Solar panel installation day is an exciting time. But there are also some questions that you need to answer before getting there. For example, it’s important to know where to place solar panels on your property in order to find the solar panel location that will optimize the efficiency of your solar system.
This article will provide an overview of each of the factors that you need to consider during your solar panel installation. Reading it will prepare you for an ideal installation day. Let’s get started.
Solar Panel Installation Guide: Overview
First, you should know what the average installation for solar panels looks like. Here’s a step-by-step overview of the typical process:
- An engineer comes out to your home to evaluate it for your solar installation
- You (with the help of your installation company) acquire all needed permits and documentation
- You order the solar equipment that you want
- A team comes to your home to install the solar system
Your installation day should look something like this. Generally, the employee that conducts your site visit will make recommendations about the best place for solar panels on your property. But you will always get the final say over your solar panel location.
Where to place solar panels
There are really only two options to consider when thinking about where to place solar panels: on your roof or on the ground. Rooftop solar panels are the most common solar panel location. But ground-based systems may be better for some homeowners. The placement choices may also impact the overall cost of the solar panels. Also, whether your system will have a solar battery or not may impact placement.
Ultimately, the ideal location for your residential solar system will vary based on the unique features of your property. We’ll cover what factors go into determining where to place solar panels in the next section.
Installation factors that can impact solar panel efficiency
The angle that your solar panels are installed at can have a big impact on how efficient they are throughout their lifespan. That’s because angle plays a role in determining how much sun the panels receive, which is one of the biggest factors in how much energy they can generate.
The ideal angle for solar panels is the same as the latitude that your home is in. For example, Los Angeles has a latitude of approximately 34 degrees. This means the ideal angle for solar panels in the city and its surrounding area is 34 degrees.
But if that’s not possible for some reason, you can angle your solar panels anywhere between 30 and 45 degrees and still be okay.
It’s generally best to have your solar panels face southwards. Doing this will ensure that the panels receive sun for the largest portion of the day since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
That being said, both east and west-facing solar panels can also be okay if you can’t do southwards for some reason. The only solar panel orientation that really needs to be avoided is north.
Roof Age and Material
These are two additional factors that should be considered before your installation takes place. Roof age matters because older roofs have a higher risk of needing repairs relatively soon.
If you need to repair your roof after installing solar panels on it, then you will have to pay to have the system removed and reinstalled again, which could be quite expensive. That’s why it’s best to only install solar panels on roofs that you know are in good shape.
Roof material is another factor to consider because you want to make sure that your roof will be able to support the weight of the panels for 25-30 years. Most common roofing materials are fine, including:
Certain materials, like wood and shake, may require extra care during the installation process. You can still install panels on them. You just may need to pay extra to do so safely.
Roof Size and Design
These are two other roof-related factors that could impact your installation decision. The amount of available space on your roof will directly impact how large of a solar system you can install on it.
Additionally, if you have a flat roof design, you may need to choose a special mounting system called ballasted mounts. These offer additional security and enable the panels to tilt so that they can capture the sun at an ideal angle throughout the day.
If your roof gets too much shade, the efficiency of your solar panels could drop significantly. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you’re installing your system in a spot that won’t be impacted too greatly by shade.
To do this, you need to consider all of the different objects around your home that could potentially shade your solar panels. This includes things like large trees, buildings, and chimneys.
Solar panel location: roof vs ground
Both roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar panels can effectively power your home. The option that’s right for you will depend on your personal evaluation of the pros and cons of each option.
With that in mind, let’s consider the major pros and cons of both roof and ground-based residential solar systems.
Pros of a Roof Mounted System
- Take advantage of unused space on your property
- Lower installation costs
- Frees up other parts of your property for other uses
- Can protect your roof from exposure to harsh elements
Cons of a Roof Mounted System
- Installation process may be difficult for some types of roofs
- You may need to repair or upgrade your roof before installing
- Adds weight to your roof, which could require additional support mechanisms
- Can be difficult to access the panels for maintenance and repairs
Pros of a Ground Mounted System
- Panels can be installed at any angle and direction, potentially optimizing production
- The system is much easier to access for maintenance and repairs
- Enables people who can’t do roof installation to still enjoy the benefits of solar power
Cons of a Ground Mounted System
- Takes up space on your property that could be used for other purposes
- Your installation will likely cost more
- Increases chances of accidental damage
Is a roof or ground system better for you?
Now that you know all of the pros and cons of both of these options, you can make a decision about which one is right for you.
Roof-mounted systems are the standard. They will be a better fit for most people thanks to their decreased installation cost and the fact that they take up no space on your property.
But a ground-based system could be better for you if your roof isn’t a good fit for solar panels. They could also be a good choice if you have a lot of unused space on your property and want to optimize your solar panels’ energy production.
The bottom line on the best place for solar panels
The where and how of how you install your solar panels can have a big impact on how much energy they produce over their lifespan. That’s why it’s important to consider each of the factors discussed in this article before your installation day arrives.
That being said, a standard roof-based solar panel installation will be a great fit for most homeowners. Your solar panel installer will help you figure out the best angle and orientation for the panels and will let you know if any additional work needs to be completed before the installation begins.