Home Uncategorized Where to Install Your Solar Panels (And Where You Shouldn’t)

Where to Install Your Solar Panels (And Where You Shouldn’t)

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Installing solar panels can be a great leap toward electricity cost savings and energy efficiency. But the road to making it happen can be long and tricky. One problem you’ll likely encounter: Just where will these panels go?

The first step is to track down a solar company you trust. When installing solar panels, companies will take multiple factors into account, from the position of trees in your yard to the pitch of your roof, in order to maximize efficiency and stability. 

The good news is it’s never been easier to find a good place for solar panels. Thanks to a rapidly advancing industry, panels are lighter and more efficient than ever. Just about anyone has a house that can support solar. 

“The technological advancements and manufacturing has just become faster, cheaper [and] more available,” Ryan Barnett, senior vice president of policy and market development for Palmetto Solar, told CNET. “There’s dozens upon dozens of module manufacturers when there were only a handful 10 to 15 years ago.”

Here are some of the best places to put your solar panels — and the worst places.

Places to avoid installing solar panels

Thanks to technological advancements in the solar industry, we have more options than ever before when it comes to the placement of solar panels. But that doesn’t mean you’ll want to install your panels just anywhere. 

There are some basic elements you’ll want to factor into your decision. Your installer will do a site assessment of your property to determine the ideal placement of your panels. If you already have a specific place in mind, run it by your installer. 

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Here are a few things you’ll want to avoid when placing your panels: 

  • Too much shade: Solar panels are at their most efficient when hit with direct sunlight. If your yard has a lot of trees, you’ll want to avoid placing panels in a spot that’s usually covered in shade. Though, as is the case with most solar installations, a little bit of shade is just fine. 
  • An old or weak roof: You don’t want to put solar panels on a roof that can’t support the extra pressure. If your roof is a bit on the older side or has damage, it might be best to repair your roof before installing solar panels. Any roof repairs that need to be made will only get more complicated after the panels are installed. Most installers will perform a roof inspection before moving forward with the installation process. 
  • Inconvenient or limited space: Theoretically, you can put solar panels just about anywhere. But you likely won’t want to choose an area that’s difficult to access or that doesn’t allow for easy access to the conduit that carries energy to the inverter. Your installer should be able to nail down the most efficient area to install your panels. 

Common places to install solar panels 

If you’ve driven around a neighborhood recently, you probably already know the typical places to install solar panels: on the roof or mounted in the ground. Ideally, solar panels need to face the sun, be free from shade and structures blocking them and avoid areas where they might be damaged or tampered with. But most importantly, they need to be tilted upward. This only leaves you with a couple of options for panel placement. 

Rooftop 

When most people think of solar panels, they probably imagine them on a roof. 

Choosing rooftop solar makes sense for a variety of reasons. It helps save space in your yard and brings the panels closer to the sun, sitting on a roof that you already weren’t using for anything but shelter. Installing panels on the roof also helps avoid trees, which might already be trimmed back from the house. 

The existing tilt of a roof helps as well, angling the panels closer toward the sun. A 15- to 35-degree tilt is optimal for direct sunlight. However, the direction your panels face is more important than the angle they’re tilted at. You’ll get the best results from a south-facing roof, but east and west-facing solar panels are still viable. 

“There are really no bad rooftop candidates anymore,” Barnett said. “The equipment has gotten so efficient that even 200, 300 or 400 square feet of usable, optimal space on a roof is good enough to offset a partial amount of your entire home’s electricity usage.” 

The situations where a rooftop would not be a good fit for solar panels are rare, but they still happen. Deteriorating structures, an odd roof shape that falls outside the recommended tilt or complete shade from huge trees are just a few conditions that could make rooftop solar a challenge. 

Ground-mounted

If you have limited roof space or want easier access to the panels yourself, mounting a solar array on the ground could make sense. 

“Ground mounts are a really attractive and viable option for homeowners who have large properties and have the space and sunlight free of tree cover and forest to install a ground-mounted system that is typically pitched and oriented south-southwest,” Barnett said. 

Like rooftop solar, the feasibility of installing a ground-mounted system largely depends on what’s above and below the panels. The panels can’t be placed somewhere covered by trees. Installing panels on uneven or rocky terrain can also be challenging. 

Other places to install solar panels

Rooftop solar dominates the market, and most of the remaining solar installations are ground-mounted. If you’re one of the rare customers whose home isn’t suited for either type of solar installation, where can you turn? 

They’re niche installations, but you could install solar panels on garages, canopies, pergolas or other structures away from your home. In these cases, less available space means that your solar panels are likely more supplementary in nature, powering a specific area of your home or property rather than your entire home.

The option of being able to put panels in these niche locations is thanks to improving tech. 

“The racking and modules themselves have gotten lighter and more efficient; there’s less hardware involved,” Barnett said. “So what was a structure to support modules 10 years ago is different today because the equipment itself is so much lighter.” 

Frequently asked questions

Which direction should my solar panels face?

Solar panels are at their most efficient when facing the south. East and west-facing panels aren’t the best-case scenario, but should still perform fine.

What angle is best for solar panels?

The ideal angle for solar panels depends slightly on geography and time of year. In general, the best angle for a solar panel is somewhere in the range of 15 to 35 degrees.





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