To tilt or not to tilt?

When you’re ordering solar PV for your roof, is it better to have them flat on the roof or on a tilt-frame, pointing towards the sun?

I was on the roof of a house in Trafalgar St, Annandale, last week, cleaning the 10-year-old panels of an early solar adopter who was unable to climb a ladder herself.

The eight 295-watt Sunpower panels were in excellent condition but they did need a clean, as you can see from the colour of my cleaning cloth!

These panels were on a tilt frame.

I would argue there are four reasons why it’s better to have solar panels tilted towards the sun rather than flat on the roof. (Which direction you point them is another issue, but generally installers point them north at the sun, or north and west to generate more power in the afternoon.)

First, if your panels are on an angle towards the sun they generate more power than if they’re flat.

Second, if they’re tilted they will stay cleaner because when it rains the water will flow off the panels faster, making them self-cleaning.

Third, if the panels are on a tilt frame there’s more air circulating around them, so the panels won’t get so hot. Cooler panels generate more power.

Fourth, and this is rather subjective, I think having panels tilted towards the sun looks better. To me, pointing your panels towards the sun highlights the fact that we’re connecting with the sun’s light to generate energy, and we want to harness every last drop of sunshine. I think they look cool.

There are times when it’s not possible to put solar panels on a tilt frame, such as when the roof space is limited and your can’t space out the panels as is required to minimise shading when they’re on a frame.

Oh, and if you’re a solar household and you’re wandering around the Bunnings cleaning section and you see the product they have that’s marketed as something specifically to clean solar panels, don’t waste your money. Warm water (don’t put cold water on hot panels; indeed don’t do this job in the middle of the day) is all you need. Solar panel manufacturers urge us not to use any chemicals as they can damage the seals and the protective coating on the glass. ashing liquid with a soft cloth are all you need. Don’t use a scourer.

Gavin Gilchrist

0407 663 125

Clean Panels!

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