Because the sun always rise somewhere in the east and sets somewhere in west Photovoltaics will need to have either a northern or southern solar panel direction to be able to get sunlight during the whole day. A solar panel pointed at the east or west will most likely miss out on half of the sun hours of the day, because the direction makes sure it shaded. This doesn’t mean that if you only have the ability to install the photovoltaic system in the east or west you’re doomed. You will just have to account for the lost of sun hours it will result in. If you live in very sunny latitudes where the sun peak hours get to a staggering 8 hours a day a half split of that will still give you more sun hours than the cooler parts of the world where still solar panels are happily set up. And not to mention if you are very close to the equator the sun will be shining more or less directly overhead. And close to the equator you are very likely to be, if you get 8 sun peak hours daily. An over head sun means that your panels will be hit by sunlight pretty much where you direct them at.
So what we established so far is that solar panel direction matters more the further out towards the poles you get, and that optimally they should be pointed towards the north or south. Now you need to know weather to choose to point them at north or south.
Do you live on top or bottom of the earth
It happens to be, that the most optimal solar panel direction wary depending on where on earth you live. In the Northern hemisphere, meaning the top half of the earth globe including USA Canada Europe and UK, Russia and so on, one should point there solar panels at solar south, or true south as it also is called. If you on the other hand live in Australia, Africa, South America along with others you live in the southern hemisphere aka the bottom part of the earth globe. This means that you will get most power out of your solar panels by pointing them towards solar north or likewise named true North. A slight displacement of up to 10 degrees is totally acceptable and will not make much difference to the solar panels final energy output.
True North or Magnetic North?
But before you run off digging out your camping gear, desperately trying to find that compass in the bottom of the bag, let me inform you that your compass won’t be much help to you in this venture. The truth is that the solar North and the solar south you need to find are not exactly the same as the Magnetic South and Magnetic North that a compass identifies. The north and south poles that a compass needle will point at are dependent on magnetic metals under the earths crust. These minerals will form a big magnetic field around our planet but have very little to do with how the sun will rise and fall over the sky. And it is the sun we need to follow because it’s the one that’s going to make us electricity.
To predict the path of the sun in a correct way one needs to turn to the maps because that is what the true north and south is, two places on the map. The difference between what your compass points at, and the actual True North can be up to 20 degrees. This deviation will also be the difference between an optimal power output for your solar panels, to a mediocre one.
How to find the True North or True South from the place you live?
Since you probably aren’t no great cartographer or architect the absolute easiest way of locating true north and south would be by using a GPS. Either by using the navigator you have in your car or a free GPS app you could download to your smartphone. Standing in the spot you would like the solar panels installed on go to the GPS settings and select “show true north”. The GPS will now calculate the direction of true north using multiple satellites taking into account the orbit of the earth as well. So you can be sure to get a correct value. You will then have all the information you need to find the best solar panel direction and therefore knowing what side of your house to put the photovoltaics at. Now you have to know how to tilt angle them to. Luckily we did cover exactly that in a previous article you can find here >>>