Most solar experts will tell you facing south produces the most solar power. This is generally true in most cases, however new studies show turning toward the western sky actually produces more energy in the late afternoon – when the grid can benefit the most from the extra power. A field study conducted last year of 50 homes with solar verified and advantage during this time period when facing west. Many experts are starting to notice, in September the California Energy Commission announced a $500 incentive for the installation of west-facing panels on new homes. We don’t have this incentive yet in New Jersey but the advantage of creating more power in the late afternoon is still there.
Throughout the sunniest hours of the day, a huge majority of solar homes produce more power than they consume. And in more than 40 states, their utility provider pays them for the excess power. It’s estimated that on an average day, 90% of solar homes in NJ export electricity to the grid. That’s why an average NJ solar home’s consumption of grid electricity goes negative for a few hours in the middle of the day.
Solar homes tend to send the most power back to the grid around noon when the sun is at it’s strongest. This is also generally the time of day when no one is home using power. Between 11am and 1pm on a typical day, a solar home produces enough electricity to power both itself and the neighbors home during those hours.
This fact highlights the enormous benefit of installing a home battery system. A home battery stores the power produced in excess of what’s being used, in this case it would be storing practically everything for use later on when the panels are producing less and your using more. This strategy would greatly reduce your reliance on grid power to supplement your power usage.
Facing west does come with an inherent drawback. Missing out on sunlight that beams down from the non-western sky earlier in the day results in generally produce 10-20% less total electricity than south-facing panels over the course of a year. Most solar homes today aren’t, for obvious reasons, willing to make that west-facing sacrifice.
What does all this mean for your home? If you can face all your panels to the south, then you should. You’ll produce the maximum amount of power possible and when paired with a home battery system you’ll have plenty of power for later on when the panels are producing less. But if your home faces west you can still get great benefits from solar, especially in the late afternoon when your actually using power the most.