The direction that your roof faces, also referred to as the Azimuth angle, is the primary factor determining how much sunshine your solar panels will see over the course of the day. Solar panels are most effective when installed on south-facing roofs.
An easy way to determine the direction that your roof faces is to use Google Maps. Look up your property and use the grid to find true south, then compare your roof.
Even if your solar panels don’t face directly south, they can still produce plenty of electricity, regardless of whether you live in Minnesota or California. You also can mount solar panels on roofs that face east or west, on the roof of another building (like a barn or garage), or on the ground.
In general, solar panels that are oriented directly east or directly west will produce about 20 percent less electricity than if they were facing south. Even with this decrease in performance, solar panels will produce enough electricity to save you hundreds of dollars a year. You can also improve your solar panels’ performance by adjusting the tilt of your panels downward. If you change the tilt from 30 degrees to 15 degrees, your production then will be only 15 percent lower than if your panels were installed in peak conditions.
While it is technically possible to install solar panels on the north side of your roof, they need to be mounted so that they oppose the roof’s slant in order to generate electricity. This means that they won’t sit flush with your roof, and will still produce relatively little electricity. Consider ground mounted solar, or installing solar panels on your garage, if you need more space for your solar energy system. You can also explore community solar, which allows you to support a larger solar project located in your area.
You don’t need to live in the sunniest state in the country or have a rooftop that faces directly south to take advantage of the financial benefits of solar. The most important factor in determining your solar savings is how much you pay for electricity. By going solar, you reduce or even eliminate your utility electricity costs, so even if you aren’t perfectly maximizing your electricity production, your solar investment can still pay off in a big way. Use EnergySage's Solar Calculator today to determine just how much you can save.