10 important factors to consider when choosing a location to place Solar panels

Have you noticed that the rooftops of most neighborhoods are dotted with solar panels? Why is it that rooftops are the most preferred locations for solar panels?

I have done the research and found that environmental consciousness and the need for reducing one’s utility bill are the greatest drivers towards the adoption of solar power. Rooftops are often unused and provide unobscured access to the sun’s rays. The sun is a free and renewable resource that we should be using more of on our quest to reducing the harm we cause the environment.

The 10 most important factors that you should consider when choosing a location to place solar panels are:

1. Geographic Location

2. Roof condition, materials, and layout

3. Orientation and Inclination

4. Available Space

5. Near-shadings

6. Weight

7. Drainage

8. Panel options

9. Eligibility for rebates

10. Your financing options

Where can solar panels be placed?

1. Geographic Location 

Solar panel placement is dependent on the location. The geographic location determines whether and where solar panels should be installed as some areas receive less or more sun than others throughout the year.

People that live near the poles have access to less sun during different periods across the year compared to those living on or close to the equator.

If you live in cloudy areas and areas that receive less sun, it is prudent that you install more solar panels to make up for reduced power generation.

For example, if you live in the northern states in the US or in Canada, you will receive less sun throughout the year than if you live in the desert and southern states.

2. Roof condition, materials, and layout

Solar panels today are very durable, meaning that they can last for many years. You must consider the condition of your roof and the materials used in the construction of your roof.

While many solar panels last for upwards of 30 years, asphalt roofs, which are very common, last for less than 20 years. If you have an asphalt roof, you should ensure that it is in tip-top condition for solar panel installation to prevent costly repair down the road.

Removal and reinstallation of solar panels to do repairs on your roof are both challenging and costly. If you have a flat roof made of concrete or ceramic tiles, you may incur additional costs since these materials make solar panel installation even more challenging.   

3. Orientation and Inclination

Solar panel location is determined by the accessibility to the sun. The sun has a fixed path throughout the year depending on the location. Additionally, the azimuth or the specific angle for solar power generation is an important consideration.

Orientation encompasses the direction the desired location for your compass is relative to the sun whereas the inclination encompasses the best angle for optimum solar power generation. 

Generally, the rule is that your solar panels should face south if you live on the Northern Hemisphere and north if you live on the Southern Hemisphere.

If you live in the US, for example, your solar panels should face south. If your roof is already facing south, South West or South East, then it is ideal for solar panel installation. However, if your roof faces north in the US, it is better to seek a different location. 

4. Available Space

Solar panel location is dependent on the space available. The size of your roof or the ground space you have chosen for your solar panels determines the number of panels that can be installed and, consequently, the amount of solar energy that can be generated.

If the space available for your solar panels is irregular or limited, there will be mismatch losses resulting from inappropriate azimuth angles and orientation and leading to reduced performance of the solar panels.

The available space for solar panel placement influences the types, number, and placement of inverters. The available space also helps determine whether a backup system such as a battery is required to cover increased load during peak hours.

Ground systems can be limited by the size of your backyard, but eliminate the worry of mismatch losses since panels on the ground will face the same direction.

5. Near-shadings

The presence of shades is one of the most important factors to consider in solar panel placement. The presence of shades will limit exposure of solar panels to the sun and will reduce their energy yields.

Solar panels cannot constantly and continuously generate power with a shade that constantly interrupts the array. The installers of your solar panels should account for the presence of trees nearby, antennas, houses, or chimneys that could cause shade on your solar panels.

Near-shading losses should be below a 10% level annually for optimum power generation. Advances in computer systems allow for 3D modeling before solar panels are installed to determine the influence of near-shadings.

What are some of the problems with solar panels on roofs?

6. Weight 

One of the main considerations in deciding where to locate solar panels is the strength of your roof. Your roof must be structurally sound to be able to support the weight of the solar panels.

Solar panels come with warranties that run for over 20 years meaning that you need a strong roof to support the panels for a long period.

Solar panel installation will ultimately increase the overall weight of your roof meaning that a weak roof increases the risk of a collapse that may threaten your safety and the safety of your loved ones and property.

It is important that a professional conduct an evaluation of your roof prior to embarking on solar panel installation. A professional will determine whether additional support for your roof is required.

7. Drainage 

Solar panels on roofs can cause waterlogging if they are improperly installed, which could lead to roof damage. Water runs down the roof when it rains, collects in the gutters, and is eventually directed away from your home.

Solar panels can disrupt the flow of rainwater causing irregular flow and water logging that can damage parts of your home and increase maintenance and repair costs.

Wire harnesses and racking equipment used in solar panel installation can also prevent rainwater from flowing and draining properly.

Water that is redirected from its designated path can lead to leaks and other problems that will need repair, which means that solar panels will have to be removed.

To avoid problems with solar panels on roofs, it is important to contact a professional contractor.

What factors determine the choice of solar panels for installation?

8. Panel options

The most popular choice of solar panels is the roof-mounted panels. You may also consider an array mounted on the ground especially if you do not have enough roof space or if your roof faces away from the sun.

You should, however, know that ground-mounted arrays are more costly as they require more materials and labor.

You should also consider whether you want your solar panels mounted with a tracker that allows them to follow the sun. Panels that tilt to face the sun produce more power than fixed panels.

Installing a tracker will substantially increase the cost of solar panel installation. You should ensure that you get solar panels with the highest efficiency. If you are looking for discreet panels, you can forego traditional panels for solar shingles,

9. Eligibility for rebates

While the cost of installing solar panels has dramatically reduced over the years, you still need rebates and tax credits to further reduce the costs of installation.

Other considerations that can hold up your project include permits, insurance, and warranties. You should not go for the cheapest solar panels. Instead, you should consider the panels that give you the best returns on your investment. 

There are some considerations such as the stipulation to buy from certain companies within fixed deadlines, which can influence the placement, location, and installation of your solar panels.

You should review the federal and state options in your area before making the final decision on solar panel placement and installation. 

10. Your financing options

The actual cost of purchasing and installing solar panels can determine the location of your panels. The size of the entire system, the type of panels, and the company selling the product determine the location.

Paying the entire amount for the installation upfront is the best option. However, you can still access loans that require you to pay an initial down payment and pay the remainder in monthly fees. 

There are other factors that can determine the installation of solar panels in your home or business including whether you choose to buy or lease the system. Leased solar panels exist in a plan where a solar company owns the solar panels and you just pay a small rental fee.

While you can save money on utility bills on leased solar energy, you most likely won’t qualify for tax credits and rebates. 

Learn more about what a Proper Solar Design Can do for You Here

Kurt | Design Engineer

Kurt is a Solar engineer and consultant with experience in designing solar projects, installation, and project consultation.

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