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What is the best angle for solar panels?

Learn a simple rule of thumb for getting the best results

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Solar panels are increasing in popularity as a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels, but finding the best angle for your solar panels is a critical aspect of optimizing your solar power production.

Keep reading to see how you can find the right angle for your solar panels and what to keep in mind during the installation process.

Key insights

  • In most cases, the best angle for a solar panel is equal to the latitude of its location. (You can find your property’s latitude using a variety of tools, including Google Maps.)
  • Other factors can influence the optimal angle for a solar panel, but they often aren’t impactful enough to justify the hassle it takes to account for them.
  • A professional solar installer can assess your property to find the optimal angle and location for your solar panels.

The best angle for your solar panels, explained

The rule of thumb is that your solar panels should be tilted at an angle roughly equal to your latitude to optimize the amount of sunlight they receive throughout the day and the year.

A solar panel with a 90-degree tilt angle would be standing straight up (perpendicular to the ground). A solar panel with a zero-degree tilt would be lying flat on the ground.

For example, if you live in Houston, which has a latitude of 30 degrees north, then the ideal tilt angle for your solar panels would be approximately 30 degrees. (We explain how you can find your property’s latitude later in this article, but if you want to skip ahead, click here.)

The arguable problem with this rule is that it only provides a yearly average and doesn't account for changes in the sun's path across the sky at different times of the year. If you really want to maximize your solar panels’ efficiency, you would need to adjust the tilt angle almost constantly. (During the summer months, when the sun is higher in the sky, solar panels should be tilted less; during winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, panels should be tilted more.)

That’s usually not practical, though. While adjusting the tilt angle throughout the year could theoretically maximize output, in practice, most residential solar installations have fixed tilt angles due to the complexity and cost of adjustable mounts. In such cases, the panels are generally set at an angle that maximizes energy production throughout the year.

» LEARN: How many kWh does a solar panel produce?

What impacts the optimal angle for your solar panels?

If you really want to get in the weeds, the optimal angle for your solar panels can be affected by multiple factors, which we’ve broken down below.

As mentioned above, the best angle for solar panels is largely determined by your location, specifically your latitude.
The sun's path across the sky changes with the seasons, so you’d need to adjust the angle of your solar panels throughout the year to capture every bit of sunlight you can. If you’re more practical, think ahead when setting the angle of your solar panels to accommodate this variation.
Solar panels produce the most electricity when the sun is shining directly on them, which means the sun’s daily trip across the sky may affect your solar panels’ efficiency if your tilt doesn’t match its movement. This generally isn’t worth fussing over, though.
On the other hand, it may actually be worth adjusting the angle of your solar panels to avoid shade from nearby buildings, trees and other obstacles that can cast shadows on your array.
Weather patterns can also affect your solar panels. If you live in a location with a lot of overcast days, a steeper angle might help capture more diffuse light.
The slope of the roof often dictates the tilt angle of rooftop panels. (Further adjusting the tilt angle might not be worth the additional cost or structural complications as long as the roof slope allows for reasonable solar exposure.)

However, if your roof is completely unsuitable for solar panels, consider installing a ground-mounted array to achieve the correct angle.

Addressing these factors can get complicated, and it’s hard to definitively say whether they’re worth accounting for without looking at your property, which is why it's helpful to work with a knowledgeable solar installer who can assess your specific situation and provide appropriate advice.

Frank, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from California, told us: “I have been toying with going solar for several years. And I've got some large trees across the street. I've had multiple companies come out there. They put their monitoring equipment on the roof and said, ‘Well, because of the amount of shade, it's not going to work out all that great for you.’”

They continued: “That was a few years back. Then SunPower came. They got some kind of program that looks at shade, sun angle and orientation and said they believe it would be cost-effective. And was told there was a guarantee it would produce a certain amount of power. And if it didn’t, SunPower would either put up more panels or do something to remedy it. So on that basis, I moved forward.”

» MORE: Solar panel installation guide

How to find the best angle for your solar panels

Finding the best angle for your solar panels involves understanding your latitude and considering local factors like climate and shading. Here’s how you can discover your optimal tilt angle:

  1. Find your latitude: Most GPS devices and many smartphone apps, like Google Maps, can provide your geographic coordinates, including your latitude. Exactly what you need to do to find your coordinates will vary from platform to platform, but right-clicking or holding down on a given location will often produce a set of numbers separated by a comma. The first number is your latitude. For example, ConsumerAffairs’ offices have a latitude of 36.15477 degrees north, so solar panels on our roof would need an angle of about 36 degrees.
  2. (Optional) Adjust for the season: If you're planning to adjust the angle of your panels seasonally, which may not be feasible for all installations, you can use these estimates to account for the sun's varying path across the sky during different times of the year:
    • Summer: Set the tilt of your panels to equal your latitude minus 10 to 15 degrees.
    • Spring and fall: Set the tilt of your panels to equal your latitude.
    • Winter: Set the tilt of your panels to equal your latitude plus 10 to 15 degrees.
  3. Consider local factors: Think about how local weather patterns, shade from nearby obstacles and your roof's slope (if you're installing rooftop solar panels) might impact the amount of sunlight your solar panels receive. These factors can influence your optimal angle and might necessitate deviation from the latitude rule of thumb.
  4. (Alternatively) Seek professional assistance: Professional solar installers can use tools like solar pathfinders and software simulations to conduct a detailed analysis of your property and provide advice for your specific situation.

Remember, while finding the best angle can help optimize solar energy production, solar panels are still effective within a range of angles. Other factors, like the size of your solar array and the efficiency of your panels, can also significantly impact your system's overall performance.

What’s more important: angle or orientation?

Both the angle and the orientation of your solar panels can affect the amount of sunlight they capture, but if you have to compromise on one of these factors due to limitations like roof design or nearby shading, it's usually better to prioritize orientation over tilt angle. That's because the sun's east-to-west motion each day has a bigger effect on solar energy production than its lower-in-the-sky position in winter versus summer. (In the U.S., solar panels should typically face south for maximum exposure to the sun.)

However, for a truly optimized solar installation, both factors need to be considered in tandem. A professional solar installer can provide advice that’s tailored to your specific circumstances, taking into account local factors like weather patterns, shading and municipal regulations.

Find a Solar Energy partner near you.


    What is the best direction for solar panels?

    The correct orientation for solar panels technically depends on where you are on Earth:

    • In the Northern Hemisphere, which includes North America, Europe and the majority of Asia, the optimal direction for solar panels to face is south because the sun's path moves from east to west through the southern part of the sky.
    • In the Southern Hemisphere, which includes Australia, southern Africa and most of South America, the optimal direction for solar panels to face is north. The logic here is the same, but the relative positions are different — the sun's path still moves from east to west but through the northern part of the sky.

    Facing your solar panels in the proper direction helps ensure they receive the maximum amount of sunlight over the course of the day, increasing their efficiency and output.

    Do solar panels need to be south-facing?

    Solar panels don’t strictly need to be south-facing. Even if your panels can't face the absolute optimal direction due to constraints like roof orientation or shade, they can still produce a significant amount of energy.

    For example, flexible solar panels mounted on a moving platform, like a recreational vehicle (RV) or camper, might produce less energy over the course of a year because they won’t always face south, but they can still be effective.

    How can you find your property’s latitude?

    There are several ways to find the latitude of your property, including GPS devices, smartphone GPS apps and online geographic tools. Most of these will let you input your address or use your location to find your coordinates, but if you’d rather not share that information, you can provide details for another location nearby to get an approximate result.

    Remember, latitude and longitude figures are generally given in pairs separated by a comma. The first number is your latitude; the second is your longitude.

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