Two million – that’s how many solar installations are expected to be in the US by the end of this year, as per the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). And it might have something to do with reduced solar installation costs, which have dropped more than 70 percent since 2010. California has traditionally dominated the country’s solar market, but areas like Texas, Minnesota, Utah, and Florida are gaining traction. Thus, it comes as no surprise that residents of Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Ladson, Tampa, and other cities are investing heavily in solar panels of late, resulting in the addition of 2.27 gigawatts of residential solar in 2017 (Source: www.bloomberg.com).
If the idea of going green appeals to you, but you’ve always been intimidated by the high price of solar panels, now’s the perfect time to invest in solar equipment. However, don’t forget that purchasing the system is only half the battle; installation presents the real challenge. You will find plenty of guides and articles online highlighting just how easy the process is. In fact, most homeowners become convinced that they can handle the task themselves. The problem is, installing solar panels on your roof is not a standalone process; there are steps involved before and after which are usually not mentioned in these resources. For example, how many how-to videos tell you to check whether your roof is solar-ready before buying the system? Or, ask you to pay attention to the placement of the panels? That’s why it’s best to leave the installation to the professionals. A faulty setup not only prevents the solar units from providing peak performance but may damage the panels as well. Read this article to know more about the impact of direction and placement on solar panels, read below:
It’s common knowledge that solar panels need sunlight to function. But what if you live in an area that hardly receives any sunlight? Ironically, this applies to most of the US, because barring a few states like Hawaii, California, Florida, the rest are not very sunny. Still, solar panels continue to be installed across the country. Why? Because even without a lot of sunlight, solar units generate enough electricity to power your home. So, a sunlit climate, while ideal, the contrary is not detrimental to the smooth functioning of PV cells, and it should not discourage you from investing in solar panels. Think of it this way – , every kilowatt-hour of energy that your solar panel produces is a kilowatt-hour not burned from a dirty, fuel-guzzling power plant.
Solar-Ready Status of Your Roof
The size, age, and position of your roof must be accounted for before installing the solar panels.
- Roof Size: If your building has a large roof, solar panel installers will have more room to locate a suitable spot for the equipment. But remember that rooftop structures like dormers, skylights, and pipes significantly affect the overall space available for solar panel installation.
- Roof Age: Given the right conditions, most solar panel models available in the market guarantee uninterrupted power production for as long as 25 years at the least. Thorough maintenance can even extend the longevity of your solar panels up to 40 years. However, aged roofs often create a hindrance because you need to remove and reinstall the panels when replacing the roof. And this decreases the cost savings delivered by solar technology.
- Shading: Make sure the roof of your room isn’t shaded by nearby trees or buildings. Otherwise, this reduces the amount of sunlight absorbed by the solar panels, and therefore, affects solar power production. So, there should not be any obstructions along the path of the sunlight, and the rays should directly hit the panels. If necessary, trim the branches of the surrounding trees. And while this is not the most eco-friendly solution, the potential harm caused by lopping off a few tree limbs is more than offset by the environmental benefits derived from switching to clean solar energy.
Direction of the Solar Panels
The azimuth angle determines the direction in which the solar panels are installed. If calculated incorrectly, the solar output of your PV array can go down by 35 percent. But what exactly is azimuth? In layman’s terms, azimuth denotes the east-west orientation of the solar panels in degrees. An azimuth value of zero means the PV cells are facing the equator in both the southern and northern hemispheres. On the other hand, positive 90 degrees means the array faces westward, while a negative 90 degrees denotes an east-facing solar panel. 180 degrees on the compass angle indicates south, 270 is west, and 90 is east.
Impact of Location
The US is located in the Northern Hemisphere, and between the latitudes of 23 and 90, the sun remains in the southern sky throughout the year. Also, the sun rises in the east and sets in the West, which means a south-facing roof gets sunlight the whole day, not just the morning or afternoon sun. That’s why the preferred direction for solar panel installation experts is south – it helps your units generate the maximum amount of power.
In summer, despite being higher up in the sky, the sun still remains on the south side. Winter, however, presents a completely different scenario: the sun hangs low, and if your solar panels are installed on a north-facing roof, they will receive little to no direct sunlight.
While zero azimuth is used by solar system designers, magnetic declination also plays a vital role. Did you know that a magnetic compass doesn’t usually point to true north? That’s because of the fluid currents of cobalt, iron, and nickel flowing close to the earth’s outer core and generating a magnetic field. So, this magnetic field must be compensated for.
The magnetic declination of the east coast is negative, and the west coast positive. The line of magnetic declination not requiring any adjustments is approximately the Mississippi River. So places situated to the east of the Mississippi must deduct the magnetic declination to figure out the real azimuth; on the other hand, areas located to the west of the Mississippi must add magnetic declination for accurate calculation of the true azimuth.
One must pay attention to the meteorological conditions of an area when planning to install a residential solar system. For example, the isolation analysis in Hawaii indicates that east-facing PV arrays are capable of generating more power than south or west facing arrays. The regular afternoon rainfall in that area might have something to do with this.
Based on your home structure, panels installed on the true west- and east-facing roofs notice an eight to 14 percent decline in efficiency. In fact, west-facing roofs are preferable to east-facing ones as the solar radiation gets more intense during the afternoons. The more the angle of the roof turns southward, the more that percentage difference reduces. However, one direction that is not at all suitable for North American homes is the north.
Whether you install solar panels in Tampa, a city that enjoys the year-long sunshine or low sunlight like Fairbanks, benefits are more or less the same. However, before you invest in solar panels for your home, take the time to consult a professional and determine whether your roof is solar-ready and the direction that works best for your location. This will allow your panels to generate the maximum amount of clean energy without any hassle.