Imagine: You're at home one morning, browsing your notifications. Out of the blue, there's a knock at the door so you pry yourself out of your comfy spot on the couch to go check it out. Upon opening the door you find a stack of tall thin boxes. Your solar panels finally arrived. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye.
But now what?
If you’ve never owned solar panels you’re likely wondering how to go about setting them up. Lucky for you, you've come to the right place. We’re going to walk through how you can set up your solar panels in 6 easy steps using only your smartphone.
Step 1: Find Your Latitude
Start with a quick internet search to find your latitude. You’ll get the most accurate results if you search for the name of your city (or a city nearby if you’re off-grid). You should see two numbers pop up. The one you want will be the one followed by an N (if you're north of the equator) or S (if you're south).
I live in Pocatello, Idaho, and according to the internet, our latitude is 42° N. That means that my panel needs to be angled at 42° from the ground. Your panel angle will need to match your latitude.
Step 2: Download a Level App
iPhones come with a pre-installed app called Measure, which includes a level, so that's what I'm using. If your phone doesn’t already have one, you can download a level app for free from the App Store or Google Play Store.
Step 3: Get in Position
Lay your panel flat on the ground and face it at the sun so that it doesn’t cast a shadow on either side. Place your phone face-up and flat on top of your panel with the level app open.
This picture shows an example of what your app might look like if the panel is flat on the ground, but if your panel isn’t that’s ok. The starting position of the panel won't affect its final position.
Step 4: Raise the Panel
You may want to enlist some help for this step. With your phone still on the panel, slowly raise one side of your panel so that the front of the panel is facing the sun. As the panel is raised you’ll notice the angle on your phone increase.
Step 5: Let the App Be Your Guide
Keep an eye on the app as you (or your assistant) raise the panel and watch for the sweet spot where the angle on your phone matches your latitude. It may take some finagling, but don't give up! Try to be as accurate as you can.
Step 6: Lock it In
Your panel is now facing directly at the sun and we don't want to waste all that hard work. You may have a panel stand (like the one shown below) or panels that stand up on their own. You can even just prop the panel up against something. However you do it, make sure to secure your panel.
Bonus Step: Enjoy A Cold Drink
In case you were wondering, this step is mandatory. If you have more panels to set up, repeat the previous five steps until all of your panels are correctly angled. Once you’re done, celebrate with a cold drink of your choice (mine’s orange juice).