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Suited for Solar? A Solar Pathfinder Can Tell You

As we’ve discussed, many factors go into determining the return-on-investment of your solar panels. A solar PV installer is the best one to tell you how much you can really save with a solar PV array on your home. Not only do these professionals have years of industry knowledge and experience, but they also have special tools to help them.

One item in a solar installer’s toolkit is a solar pathfinder. It’s easy enough, on a sunny day, to look up and see exactly where the sun hits and what parts of your roof may be in the shade (due to trees, other buildings, or even your own home — for example, if you have multiple peaks and turrets, like on a Victorian-style home). But to get a true gauge of how much sunlight your roof, and subsequently, your solar panels, would receive each day, year-round, you’d have to stand outside from dawn until dusk every day for a year. Instead, you could call a solar installer, who would use a solar pathfinder to gather the same data in just a few minutes.

What Is a Solar Pathfinder?
A solar pathfinder is an instrument that, using a reflective surface in conjunction with a sunpath diagram, shows exactly where and when the sun will shine on a site, at any time of day, any day of the year. The tool is all manual, not electronic, but the manufacturer also sells software that permits users to make calculations not subject to human error, and even to project the sunpath if they can’t physically place a solar pathfinder on the roof.

Why Do I Need a Solar Installer?
A solar pathfinder is not difficult to use, but lack of experience with the device could lead to errors. A solar installer will analyze the data to its logical conclusion and let you know, in plain language, whether or not your home is a good candidate for reducing your electric bills with solar energy. The device will also show the installer exactly where to place the panels for maximum efficiency.

You could easily have your solar PV array installed without knowing a thing about a solar pathfinder. But if you see your solar installer climb onto your roof with an odd-looking spherical device, you might be curious. Now you know… it’s just one of the tools of the solar trade that helps your solar PV installer ensure you are getting the best value for your money with a solar PV array.

Post Written by
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation to pass before installing solar panels on her Long Island home.

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