What’s the Best Direction for Solar Panels In the UK?

Discover the best direction for solar panels in the UK and learn how to maximise energy production no matter the direction.

Quick Navigation:

  1. What Direction Should Solar Panels Face?
  2. Factors Affecting Solar Panel Direction
  3. South-Facing Solar Panels
  4. North-Facing Solar Panels
  5. Solar Panels on East & West Facing Roofs

Are you wondering, what is the best direction for solar panels to face in the UK? The short answer is south for the majority of homes, but there are a few considerations to make. Especially if your roof isn’t south-facing. 

The positioning of your panels plays an important role in how much energy you can harness from the sun. Proper solar panel direction increases the amount of sunlight that hits your panel, leading to higher conversion rates, and thus, more power generated. For example, the average household with solar panels installed in Norfolk, could see savings of around £1,304 a year when positioned correctly.

In this guide, we’ll cover what direction solar panels should face in detail, including how to maximise solar energy production for east and west-facing roofs. 

What Direction Should Solar Panels Face?

In the UK, the best direction for solar panels is due south. This orientation aligns with the sun's path, ensuring maximum sunlight exposure throughout the day, which is crucial for efficient energy generation. South-facing panels can absorb the highest amount of sunlight as the sun moves from east to west with a slight tilt towards the south of the northern hemisphere (the UK is located north of the northern hemisphere hence why the panels should face south). 

In other words, light from the sun hits the UK mostly from the South. So to capture the most light, solar panels should face south.

However, not many people are lucky enough to have a perfectly south-facing roof. In these cases, panels installed on roofs that face southeast or southwest can still capture a significant amount of solar energy. Even east or west-facing solar panels can be productive, especially if they are angled correctly to capture the maximum sunlight possible during the morning and afternoon (more on this later in the article).

Do solar panels need to face south?

No, while due south is ideal for solar panels in the UK, you can still achieve great energy production with east or west-facing roofs. In some cases, north-facing roofs may also be viable. No matter what direction your roof faces, solar panels remain a viable option for most properties - albeit sometimes the installers have to get creative.

Keep in mind that the savings you can make by switching to solar energy depends not only on the orientation of your roof. You also need to consider the slope of your roof, and where in the country you live, to name a few things. Our handy tool will do this for you. You'll have an estimate in minutes!

Factors Affecting Solar Panel Direction

When considering the installation of solar panels, it's crucial to look beyond just the cardinal directions of 'south' or 'north'. Several other factors play a significant role in determining the most effective direction for your solar panels:

- Roof Direction and Angle: Not all buildings have roofs with the ideal angle or orientation for solar panels. Sometimes, you may need to make adjustments or compromises to optimise panel placement.

- Shade: The presence of shade can significantly reduce the efficiency of your solar panels. It's essential to position them in a location where they receive the least amount of shade throughout the day.

- Local Climate: Your region's weather conditions can greatly affect the optimal direction for your solar panels. More sunlight equals more energy, so consider your local climate patterns. Our calculator takes this into account looking at sunlight intensity data for your region. 

- Seasonal Changes: The path of the sun changes with the seasons. Adjusting the direction of your panels seasonally can help maximise the amount of sunlight they capture. 

To help you navigate these variables and make the best decision for your property, use our solar panel calculator. This tool provides a tailored approach, considering your specific circumstances to offer the most efficient solar panel setup. 

Recommended Guide: Is My Roof Suitable for Solar Panels?

Solar panels on house in UK

Does the Direction Really Make a Big Difference?

Yes, the direction of solar panels does make a significant difference in their performance. While the orientation is crucial, it's part of a broader picture that includes other factors like the angle of your roof, potential shading, and the specific location of your house.

The orientation of your roof notably affects how well your solar panels perform. The basic principle is that the more directly your panels face the sun, the more solar energy they can capture. Although this idea seems straightforward, it's often overlooked, leading to suboptimal performance. Ideally, solar panels should be perpendicular to the sun's rays, which vary throughout the day.

However, this doesn't mean you need to adjust your panels constantly. The goal is to find an orientation that maximises sunlight capture over the entire day. Taking into account the direction, along with the roof angle and shading, will help you achieve the most efficient solar panel setup for your home.

Recommended Guide: Do Solar Panels Work Without Sunlight?

South-Facing Solar Panels

South-facing solar panels are typically the most efficient option in the UK, thanks to their maximum exposure to direct sunlight. This orientation ensures a high energy output throughout the day, particularly during peak sun hours, making them an ideal choice for consistent energy generation. 

South-facing panels usually face fewer challenges compared to other orientations; however, it's important to ensure there are no nearby obstructions causing shade. The ideal setup for south-facing panels involves angling them equal to the latitude for optimal sun exposure.

North-Facing Solar Panels

In contrast, north-facing solar panels in the UK tend to be less efficient due to their limited direct sunlight exposure, resulting in a significantly lower energy output. To overcome this challenge, installing advanced, high-efficiency panels can help maximise the limited sunlight available.

In situations where north-facing panels are the only option, a steeper tilt angle can help capture more sunlight, and pairing them with east or west-facing panels could improve the overall system efficiency.

Solar Panels on East & West Facing Roofs 

East and west-facing solar panels are effective options for harnessing solar energy, especially for properties that don't have the option of south-facing installations. These orientations receive the most sunlight during mornings and evenings, respectively, aligning well with most household’s energy usage patterns.

For roofs with an east-west orientation, installing solar panels on both sides can optimise sunlight capture throughout the day. While each side may generate less energy at any given moment compared to a theoretically ideal orientation, the combined energy production from both sides over the course of a day can be quite substantial. This dual-sided approach ensures a more balanced and consistent energy production, capitalising on the sun's position from sunrise to sunset.

Final Thoughts

Determining the best direction for solar panels in the UK is crucial for maximising the output of your solar system. While south-facing roofs are ideal, east and west-facing roofs also offer significant solar energy opportunities. To ensure the highest efficiency, consider factors like roof angle, shading, and local climate alongside the panel's direction.

Our solar panel calculator can help you navigate these aspects, offering a custom solution for your home's solar needs. By providing details about your property, you'll get an accurate estimate of the energy production and savings potential. For more insights and guidance on solar panel installation, explore our green guides or consult with our Green Home Gurus. Start your journey to sustainable energy by using our solar panel calculator, and make the most of your solar investment.

Recommended Guides:

- How do solar panels work?

- How efficient are solar panels?

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February 14, 2024
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