Is My House/Roof Suitable For Solar? (6-Step Checklist)

Your 6-Step Checklist For Assessing Your Home's Solar Suitability

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Your Solar Suitability Checklist

On roofs across the country, more and more solar panels are being used to power American homes.

This leaves many people wondering, “Is my home suitable for solar?”.

In this article, we will describe in detail what makes a home a good candidate for solar.

Ultimately, the factors of a good roof for solar follow a simple 6 step checklist:

  1. Good Location for Solar
  2. Correct Roof Direction
  3. Minimal Shade Coverage
  4. Minimal Cloud Coverage
  5. Appropriate Roof Material
  6. Appropriate Roof Angle

If your roof has at least a few of these elements, it is a good idea to have a solar evaluation.

Location of Your House and Solar Panels

Location, location, location.

The key to getting the most solar power anywhere in the United States, is to have the solar panels facing the Equator, angled towards the Sun.

The beauty about solar energy is that you can generate solar power wherever the sun shines.

Although some areas of the world are better than others throughout the day and at different times of the year, most of the United States is suitable for solar power.

Every day, the Earth rotates fully on its axis, which is tilted at 23.5 degrees. The angle at which the Earth is exposed to the Sun creates the most year-long sunshine in areas around the Earth’s Equator.

Therefore, your home’s year-round solar potential increases the closer you are to the Earth’s equator.

This is why the Southern parts of the United States such as Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, and California have a tremendous amount of annual solar potential.

Best Positioning & Roof Direction For Solar Panels

The equator divides the worlds into two halves, the Northern Hemisphere above it and the Southern Hemisphere below it.

The United States is held entirely within the Northern Hemisphere. Therefore, the best direction for solar panels on homes in the United States to face is South.

As an example, let’s say you live in Los Angeles, California.

The burning question on your mind is…

“Is my house in the Hollywood Hills good for solar?”

In the best possible scenario, all of the solar panels on your roof face directly South.

But don’t fret!

Your house may still be a good candidate for solar if the roof faces East and West, as your roof will still receive direct sunlight throughout the day.

As the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, solar panels placed on a roof facing East will generate more solar power in the morning and solar panels on the West facing roof will generate more solar power in the afternoon hours.

Many homes are right for solar, even if the roof faces multiple directions.

If you are looking for a solar panel suitability checker, you can use Google’s Project Sunroof for a fast, quick and easy way to see the amount of sunlight that hits the roof of your house every day.

How Much Shade Coverage Does Your Home Have?

Even if the location and the direction of your roof are perfect, your house still may not be a good candidate for solar due to shade coverage.

Unfortunately, some roofs are totally or partially covered with shade for parts or all of the day.

Without the sunlight being able to reach the roof directly, solar energy cannot be produced when there are obstructions between a solar panel and the sun.

In some cases, there may be an obtrusive part of your house or a neighboring building that blocks the sunlight from hitting your solar panels, but most commonly, homeowners have a tree in their front or back yard that is partially or totally casting shade onto the roof of the house.

Trees can be cut down, of course, but the decision to remove a tree in order to make a house right for solar is a bit of a dilemma.

On one hand, tree removal can be expensive and you may enjoy the shade that your tree provides. Additionally, trees produce oxygen, which is good for the environment, just like solar panels.

However, if it is possible to remove a small part of a tree in order to make your house a good candidate for solar, then the investment may be worth it to have the tree trimmed.

How Much Cloud Coverage Does Your Home Have?

Beyond the immediate vicinity of your house, there is another common obstruction that creates shade and limits solar potential: Cloud Coverage.

Clouds limit the amount of power that a solar panel can produce.

Solar panels only generate between 10-25% of potential solar power on days when it is cloudy.

Areas with lower cloud coverage are best for solar, areas that experience high levels of cloud coverage or fog have less chance to produce solar energy in the most efficient way.

However, even in the cloudiest cities in the United States like Seattle, Washington, roofs can be suitable for solar panels.

It all depends on the amount of electricity that you need.

Cities like Las Vegas, Nevada make it easy to choose solar for your roof.

With an average of 294 sunny days each year, the chance that a house is suitable for solar panels is very high in Las Vegas, as more sunlight means more hours of the day in which solar energy can be generated, used, or stored.

All in all, an obvious but important factor to know if your house is a good candidate for solar panels is simple: less clouds are better for solar energy.

Is Your Roof’s Material Suitable For Solar?

There are many types of roofs, but not all of them are suitable for solar panels.

Thankfully, in cities and suburbs throughout the United States, most roof types will work with solar.

So, if you are wondering…

“Is my roof good for solar?”

Then it probably is.

Roofs made of:

  • Asphalt,
  • Clay,
  • Tile,
  • Slate
  • Rubber
  • Metal

…are great for solar panels.

You might be surprised to know that even roofs made of wood shake or thatch can also hold solar panels.

However, this is sometimes not practiced, as the material used to roof the house has the potential to catch fire and would be a safety hazard for the building and its inhabitants.

Solar good, fire bad.

It is also very important that a good roof for solar is free of obstructions.

In order for a solar panel to be properly installed on a roof, it must be racked on a surface that is free of interfering objects.

Most commonly, solar panels are prohibited from being installed due to a large number of skylights, air vents, or chimneys.

Although it may not look as organized as a symmetrical system, solar panels can be placed around the obstructions of roof, making your house good for solar.

Is Your Roof Angle Suitable For Solar?

To get a bit more precise into the measurement of whether or not solar is right for your home, the angle of your roof may play a small factor in the equation.

In a perfect situation, the angle of your roof matches the latitude of your location perfectly, so that you receive the maximum amount of sun exposure on your solar panels throughout the year.

The latitude of Los Angeles is approximately 34 degrees North.

Therefore, a solar panel facing south, angled at 34 degrees will produce the most solar power.

The typical angle, or pitch of a roof, in the United States generally falls between 24 degrees and 38 degrees. As the latitude of Los Angeles fits right into that range, this means that generally, most standard roof pitches are good for solar.

Of course, not all roofs are made equal. Some roofs are flat.

Don’t get it twisted, though.

Flat roofs do not prevent a homeowner from going solar, as solar panels can be installed and raised to the best angle to receive sunlight.

If your roof is not a good material for solar, does not face the right direction, or is covered by shade, there is always an option for a mounted system somewhere else on the property.

A ground-mounted solar system makes it possible to generate solar power for a house that does not have a roof that is suitable for solar energy.

Get a Solar Evaluation

If you have read all of this information and tested a few online solar panel suitability checkers and still wonder, “is my house good for solar?”, then it may be time to talk to an expert.

Getting a full, professional solar evaluation is truly the best way to learn if you can have solar panels on your roof.

Whereas solar companies are highly competitive in a booming industry, it is always important to get multiple opinions on the cost and size of the solar panel system for your roof.

This should go without saying, but…

Electricity can be very dangerous.

If you are planning on installing solar panels yourself, it is also advised to speak to a master electrician or solar expert before wiring everything together.

Ultimately, if you want to know if your roof is good for solar check for these few things:

Even if your roof isn’t perfect, there is a pretty good chance that it is still a good candidate for solar.

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