The angle of a solar panel can greatly impact production. How do you determine solar panel angles for your location? Our guide will help you understand everything you need to know.
Solar Panel Angle By Zip Code – Determine Your Optimal Positioning
Do you want optimal production from your solar panels? Are you looking for the best solar panel angle by zip code? You have come to the right place. The angle at which the solar panel is elevated plays a vital role in maximizing the production of energy.
However, every place is different as you have to take seasons and the average position of the sun into account when installing one.
Determining the best angle can be a tedious task. For starters, there is no single ideal angle for solar panels. At different times of the year, the optimal angle may be slightly or even significantly different.
However, if you live in an urban area in the United States, you might just be able to find the best angle for the photovoltaic panels with your zip code.
It’s no surprise that solar panels offer numerous environmental benefits. Before you look up the solar panel angle by zip code in the list ahead, it is important to understand why solar panels need an angle, how it is calculated, and what it means for production.
Why Solar Panels Need a Tilt Angle?
The vertical tilt of the solar panel is termed as a tilt angle. The reason behind that is pretty simple: they need maximum exposure to the sun. The sun moves throughout the day, and its position/angle also changes with the seasons. The goal is to have it exactly perpendicular to the incoming rays of the sun, as that is when they produce the most electricity.
Generally, the sun is at a higher position during summers and a lower position during winters. However, there is an average position between the two, which is optimal for the photovoltaic panels. This corresponds to the latitude of the place where you are housing the panels. Tilting it at that average angle would produce the highest output.
The solar panel tilt also depends on when you want the panels to produce the most energy.
Therefore, the optimal solar panel tilt may change with the seasons.
If you can change the angle multiple times a year, you may get great output throughout the year. Otherwise, your best bet is to set it at an angle that is optimal for the most prevalent season.
Calculating the ideal angle for your solar panels is not that difficult. As a general rule of thumb, keep in mind that the panels need to be more vertical during winter to face the lower sun directly and more tilted towards the ground during summer to face the higher sun. It just depends on where you live.
There are two methods for calculating the tilt angle for solar panels. Both of these angles require latitude degrees. Whatever your latitude is, you can subtract 15° from it to calculate the angle for summer.
Similarly, you can calculate the angle for winter by adding 15°. For fall or spring, you can just subtract 2.5° from the latitude. For example, if the latitude of your city is 35°, then the tilt angle for summer would be 20° (35° – 15°) and for winter 50° (35° + 15°).
The second method is more accurate and effective. It calculates the angle not just for the season but also for the midday sun, which is the hottest during any day. This method also requires the latitude of the place.
For winters, you multiply the latitude by 0.9 and then add 29°. For summers, you multiply the latitude by 0.9 and then subtract 23.5°. The same latitude of 35° would have a tilt angle of 59.6° for winter and 7.1° for summer.
This is about 10° more or less from the readings obtained using the first method.
See Related: Solar Panel Lifespan Guide
Are Solar Trackers Helpful?
By now you are probably wondering if there is a system that can do this on its own without you needing to tilt it to different angles every few months. Yes, there is.
A solar tracker is a system designed to do exactly that. It’s one of those solar buzzwords you should know. These systems ensure that the panels are always at an optimal angle to produce the highest possible output. They basically follow the sun as it moves across the sky.
Solar trackers are only viable on ground-mounted panels, which is not often the case in domestic use. For roof-mounted panels, it is difficult to use trackers. Also, these systems can be costly, raising your overall budget for solar energy solutions. As a result, they are more common for commercial solar projects where maximum output is needed all the time.
If you know the right solar panel angle by zip code, you will not need trackers at all. You should also keep in mind that for a small system, they will also be drawing some power generated.
Of course, you need all the energy generated for your home. Trackers can be considered one of the better solar-powered inventions.
See Related: Should You Buy or Lease Solar Panels
What Other Factors Affect Solar Panel Angle?
Aside from your location, latitude, and season, there are some other factors at play too. Here is what you need to know:
You will most likely be installing the solar panels on your roof, which is why you have to take into account the roof pitch too. Most roofs have an inclination of 30 to 40 degrees. At this level, the solar panel can lie flat on the roof and get enough sunlight to produce enough electricity.
In case the roof is very steep, you may not be able to get the most optimal tilt angle for the panel, especially if it is lower than the angle of the roof. In such a scenario, the best thing to do would be to keep the panels lying flat.
The same is the case with a low angled roof. You may need a special racking system to install the panels at the correct angle. Placing them flush against the roof would produce lower output.
Here is an informative post and calculator about the roof’s capacity to install solar panels and the weight it can carry.
