Question: What Direction Should Solar Panels Face?

Imagine you're in the process of installing solar panels to create a sustainable energy source for your home, school, business, etc. You would want to make sure you place the panels facing in the ideal direction so that they could collect as much solar energy as possible. How could you find out what direction will get you the optimal result? Do the experiment below and you can find out!

Materials Needed:

(Any of The Materials Highlighted in Blue are Clickable Links for Purchasing)

Magnetic compass

Empty tissue box


Pen and paper

4 outdoor/indoor thermometers

Sunny day

Sand (or other form of weight)


Plastic wrap



  1. Fill your empty tissue box with sand.
  2. Tape each of the four thermometers to the tissue box, one to each side, with all the bottoms facing the same direction.
  3. Tape a layer of plastic wrap over each thermometer using a square of equal size for each of them.


Solar Diagram


  1. Find a spot outside that you know will get sunlight all day.
  2. Try to wake up before the sun rises so that you can place your tissue box in this spot. Use your compass to find north, and rotate one side of your tissue box to face that direction. Label this side with an ‘N,’ and make sure to all the other sides with their corresponding directions on the compass.
  3. After the sun begins to rise, wait half an hour and look at the temperature for each thermometer. Record the time for each thermometer in a chart like this:
  4. Do this after every hour over the course of the day, until late in the afternoon (or until sunset, if you can wait that long!).
  5. Collect your tissue box and make a graph of temperatures using the data you collected. What’s the difference between the highest and lowest temperature thermometers? Is this surprising to you? Are the temperatures the same at dawn and sunset?


What data you get will depend on your latitude and what time of year it is, but if you’re in the United States you should see a higher overall temperature on the thermometer that faced south than the thermometer that faced north. Someone in the southern hemisphere would see a higher temperature on the thermometer facing north.

Posted by Isaac Fornari on 07 March, 2017 earth science projects, elementary, middle school |
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