When you’re installing solar panels, you want to be confident you’re being set up to maximise the value you’re going to get from that investment. In order to do so, you need as much sun to hit your panels as possible.
For this reason, most solar panels in Australia are installed facing north. However many experts argue that east-west facing solar panels better align with when most Australians use electricity – in the morning and afternoon.
With feed-in tariffs having dropped significantly over the past decade and electricity prices having risen, aligning your solar generation with the times you use electricity could be more important than ever.
North vs east-west facing solar panels
Solar panels have traditionally been installed facing north in Australia because this will maximise the amount of sunlight that hits them all year round.
However if you’re not using much electricity during the day when the sun is hitting your panels, or if you don’t have a battery to store that electricity, you’ll be exporting it back to the grid and probably getting very little in return for it.
In contrast, east-west facing solar panels will generate more electricity earlier and later in the day. However they’ll only perform at 85% efficiency compared to their north-facing counterparts.
Even so, experts have crunched the numbers and report that an average-sized solar system facing east-west could reduce the amount of power a household needs to buy by 4-5%.
East-west facing solar panels have the regulator’s seal of approval
Another argument in favour of east-west facing solar panels is that they would help spread rooftop solar generation across the day which would help the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) manage the electricity grid.
Over 2.3 million Australian households currently have solar panels on the roof and most of them are sending their excess solar power to the grid in the middle of the day. At the same time they’re not using any grid energy which means there’s an imbalance between electricity supply and demand.
East-west facing solar systems would generate electricity earlier and later in the day which would help spread this influx of solar power and help the regulators manage the grid.
Can I have north and east-west facing solar panels?
Ultimately, the optimal configuration of your solar system will depend on how you use electricity in relation to your solar production. This might be a combination of north and east-west facing panels.
It’s also worth looking at your energy rates and solar feed-in tariff (the rate you’re paid for the solar power you export back to the grid).
For example, WA recently introduced a time-of-export feed-in tariff which pays more for solar power that’s exported between 3pm and 9pm than it does for solar at other times of the day. In this case, west-facing solar panels would help you capitalise on the higher feed-in tariffs later in the day.
The most comprehensive solution: get a solar battery
Regardless of which direction your solar panels face, the best way to beat declining feed-in tariffs and rising energy costs is to maximise your use of solar power with a battery. That way you can store your excess solar power and run your home on solar energy day and night.
Plus, getting a battery when you get solar panels is the most cost-effective time to do it. This is because you’ll cut out extra installation costs and combine the two components’ payback into one, shorter payback period.
Our solar and battery system can pay for itself in 7 years*
Designed specifically for households adding solar panels and a battery at the same time, our solar and battery package brings world-leading, tier 1 solar panels together with an Australian-designed battery solution in one streamlined, cost-effective package.
The package comes in a range of sizes depending on your energy needs, household set-up and budget. Plus there are financing options available so you can start saving with your solar and battery system now, and pay it off over time.
If you already have solar, but want to add a battery, check out our solar battery package.
*This scenario is the 6.6kW system and a mid sized battery (7kWh). Assuming typical generation in Victoria and assuming battery gets cycled 90% of the time at 90% depth, solar savings are estimated at $1,734 ($0.20 average value of the solar generated, which could be 10c FiT and 30c usage rate at 50/50% as an example). Battery savings would be an additional $440 per annum, for total savings of $2,174.