Some people considering the installation of solar panels are worried that their property may not be suitable. They think that your roof has to face south directly, or that it has to be at a very steep angle, or flat, or they're just not sure! They have no idea how much space is necessary, or whether they need a certain roof type, like tiles, and installing solar panels on a designed roof would be possible.
This article serves to debunk a few common misconceptions about installing solar panels on your roof, covering some of the principal property requirements, and how different angles and orientations can affect things.
First of all, we'll tackle orientation. Please note that through this writing, we'll assume you live in the United Kingdom – obviously, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere instead, then it is optimal for your roof to face North!
In the UK, a directly South-facing property will receive more sunlight than any other direction – from sunrise to sunset, it'll receive the maximum level of energy to generate electricity or hot water.
It is, however, perfectly possible to get solar panels on a non South facing building. Panels are very frequently installed on SW or SE facing surfaces – they still will receive ample energy to generate electricity or hot water with solar panels, since modern systems are very efficient.
The pitch of the roof is also important for solar panels – the angle that it is sloped at from the ground. Solar panels can be installed on a totally flat roof if necessary, although the most efficient setups will have a roughly 45 to 60 degree angle facing South (it varies depending on exactly where in the country your property is located).
However, if your roof faces away from due South, then a more steeply pitched set of panels may prove problematic. This is because if you imagine a NE installation. If it is on a very steep angle, very little light will reach the panels at all. Basically, as your roof faces further away from directly South, a shallow pitch is better for maximum efficiency to earn you as much money as possible than either the Feed In Tariff or the Renewable Heat Incentive.
Some solar panel companies will offer to put them on your roof for free, with the condition that then they will take away the payments from the Feed In Tariff, so you just get a small reduction in your bills. These companies often insist that your roof is directly facing the optimum direction. This is not necessary at all, but is purely due to the fact that these companies are often new and face demanding demand, so will only go for the very best opportunities – solar panels are still incredibly profitable even with SE or SW installations.
The quantity of space required is also a frequent question potential customers often. Modern systems are very efficient, since not a great deal of space is required – 3 to 4 square meters is the minimum for a small household (ie 2 bedrooms). To put this area into context, it is roughly the amount of space that a parked car would take up – so look at your roof and decide if there would be room to park a car on it somewhere, and hey presto, you know whenever or not you have ample space to install solar panels. This area needs to be unshaded too, else the efficiency will decrease fairly dramatically, so look at it through the day as the shadows cast by trees and poles shift around, and the potential site obviously needs to be free of skylights!