Go to the position where you are planning to put your home solar power systems and find due south with a compass. Looking from the same height as your proposed location, and working from east to west, you need to check that there are no obstacles, such as trees or buildings that can obscure the sun at its lowest winter height.
To do this, you will need to find out what position the sun rises and sets at different times of the year. Thankfully, this is easy to find out.
The easiest way to identify potential obstructions is to use a protractor and tape a pencil to the centre of the protractor where all the lines meet, in such a way that the other end of the pencil can be moved across the protractor, as shown below:
You can use this protractor to check the field of view, using the pencil as an ‘aimer’ to show the angle of the sun in the sky based on different times of the year.
Be very careful not to look directly at the sun, even for a few moments, whilst you are carrying out this survey. Even in the middle of winter ‘retina burn’ can cause permanent damage to your eyesight. Your survey needs to ensure there are no obstacles in the depths of winter when the sun is only a few degrees up in the sky.
In the case of London, on the 21st December the sun will be only 15 half deg high at midday (at due south) and lower than that for the rest of the day.
If there are obstacles that are blocking visibility of the sun, you need to try and find another location, or find other ways around the obstacle – such as mounting the solar array higher up on a frame.
Of course, if you don’t need your solar power system to produce much power during the winter months this may not be a problem for you. However, you should always make sure that there are no obstacles that can shade your system for the times of year you need your DIY solar panels to work.
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Useful information Solar power systems:
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