What’s Your Angle, Bud?
Well, I was out admiring the Enterprise again and noticed that the sun at noon was not even remotely perpendicular to the solar panels, which were too close to horizontal to be very efficient. A panel that’s markedly out of position in relation to the sun presents a smaller surface area to it, and captures less light. The limited daylight of the winter sun is bad enough, and so is the inability to physically follow it across the sky. Why waste it further by having the basic panel tilt way off?
I looked up the seasonal data for my latitude, which is just shy of 33 degrees above the equator. Turns out the recommended panel winter angle for my location is about 53 degrees off horizontal, and that’s with a bias toward the top of the sun’s arc, where the sunlight is strongest. I ran outside with the iPad and held it up under one panel, matching its angle. An app called Clinometer HD showed that the panel was at 38 degrees, which is isn’t even appropriate for spring or fall. Oops! Time to try to get the panel angles closer to being right.
Well, oops again. The telescoping poles I use to hold up one end of each panel start like at 5 feet, which with support hardware adds half a foot to that. What’s needed is an extending pole which starts life at 4 feet. They do exist – just not in my world at present. I was not about to start trying to disassemble and hacksaw a pole just to see if it could be shortened today, so I started moving the bottom end toward the trailer. Unhappily, it went quite a bit in before the panel angle got even close to position. So for the time being, I now have each pole end in a divot, with the “insurance” stake driven into the ground and secured with the pole end’s rope and clip. I’m not sure how much wind pressure this cobbled-up “solution” will take, but I can say that this won’t do, long term.
Still, you can imagine the losses a panel mounted flat on an RV’s roof would suffer. Many rooftop adjustables around here don’t have quite the reach to get to the optimum winter angle here, but they’re close enough. The one good thing about this Rube Goldberg system I have is that there’s no need to climb a ladder and stumble around on the roof!