East facing solar panels

East facing solar panels are still an option if you don't have a north or south orientation. There are an equal number of PVs beyond the gable in the graphic above; you need a lot extra.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 26th November, 2018.

By Bernard Preston

My initial, and frankly naive, thoughts were that you should not even make a start if you didn't have a roof that wasn't directed in the north south orientation.

Not so; I saw many homes in Holland with either east or west facing PV panels. The difference is that you have to have a lot more of them.

The home above has 9 large visible east facing panels, and an equal number beyond the gable; I would estimate about 6kW in total. What is surprising is how they go on producing, albeit reduced amounts, long after midday.

This is far beyond the average home's morning requirement, so the surplus is pumped back into the grid. I did notice an electric car in the driveway being charged. In effect they are using that VW battery in their GTE as storage for their surplus energy; one can even use the energy stored in that car battery in your home overnight; it becomes a part of the whole scheme. 

Grid tied residential solar power is certainly an option and with battery prices dropping the overall plan is continually shifting and adapting.

We use up that surplus to power the swimming pool motor and chlorinator during the day.

East facing solar panels

East facing solar panels give early morning power for your coffee.

If you have only north or south facing panels, as most homes do, then there is too little power in the early morning and late afternoon, and an excess in the middle of the day.

Have struggled with this issue for several years, I have come to the conclusion that it's best to have about 60% of your panels facing due south, if you live in the northern hemisphere.

Then the idea is to have another 20% facing east, or perhaps SE, and another twenty percent west or SW.

Then you will have all the panels functioning to give you a balance for the greater need in the early morning and late afternoon when meals are being cooked.

Yes, by using the highly efficient induction stove which uses 60 percent less energy, you can cook at less than optimal times of the day.

Personally I haven't put up east facing panels yet because of a row of high trees on our boundary specifically planted there to block out a neighbouring office block. They may come yet; ideally it should as we don't have enough power in the early morning for breakfast. 

Don't get caught in the trap that I did, thinking that solar power generators are only for lights and computers. If you have four or more kilowatts of panels, and a large enough inverter you can do anything with solar that the mains grid will do.

Only my welder am I reluctant to use with our solar powered generator; I fear that the arcing may stress the inverter unnecessarily. It's the most expensive item on your shopping list and to risk damaging it for a few dollars of grid power doesn't make much sense.

This may be an unnecessary fear as the new inverter welders don't draw nearly as much power as the old devices, immersed in oil.

In short, a combination of west and east facing solar panels to supplement the main arrays of north or south PVs is the best option.

Actually I've opted for the first best option; three mobile panels that I can turn from the east in the morning, to the north at midday, and the west in the late afternoon.

How diodes work

How diodes work is particularly important when you have several arrays of panels facing in different directions; that means the voltages generated will be markedly different. It is unusual to have east facing solar panels, but I wish I had 20% of my grid collecting early morning sunshine; therein lies the next upgrade.

Then one array will bully another, reversing the current and incurring losses.

So, if you have south and east facing solar panels for example, in parallel, they should have diodes to prevent a reverse of the current flow; not that this is recommended. Each should have its own MPPT.

Some vague understanding of how diodes work is important if you are going to venture out into building your own solar farm. I've learnt these lessons the hard way.

Even if you have arrays both facing in the same direction, if they generate different voltages both should have stud diodes protecting the weaker array.

The angle of your panels

Solar panels are usually installed for maximum efficiency close to the latitude of where you live; these panels are much steeper because of the roof. That means they are very successful in the early morning, but much less so for the rest of the day.

There are many compromises that have to be considered if you are determined to have west or east facing solar panels. In total it takes perhaps ten minutes, probably less, to turn and adjust the angle each day; then you can have your cake and eat it!

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Bernard Preston

Bernard Preston is a semi retired chiropractor with a passion for leaving a habitable world behind for our children's children. That doesn't mean having east facing solar panels, but it is a consideration if your home is not oriented in a north-south direction.

It's a moot point whether reducing our dependence on coal and oil fired generators or doing our level best to wean off plastic; both should be done.

Plastic of course is dependent on oil in any case.

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