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How Many Solar Panels Can I Fit on My Roof: Simple Calculations

How many solar panels can I fit on my roof for high efficiency? How much can roof hold? Are there restrictions and proper measurements? We'll answer these questions below.
Last updatedLast updated: August 11, 2022
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Whether you’re concerned about the rising cost of energy or want to have a greener home, solar panels could provide the solution. However, you won’t get the desired results if you don’t have adequate panels on your roof. This is often an area where many homeowners become a  little overwhelmed. There is a fine line between having as many panels as possible to create the most energy and not overloading your roof. So, what’s the answer to how much solar can I fit on my roof?

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to work out how many panels you can accommodate on your home. While there are a number of factors to consider, once you are familiar with these, you’ll be able to find the optimum number. So, here we’ll delve into how many solar panels can I fit on my roof.

What to Consider before Power Calculations?

Before you begin thinking about generating 100% power for your home, which according to many residents is 20 to 24 panels, there are some things you need to consider. This will help you to calculate not only your roof area and restrictions, but also your budget to find that sweet spot.

Roof size and incline

How Many Solar Panels Can I Fit on My Roof: Simple Calculations

Obviously, the size of your roof will impact how many solar panels you will be able to install. There is no point in buying the best solar panels and then crowding your roof so much that they cannot work efficiently.

Ideally, the solar panels will be installed at a 40 degree pitch. If it is not possible, you will need to consider other possibilities to maximize the installation. So, when you’re measuring yuo need to only think about areas that can accommodate the solar panels. For example, if you have a narrower pitch on one area of the roof, don’t include this in your measurements. However, if you have a full run of 40 degree pitch roofing, you can measure the length along this side to where the roof ends.

To calculate your roof size, you will need three measurements. Firstly, you’ll need the height of the highest point of the roof to the joists (A), next, the distance from the horizontal apex at joint level to the eaves of the roof (B)and finally the length of the roof apex (C).

Once you have these measurements you will need to use the formula: A2+B2= X, then calculate CxX to find the overall area of the roof. This will not be your final available space figure, as you will need to deduct 12 inches from the edge of the roof as you would have difficulty using this space to accommodate solar panels.

Roof’s weight capacity

While the size of your roof is an important factor, the weight capacity of your roof is also vital. Although the weight can vary from panel to panel, the majority of residential modules can weigh approximately 40 pounds each. So, you need to ensure that your roof can support your new solar panels.

There are three elements of your roof that you’ll need to consider to determine its weight capacity. Firstly, you need to assess the roof structure and have it carefully examined, which may require a structural analysis. The age of your roof will also be a factor. Solar panels typically have a lifespan of approximately 25 years. The best solar panels may last even longer. Therefore, your roof must be able to withstand the weight of the panels for those years. If your roof is approaching the end of its life, you would need to replace, repair or reinforce the roof before you can install your solar panels.

Finally, you need to consider the roofing material. Different materials have different weight supporting capacities. For example, a plastic roof is lightweight and an installation would require drilling which could compromise the load bearing capacity. On the other hand, concrete tiles or metal roofs can support high loads.

If your roof does have limited weight capacity, you will need to consider lighter weight solar panels, such as Renogy 100-Watt Solar Panels, but this may also limit the output compared to standard panels.

Sun and shades

Another important consideration before you make your power calculation is sun exposure and shade Trusted Source Average Annual Sunshine by USA State - Current Results Yearly averages for the number of sunny days, hours a day and percentage of time the sun shines in each US state. www.currentresults.com . Ideally, the panels should be on south, south west or south east facing roofs. As your panels move further from these orientations, they will be less effective.

However, this is not the only important consideration. You will also need to assess areas of the roof that are shaded. This could be where the chimney will cast a shadow at different times of the day or if there are trees or other shade creating obstacles that will decrease the amount of solar energy you will be able to produce.

Budget

The final thing you will need to consider is your budget. While cost should not be the primary consideration, it is an important thing to factor into your planning. Although you may be able to earn money back in the form of savings or benefit from Federal Tax Incentives, you will still need to outlay the cash initially.

The average cost of a solar panel installation is $16,000, but this depends on the number and size of the panels. If you are on a more modest budget, you may need to start small with an RV style solar panel system like the Zamp KIT1009 or the best flexible solar panels.

Bear in mind that the return on your investment for installing solar panels will not be immediate. Even if you can generate 100% of your energy requirement, it will still take 10 years or more to recoup your installation costs. So, you will need to weigh up installation cost vs savings to determine the affordability for you.

