If you have a solar panel or a solar panel array, then you have the opportunity to save yourself money, reduce your reliance on energy suppliers and to minimize your carbon footprint and the negative impact that you may be having on the planet.
All these are very good things, which is why more and more people are now taking the leap.
But while solar panels have many great benefits, they also require a little bit of understanding if you are going to get the very most from them. They aren’t particularly complicated – just point them at the sun and leave them to do their work – but there are certainly some important considerations to take into account.
The most important of these? Working out the ideal angle for your solar panel at a given time of day and given time of year.
The easiest and most efficient way to do that of course is with a solar angle calculator. And guess what?
You came to the right place!
Our Solar Angle Calculator
To work out the optimal angle for your solar panel based on the time of year and zip code, just enter your details below and hit enter. You’ll be presented with the numbers and you can then adjust your panel as needed.
Why You Need a Solar Angle Calculator
Okay, so now you’ve done that… just what exactly did you do? And why do you need a solar angle calculator in the first place?
Firstly, we are making the assumption that the type of solar panel you have is photovoltaic. This is a type of panel that creates energy from sun light rather than the heat. You might see this called a solar voltaic panel, or a PV panel.
A solar thermal panel is a different type of solar panel, that works by heating up small tubes of water by getting warmed in the sun’s rays. Those tubes of water can then be funneled into a swimming pool, into radiators, or anywhere else that they’re needed. Here, they will then provide heat energy and save you money on a daily basis.
But they don’t really need to be perfectly aligned with the sun in order to do their best work.
Solar photovoltaic panels on the other hand work using light from the sun in order to generate electricity. In brief, these panels have a special arrangement of electrons that become ‘excited’ when they bask in the sunlight. This then causes them to start moving and eventually to form a current. That current will be converted into a useable electrical current by a transformer and will then be delivered to your appliances in your home.
This all means that it’s really important that your panels be pointed directly at the sun. When you do this, it will ensure that the light is directly affecting the electrons and this in turn is what will cause them to become excited and to move in the way you want them to.
How Solar Angle Calculators Work?
So, this is where the solar angle calculator comes in and provides you with that perfect angle in order to get the maximum amount of light from the sun.
Of course, this isn’t going to give you a single number that will always be perfectly accurate. That is because the sun will inevitably move throughout the day and its timings and positions will also vary from season to season. What’s more, is that this information will differ depending on whether you’re in a southern or northern hemisphere.
Your objective then is to make sure that your solar panels are first pointed at the sun and to make sure that they are angled so as to be most directly in view of the sun’s rays during the points when it is highest in the sky and during the points when it is brightest. You also need to cover the longest number of hours.
Interestingly, the angle of your solar panel will actually be most accurate in winter – seeing as the sun moves less during these months!
You might now be wondering why you don’t just track the sun through the sky… and well, this is an option!
There are in fact solar panels that are designed specifically to perform this function. These panels are referred to as ‘active solar panels’ or ‘tracking solar panels’ and they will move the angle of the panel as the day progresses in order to ensure that the sun is tracked through the sky. The only problem? They are very expensive, and seeing as the amount of energy that you save this way is very minimal, it won’t be a worthwhile investment for most people.
If you were an energy company with huge fields filled with solar panel arrays, then of course having a tracking system like this would be worthwhile for you – and it could save you thousands or millions of dollars in electricity.
But for the rest of us, it’s worth taking the hit!
Another option would be to head outside and to manually reposition your solar panels as the sun moved through the sky. Again, while this would work, it would also involve such a large amount of work as to be not worthwhile for the majority of people.
Other Ways to Work Out the Solar Angle
This is why we invite you to use the solar angle calculator on our site in order to calculate the perfect angle for your panels. You will be given numbers for each time of year and you can then move the panels twice or four times throughout the year to get maximum sun exposure.
Another option is to work out the optimal angle manually. There are a few ways to do this.
One ‘quick’ way to work out solar panel angle by zipcode, is to use your latitude. Enter your zipcode into Google to find out what the latitude of your home is and then you can take that latitude and add 15 degrees for the prefect angle during winter and subtract 15 in order to get the best option for the summer.
So if we say your latitude is 40 degrees, then you will alter the panel by fifteen degrees to 55 during winter. And in the summer, you would have it at 25 degrees. In both cases, it will be pointing predominantly upward.
There is a more accurate system you can use also. To use this system, take your latitude and multiply by 0.9 during the winter, before adding 29. For winter, multiple by 0.9 and then subtract 23.5 degrees. For even more efficiency, you can move the panels a third and fourth time for fall and spring. Take the latitude as it is and then subtract 2.5 degrees.
More Factors to Consider
Now, whether or not you opt to use these methods is up to you. Note that solar panel arrays on a roof top cannot store energy (currently), so there is no benefit unless A) you need more energy than you are currently getting or B) you are selling power back to the grid.
Note as well that there are many other factors to take into account. For instance, shade is something important to keep in mind. If the line of sight between the sun and your panel is blocked, then no solar angle calculator can help! In this case, you may wish to move the panels entirely, or to adjust the angle in order to try and avoid the shade for as long as possible.
In fact, you may find in some cases that there is actually no appropriate area in your premises in which to use solar panels. In that case, you may wish to forego using solar panels altogether.
Likewise, you should consider whether there are other options for generating solar power. One good choice might be to use a portable solar generator. These work using self-contained units and have many advantages – for one they are able to be moved as necessary and for another, they can actually store the power for use later. These are popular for campers and are also commonly used as backup generators.
Of course yet another option is to use a wind turbine or geothermal energy. These have their own pros and cons. Wind turbines work best when the angle of the wind is right, they can be harmful to birds and they can create eyesores. Likewise, geothermal is only capable of creating thermal energy and will require large amounts of your garden to be dug up. Assuming you have the necessary land area.
But for almost every home, there will be at least one option that will help provide clean, cheap and sustainable energy!
There are many factors to consider when using solar panels then. The key to making sure you get the most from them possible is to think about the angle, the direction, the placement, any shade and what the best type of solar panel is for your home.