Overview of 3 types of solar panel array mounts

Once you've made the decision to have solar panels installed, you'll need to decide on the method in which the panels or arrays are mounted. There are different types of mounts, each offering varying levels of energy production. The type of panel or array mount that you choose should reflect your budget, the amount of shadow your residence receives during the day and how much energy you need to produce in order to run your home. In this article, you'll learn about fixedadjustable and tracking solar mounts as well as where to place the mounts once you've purchased them.

Types of solar panel array mounts

Fixed solar panel mounts

Fixed panel mounts don't move. They remain stationary. Given that, these mounts need to be positioned correctly to absorb as much light from the sun as possible. Usually, that means the mounts should be set to point the panels or arrays toward the equator. Fixed mounts are the simplest system available and therefore cost much less than other mountings. That said, this type of mount offers the least flexibility. Because you can't easily change its angle, the amount of sunlight that it can absorb is limited. Plus, as the earth's orbit changes throughout the year, the inability to modify the position of the mount (and thus, the panels) to the varying angle of the sun limits the amount of energy absorption.

Adjustable solar panel mounts

Adjustable panel and array mountings provide more flexibility than fixed mounts. As the seasons change, their position can be altered to compensate for the sun's angle. For example, during the winter, the sun appears from a lower angle. An adjustable mount can be repositioned to maximize the panels' exposure and the level of energy absorbed. Then, during the summer when the sun's angle is higher, the mounting can be repositioned accordingly. By modifying the inclination of the panel mounts, the solar output of the panels can be increased by over 25%.

Tracking solar panel mounts

Arguably, the most efficient mountings available are tracking mounts. They follow the sun throughout the day to absorb the most energy possible. They're available as a single-axis or double-axis system. The former will track the trajectory of the sun as it rises and sets during the day. The latter will do the same but also automatically compensate for the sun's changing angle throughout the year. The drawback to a tracking mount is the cost. They're expensive. While they provide up to 30% more solar output than adjustable and fixed mountings, they can cost thousands of dollars. Some people prefer to simply buy additional solar panels and place them on adjustable mounts rather than invest in trackers.

Where to place the mounts

Once you've decided on a type of solar panel mount, you'll need to find a place for them. If you put the mounts on your roof, you'll typically be limited to fixed mountings. Adjustable and tracking mounts require poles to allow the arrays to change direction. If possible, try to place your mountings where shadows won't inhibit the panel's ability to absorb sunlight during peak hours (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). Also, allow a bit of room between the panels. The air flow will help the panels remain cool while basking in the sun and make them less-susceptible to strong winds.

Deciding on a solar panel system and the type of mountings you'll need requires planning for both the short-term and long-term. But, once your entire system is installed, you can enjoy the freedom of knowing you have a reliable and cost-effective energy source for your home.