How Much Solar Power Can Roof Generate?

How Many Solar Panels Can I Fit on My Roof: Simple Calculations

Once you know the available space on your roof that can accommodate solar panels, you need to start thinking about how much solar power your roof could generate.

To start you will need to determine your electricity needs. This will help you to see if the solar power you could generate Trusted Source U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis Energy Information Administration – EIA – Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government www.eia.gov would be more or less that your typical energy needs. You can calculate the annual energy usage for your home using your electricity bills. While the national average electricity consumption is often quoted in articles and news reports, your usage will depend on how many appliances you have, the number of people in your home and other factors.

So, pull out your previous electricity bills and check to see your typical consumption. Bear in mind that your consumption will vary from month to month and season to season. Many energy companies provide a report of your previous consumption, so even if you can’t find all your bills from the previous year, you should be able to piece together your typical annual consumption.

Once you know how much energy you need, you can then work out “how much solar power can my roof generate.”

A good example of this is if you work from home. Many people are moving towards working from home, but this can have a massive impact on your energy consumption. If you tend to go out to work, you won’t be using power for your computers, media and even heating or air conditioning for the majority of the day. When you’re at home, you could be running your HVAC system 24/7.

Roof space on panels’ dimensions

Another thing you need to be aware of is that there are solar panels of different sizes that produce different amounts of energy. The common sizes of solar panels include 60 cell, 72 cell and 90 cell panels. However, you will need to research preferred brand and model measurements. This will impact “how many solar panels will fit on my roof”, for example, a Panasonic solar panel may not be the same size as one made by LG.

You’ll need to pay attention to specific measurements, particularly if you want to install the largest number of panels on your roof. The average size of a solar panel is three feet by five feet. This will allow you to have a rough estimate of how many panels you can accommodate.

Consider sun peak hours

The peak sun hours or the amount of sunlight you have in your area will need to be factored into your solar panel calculations. Peak hours refers to the amount of intense sunlight the panels will receive each day.

For example, in California, you can expect up to 7.5 peak sun hours per day, while in Florida, it may be an average of 4 peak hours. While this may not seem like a massive difference, you need to think in terms of the peak hours per month. So, when you multiply the peak sun hours per day by 30, California could provide 225 peak sun hours per month compared to 120 in Florida. This demonstrates the significant difference, so it is important to check the amount of peak sunlight you would receive in your area.

You will need to know this information, so you can calculate how much energy your panels will produce during peak hours.

Calculating the Energy Output

While this may seem a little daunting, calculating the energy output of your new solar panels is actually quite simple. Every manufacturer will rate their panels for how many watts it will produce. However, since home energy is measured in kilowatts, you will need to divide the watts by 1,000.

So, if you are installing ten 285 watt modules, each one will produce 0.285 Kw of electricity to create a total output of 2.85 kw.

In case you’ll need more

If you do find that you can accommodate more solar panels after your initial installation, this may still be possible. It is a good idea to install the same panels as your original installation where possible for aesthetic and power output matches. However, if this is not possible, you should look for panels that have a similar output.

You will also need to check if your inverter is large enough to manage the additional panels. Depending on how much capacity you’re adding to the system, you may need to replace the inverter. The central inverter is based on the power output of the panels, converting the DC electricity produced by the panels to AC, which you can use in your home.

It is also a good idea to speak to your original installer. Most installers do add on projects, and they are familiar with your property and system, so they will be best equipped to add more solar panels to the original installation. However, if working with your original installer is not possible, you will need to shop around. Some installation companies don’t like adding on to an existing system due to potential disputes and conflicting warranties. But, it is still possible to find installers who are willing to add on to your system if you’re adding quite a few new panels.

Final Thoughts

So, now you are aware that “How many solar panels can I fit on my roof” is not the only consideration if you’re thinking about installing a solar system. If you want to maximize the efficiency and performance of your new system, it is well worth taking the time to assess your requirements, the available space on your roof and whether your roof can accommodate the panels, in addition to the performance and size of the specific panels. This will ensure that your new system offers the best possible performance and can offer green energy for your home for many years to come.

References

1.
Average Annual Sunshine by USA State - Current Results
Yearly averages for the number of sunny days, hours a day and percentage of time the sun shines in each US state.
2.
U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Energy Information Administration – EIA – Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government
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