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How to Calculate Your Peak Sun Hours


The holidays are upon us and across the nation, temperatures are rising on the West Coast and dropping on the East Coast. What this means to home owners is that air conditioning and heating costs will soar as more electricity is being consumed. For home owners with solar panels, they won’t experience this energy suck and drain on their bank account.  However, to keep up the savings and potential checks from the electric company for purchased energy credits, it’s imperative that homeowners know their peak sun hours and how to calculate them.

Determining Peak Sun Hours

Many home owners mistakenly assume that while their solar panels are absorbing sun half or even most of the day, this translates into the most stored energy. This contributes to home owners’ energy, but it’s not the most accurate representation of how much energy solar panels are producing.  Instead, it’s helpful to determine the hour or hours between which those sun panels are absorbing at least 1,000 watts per square meter.

Obviously, the sun changes positions in the sky depending on which coast a home owner is located on, how many hours of sun there is, and how intense the sun’s rays are.  We all learned from Twilight that Forks, Oregon has the least amount of sunlight per year.  This is an area that would be hard pressed to determine peak sun hours when the sun is out so rarely.

Consider the following elements that contribute to peak sun hours based on atmospheric conditions, location, position in the sky, time of day and more:

  • Time of Day: Solar noon is often considered the peak of solar radiation and peak sun hours. This is because the sun is highest in the sky. In contrast to sunrise and sunset, the sun is positioned at a low angle, filtering more sunlight and less energy being absorbed by solar panels.
  • Season: The hot months of summer and the higher position in the sky often increases peak sun hours.
  • Geography: Communities closer to the equator gain more solar energy due to their proximity to the sun.

Calculating Peak Sun Hours the Easy Way

Within the continental United States, most home owners can expect to receive between 3 and 5 peak sun hours.  This is based on location, seasonal sunlight, and the influence of atmospheric changes such as clouds and fog.  Some communities experience more hours of sunlight such as the West Coast and desert states such as Arizona compared to areas like Maine or New Hampshire, which experience more seasons than the West Coast.

Home owners are able to Google insolation maps and charts for more information, but an easier way to calculate specific home owners’ peak sun hours is really through an insolation meter.  An insolation meter is able to calculate temperature, light intensity and solar power supply to solar panels.

By determining peak sun hours, home owners are better able to make informed decisions on purchasing solar panels.  Use Top Tier Home Energy’s handy cost calculator to determine how much you can save.

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