solar tracking direction
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Where to mount solar panels?

No matter how good your solar panels are you will need to install them in a place where they can perform to the best of their ability. You will need to consider height, direction, obstructions, access for maintenance and not forgetting locality to the power distribution point of your home.

How High to mount solar panels?

Mounting height is not a top priority when considering the position of the solar panels. Thankfully, because mounting panels in inaccessible places can instigate a poor maintenance regime. 

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Benefits of mounting solar panels high

  • The heat radiating from the earth can interfere with the suns radiation.
  • Summer heat can ventilate easily

Disadvantages of mounting solar panel arrays high?

  • Access for maintenance
  • Exposure to the elements

We live partially off-grid and this is a part of our ground-based solar array

solar array in the garden
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Our array is mounted on a wooden solar rack and attached to the ground via fence posts. So far the rack has faired very well and stands up to the wind without issue.

Roof Vs Ground mounting of the solar array

When a roof rack mount solar array is the only option.

The decision to mount your solar panels on the ground or onto the roof using a solar mounting racking system is an individuals situation influenced the decision. For instance, you may live in a property which has limited ground space so roof mounting is your only option. 

Earn money by connecting to the electric grid

Many countries limit feedback tariffs on what mounting position is chosen. This applies to grid-tie solar systems only. If you are using the concept of self-consumption or battery charge setups then the choice of the mounting position is yours.

Convert solar to AC for house consumption

Once you have the panels installed you will need a suitable inverter. 

We use Fronius inverters for Grid Tie and Battery charge environments because they have proved reliable. I have tried cheap Chinese micro inverter but everyone failed!

Check out our blog on inverters

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Grid-tie Feedback Tariff

From my experience utility companies prefer the most permanent installations. Ground-based installation is often the lease economical if you are budgeting on, the basis of a feedback tariff. Ground-based solar arrays payback the least when connected to the electric utility grid with a feedback tariff plan.

  1. In Roof – High Feedback Tariff
  2. On Roof – Medium Feedback Tariff
  3. Ground – Low Feedback Tariff

WEEMS & PLATH Hand Bearing Compass Model 2005

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The best direction for solar panels to face?

I assume you know where you want to install the solar panel array but now you must face them in the correct orientation. 

Roof mounting limits accurate solar panel alignment

Not all roofs face Due North

Reduced output of electric current from roof-mounted solar arrays could render your solar investment as being uneconomical. 

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Easily check your roof orientation using Gooogle Earth

You could use a compass or a compass app for the smartphone but Google Earth is a great way to survey your home. On your portable or computer locate your home and quickly the result will show you where north is. North will be to the top of the page on Google Earth. 

tesla solar tiles slates
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Tesla Solar Roof

Unfortunately, solar panels do not always look good on roofs. Tesla Solar Roof could be the perfect solution for an aesthetic roof-mounted solar solution. Sadly the coast per watt of Tesla solar solutions is very high in comparison with standard solar panels. 

Solar panel alignment by hemisphere

Northern Hemisphere – Due South

Southern Hemisphere – True North

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Northern Hemisphere VS Western orientation facing solar

Solar panels do not perform well when at peak sun orientation as they can get too hot as to become inefficient. Many utility providers try to encourage west-facing solar arrays for northern hemispheres as the evening sun can provide prolonged energy generation. 

The benefit to the Energy providers is that periods of high demand is better catered for when micro-producers of electricity face their panels west

Solar tracking controller

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The solar panel tracking system

The above solar mounting solutions are ideal for low-cost installation. If you are looking for the most efficient high output solar solution then consider sun-tracking! Pointing your solar panels directly at the sun and tracking it to optimize the potential electric production is favourable. 

Solar panel ram

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Tracking the Sun

Solar alignment is not beyond our means thankfully because of off the shelf solutions and DIY computer-aided technologies such as Arduino. 

Methods of solar alignment

  • Manual: you point the panel at the sun on an adjustable mount
  • Motorised: using a directional panel or joystick you align the panel with the Sun
  • The solar tracker keeps the panels pointed in the direction of the sun using a photoresistor. A control board or an Arduino uses the signal to move the panels by a motorised mount.
  • Peak output signal from the panels tells a control board computer when the panels are at peak output. This system then moves the panel array until it is in an optimum position.

Negatives of a motorised mount

The cost and maintenance of such a system can outway the benefits. In my experience, the cost of solar wattage is cheap so it could be more beneficial to add more wattage of solar to compensate for the lack of tracking.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this description go to Amazon which we receive a small commission.

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