Solar Panel Alignment: How Panel Location Impacts Energy Output

In the last few years, the installation of residential solar panels has increased in numbers across the U.S. More and more residents are driven by lower costs, reduced reliance on the grid, and the desire to shift away from fossil fuels.

In order to make the most of this switch, homeowners must educate themselves on critical elements of solar energy.

Did you know that the angle or orientation of solar panels could have a massive impact on efficiency? Or that the tilt of a roof also has a part to play?

In this article, we discuss how various factors impact energy output and outline some best practices for finding the best solar panel locations.

Let’s dive in.

The Role of Solar Panel Alignment

Along with the make and watts of solar panels, alignment can make a difference for homeowners looking to save on energy bills.

When opting for solar panel installation in California, here are some considerations that will help you maximize your setup:

Solar Panel Orientation

Orientation refers to the direction in which the solar panel faces: north, south, east, or west. In the northern hemisphere, the ideal orientation for a panel is true south, while those in the southern hemisphere should face true north.

Forbes estimates that panels that face directly east or west are 20% less efficient.

However, overall efficiency isn’t as simple as direction. In California, as with many other states, time-of-use (ToU) pricing considerations also come into play. This means homeowners are billed according to the time of day in which they use the most energy.

While combining solar panels with battery storage is one way to benefit from ToU and net-metering policies, panels can also be oriented to capture energy in high-use hours. In California, this is in the evenings when the sun is in the west. Thus, the ideal location for solar panels in the region is facing southwest.

Solar Panel Orientation

Solar Panel Angle

Another crucial consideration for solar alignment is the angle or tilt of installation. The ideal angle depends on the geographic latitude and the season.

For those in countries along the equator, their panels should lie flat and face straight up to capture maximum sunlight. But depending on how far north or south you go, inclination comes into play. Most experts agree that the degree of inclination should roughly correspond to the location’s latitude.

So, a solar system in a country that is 30 degrees north of the equator should ideally tilt 30 degrees to the south. The Department of Energy suggests that the most efficient solar panels in the U.S. tilt between 15 and 40 degrees.

Changing seasons also impact inclination. In winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, you could add a further 15-degree tilt. In the summer months, you could subtract 15 degrees.

Of course, making such minor adjustments is only possible with moveable panels. Homeowners with fixed panels don’t need to worry, as changing seasons don’t impact efficiency to such a high degree.

Identifying the Best Location for Solar Panels

A panel is most efficient when the sun’s rays hit it at a perpendicular angle and cover the largest possible surface area.

We’ve seen how an individual panel’s orientation and angle can impact efficiency, but what about the placement of the entire system? How does location play a role in solar energy efficiency?

Roof Tilt

Not all roofs are designed the same. Some have quite a large tilt, while some lay completely flat. This inclination also dictates solar panel orientation efficiency.

On a roof with a high degree of tilt, it may be sufficient to place panels flat along the tiles. On flat roofs, extra equipment is needed to achieve the required inclination.

Granted, not all roofs face the right direction or are perfectly inclined. In these cases, a ground-mounted frame may help make the most of the location of solar panels.

Roof Tilt


Obstruction is another crucial consideration that determines solar energy location. Panels that are surrounded by buildings or fall in the shade of trees are much less efficient at generating solar energy.

Low-tilt panels are also more susceptible to dirt and debris.

Consulting with a California solar company can help you find the best location of solar energy in your home.

Temperature and Climate

When does a location receive the most solar energy? The answer isn’t as simple as you’d think. Temperature and climate also play a part in determining solar output.

While panels rely on sunlight to produce energy, they are actually more effective when installed in colder climates. Regions with very warm summers are not nearly as beneficial, as hot weather affects efficiency.

At the same time, there are definite drawbacks to living in an area that sees regular winter snowfall. Heavy snow can block the sun’s rays from reaching a panel, which must be fixed by increasing the degree of inclination.

Making the Most of Solar Panel Placement

Determining the best location for solar panels is a complicated process that requires assessing several geographic and alignment factors.

Here are some tips that can ease the process and help you make the most of your solar panel system:

  • Conduct Assessments: Before a solar panel installation, estimate your solar panel needs and compare how effective the location will be in meeting them. A solar panel cost calculator can help you decide if the investment is worth it.
  • Use Solar Trackers: An advanced solar tracking system adjusts a system’s position throughout the day and automatically ensures the ideal solar panel alignment. These systems can improve a solar system’s efficiency by up to 30%.
  • Clean Regularly: Once you’ve identified the best locations for solar panels, employ regular cleaning and maintenance practices to ensure they remain unobstructed and receive maximum sunlight throughout the day.
Making the Most of Solar Panel Placement

The Bottom Line: Find a Place with AMECO

Now that you know how location plays a role in solar energy efficiency, nothing should hold you back from maximizing your solar energy storage.

If you want a trusted partner on your solar journey, look no further than AMECO. Our team of experts can help you seamlessly transition to solar—ensuring you find the ideal location for solar panels and save big on energy bills along the way.

Contact our team today!