panels.
The basic idea is to increase the solar panel angle in the winter raising them towards a more parallel inclination and decrease the slant during summer, laying down the panels more flat.
If you live in a place that gets snow during the winter you would benefit even more by heightening the tilt angle of your panels. This is because if the panels are more close to a vertical position aka 90° they will be more likely to shed the snow dropping onto them. If a solar panel is covered in snow the suns rays won’t be able to hit it and you won’t be getting any electricity from that panel.
To know exactly how to lean your solar panels for each month you will have to consult an advanced Solar Angle Calculator to find the best solar panel angle. An easier way is to look at our own tilt angle diagram here below. This diagram is showing what inclination is the best for every specific month depending on the latitude your solar system will reside at.
Automatic adjustment of the solar panel angle with a Solar Tracker
With an automatic light tracking system your solar array will be pointed directly towards the sun all the time. This would be done automatic in realtime with the help of robotic scaffoldings of the same type as some of the large solar farms are using. The price of a system like this is likely to be expensive and will probably not pay itself off with just a small number of home solar panels. Not unless you are able to cut the costs by manufacturing the scaffoldings yourself. We still believe that the moving parts in the scaffolding would have a high chance to brake down a couple of times, during the 25 year old lifetime of a solar panel. Making the system more of a cost then what you will gain in having your panels tilt angle pointing towards the sun at all times. And not to mention the moving of the panels will cost you energy. That energy will naturally have to be taken from the excess energy you make on moving the panels around in the first place. This will cut down the winnings on having a solar tracker a lot. Still it could be a fun DIY project for the hobby engineer.