Now let’s talk about the flat roofs. If your roof is flat, you would need a racking system to place them at any angle you want. However, when it comes to installing solar panels on the roof, space could be an issue.
You do not want the panels to be too close together as their shade might limit the exposure to the adjacent panels. Thinking about replacing your roof? Here is how to replace your roof with solar.
Direction of the Panels
The tilt angle is not the only thing you need to consider to get the best outcome from the photovoltaic panels. The direction the panels are facing is vital too. In technical terms, this measure is called the Azimuth angle. It refers to the horizontal orientation of the panels in relation to the equator.
Generally speaking, the panels should be facing towards the equator. It is best to face the panels south as the sun is always in the south within the northern hemisphere. If you are in the southern hemisphere, then face them north.
If the orientation is not optimal, it does not matter whether you have the best angle for solar panels.
One thing to note here is that the south or north indicated by your compass may not be the most accurate as it is the magnetic south or north. In some places, the reading may be inaccurate by up to 25°.
However, inaccuracy of less than 10° would not make much of a difference.
The sun is at a lower position during the winters, which should ideally result in better production from the panels. However, that is not always the case, especially when the weather is rough. A common reason for that is they get covered by snow. Therefore, you need to have the solar panel angled so that the snow falls off.
During winters, you would want to keep them at a lower angle to make sure they face the sun directly. That said, such low angles would trap snow on the panel surface, reducing the output.
If you live in a place where it regularly snows, it may make sense to keep the panels at a steep angle (the one suitable for summers) so that the snow easily falls off. Wonder how solar works in different weather conditions? Use our guide about solar panels and weather.
Solar panels are sturdy enough to withstand high temperatures. However, in some places where the temperatures soar very high during summer, heatwaves may negatively affect output.
For instance, in cities like Phoenix, AZ, you will need proper airflow around the panels to keep them working in their optimal state.
See Related: Is It Possible to Get Free Solar Panels?
Solar Panel Angle by Zip Code
Your life would be much easier if you could just find out what angle is the optimal solar panel angle in your city or county. The table below features a solar panel angle by zip code for at least one city from every state.
There is an angle for both the summer and winter months that will deliver optimal results in your solar panel system.
If you live in one of these zip codes or somewhere near them, you can use the readings to set up your racking system. These have been calculated using the solar panel angle calculator for solar noon.
Solar noon is the exact half of the day where the sun is at its brightest.
Solar Panel Angle Summer
Solar Panel Angle Winter
|Baton Rouge, LA||70801-70898||84°||36°|
|Boca Raton, FL||33427-33496||88°||40°|
|East Providence, RI||02860-02916||72°||24°|
|Great Falls, MT||59401-59405||66°||18°|
|Iowa City, IA||52240-52246||72°||24°|
|Little Rock, AR||72002-72260||78°||32°|
|Los Angeles, CA||90001-91610||80°||34°|
|New York, NY||10004-11104||72°||41°|
|Rapid City, SD||57701-57709||70°||22°|
|Saint Louis, MO||63101-63199||74°||28°|
|Salt Lake City, UT||84101-84199||74°||26°|
|San Antonio, TX||78006-78299||84°||38°|
|San Diego, CA||91911-92199||80°||33°|
|San Francisco, CA||94016-94188||76°||38°|
|Santa Fe, NM||87501-87507||78°||30°|
What if you do not want to or cannot change the angle every few months at the start of summer or winter? In that case, you should keep it at an angle for the season you need it to be most productive or for the season that lasts long.
For most southern states and California, that would mean the optimal angle for summer. On the other hand, for the NorthEast and MidWest regions that see shorter summers, the better choice would be the low winter angle.
If you do get the opportunity to change their angles throughout the year, you will get maximum output for the whole year. It comes down to your solar panel system how big and manageable it is.
If you are going big, you should invest in a tracker, which will basically eliminate your responsibility for manually adjusting tilt angles.
Ready to buy solar panels? Check out these top solar panels to buy.
See Related: How to Test a Solar Panel
Conclusion on Solar Panel Angling
Using renewable energy like solar energy is a smart decision. As a homeowner, you want to reduce your energy costs as much as possible. However, by installing solar panels, you are also helping protect the environment. You can make the best of your investment if you know how to figure the correct angle for solar panels.
There are several factors at play for the optimization of solar panels, but none is more important than the tilt angle. It can help maximize output by increasing direct exposure to the sun.
You can find the solar panel angle by zip code from the list above. If your zip code is not in the list, you can calculate it yourself using one of the methods outlined above. As a rule of thumb, always consider your home’s latitude.
Green Coast is a renewable energy and green living community focused on helping others live a better, more sustainable life.
We believe that energy and green living has become far too complex, so we created a number of different guides to build a sustainable foundation for our future.