Sunday, October 2, 2011

Solar Pathfinder -- Using It To Find The Best Position To Install Your Solar Panels

The Solar Pathfinder is a standard shade analysis tool. You can use it to find out exactly where the shadows will be at particular times of the day or year. The data is in graphical form, so you can make sense of it at one glance.

With a Solar Pathfinder, you can instantly locate the best position to install your solar panel. Experts recommend that solar panels should be exposed to unobstructed sunshine during the crucial period (from 9am to 3pm) so they can be fully utilized to generate electricity for the household. This can be done by placing your solar panels in a spot where there is little or no shading during this crucial period. The easiest way to do this is to use a Solar Pathfinder.

Another popular tool is the Solmetric Suneye. This instrument is rather user friendly, but is much more expensive than the Solar Pathfinder. This will set you back by at least $1,500...yet there is a cheaper option.

Why Do We Need To Use A Solar Pathfinder?

A proper instrument like a Solar Pathfinder can save you lots of time and guesswork. Moreover it is reasonably easy to use and is affordable.

If we do not use any instrument to determine shadow positions, we'll need to observe their movement from dawn to dusk -- this is certainly not an efficient use of time. This is a waste of time! Moreover, these positions shift (slightly) through different seasons because of how the earth rotates around the sun.

But why do we care so much about the extent of shading? You may not realize this, but the effect of shading is devastating to solar energy production. Even if your solar panel is slightly covered under a shadow, the power output can drop drastically.

Consider this...if you shade only one solar cell out of the entire solar panel, your energy production is likely to drop by a third. If you'll only cover a row of photovoltaic cells, your electricity output reduces by a huge 90%. This means your solar panels have virtually stopped working!

Therefore when installing your solar panels, shading is your first and most important concern.

But is it worthwhile to use a solar pathfinder? Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we could determine shadow positions without the use of a scientific instrument... In fact, the additional electricity you'll be able to generate quickly covers the cost of the Solar Pathfinder. This is especially true for large systems.

After all, you've invested money and effort on your solar cells, batteries and inverters... Are you going to sacrifice a potentially significant part of its energy output just to save a few bucks? I hope not!

In case you are thinking of installing solar panels without a Solar Pathfinder, drop the idea as soon as possible. Because guesswork will eventually cost you dearly! You may be concerned about the cost...or you may be worried about the complexity of the instrument. The fact is this instrument only costs $249 and you'll probably take only 15 minutes to learn how to use it.

Whatever it is, if you're without a Solar Pathfinder, I'm confident of this -- you cannot even begin your installation... Without this instrument, you'll be lost!

To use a Solar Pathfinder, you simply have to bring it to the spot you feel is most suitable for installation. Then you will have to level the instrument and point it in the right direction using an in-built compass. The plastic dome will show you a paranomic view of the entire area together with the regions affected by shading over different times of the day or year.

You can record your readings by using a wax pencil (or grease pen) to outline the shape formed by the shadow. You can also use your digital camera to take a snap shot. (I prefer the second approach - it's instantaneous!)

The effects of shading are exceedingly damaging to solar energy production. Therefore you have to eliminate the guesswork -- which can be very costly -- and use a scientific approach to put up your solar panels. Among all known techniques, the easiest and cheapest way is to use a Solar Pathfinder.


John Greenspan is an expert in do-it-yourself solar panels and has build several solar power generators over the years. Are you interested in building DIY Solar panels? Pick up your FREE "How To Build Solar Panels" eBook at =>

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