James Elston

James Elston

Published May 31, 2024

Yes, solar panels can be installed on a north-facing roof. In the UK the ideal orientation for solar panel installation is typically a south-facing roof, followed by west or east. But, residents and business owners in the Northern Hemisphere should not be discouraged from installing solar panels if they have a north-facing roof.

This directionality means that there is a lower production of kWh compared to a south-facing roof. Thankfully there are several ways to optimise the output from your solar panels regardless of the direction. 

By optimising the scope angle, increasing the number of panels and combining it with other sources of renewable energy, solar panels can be installed on a north-facing roof. Solar panel installation on north-facing roofs is usually the same as any other roof. 

However, additional costs may be incurred if additional panels are required to meet energy requirements.

In this guide, we will discuss how the installation of solar panels on a north-facing roof can be done to achieve maximum efficiency. We will also cover, the costs, alternative options and installation processes associated with a roof of this orientation.

How Are Solar Panels Installed On A North Facing Roof?

The process for installing solar panels on a north-facing roof won’t differ much from a roof of any other orientation. However, these processes can vary when considering the following factors:

  • Roofing material: Certain kinds of materials such as wooden shingles, slate, clay or concrete tiles can’t withstand the insertion of mounting hooks. They crack or split when drilled into. In these instances, the tiles are removed from areas where brackets or hooks are installed, and replaced with a sturdier tile such as asphalt shingles.
    It’s important to note that thatched roofs, regardless of their directionality, are not considered ideal for solar panel installation as they pose a huge fire risk.
  • Type of roof/ angle of roof: Certain roof angles or types are better suited to solar panel installations, but it’s never impossible. If your roof is north-facing and not your run-of-the-mill shape, adjustments can be made to accommodate solar panels.
  • Shading over the roof: Any surrounding trees may need to be trimmed back to allow for as much sunlight as possible. Other immovable structures that are throwing shade on your roof for the majority of the day may pose a bigger issue.
  • The size of the roof: The roof space that’s available will be a factor in determining how many solar panels can be installed. The more available space on a north-facing roof, the better.
  • The age, and sturdiness of the roof: The structural integrity of your roof is crucial when installing solar panels. These systems require a sturdy foundation.
  • Monthly electricity consumption: If the output from the solar panels is not able to meet your monthly usage or a portion of it, you may need to consider alternative solar and renewable energy options.

Below is what you would expect of a typical solar panel installation process. The abovementioned factors may have installers taking extra measures or steps to ensure that your north-facing panels are taking advantage of available sunlight.

Step 1: Scaffolding

Scaffolding and any other necessary structures are attached to your home or office to gain access to your roof.

Step 2: Attach mounts to rafters

Once the area for the installation has been mapped out, the roof tiles are lifted and mounts are attached to the rafters. Roof hooks are then secured to these mounts and the tiles are put back into place. The roof hooks will be sticking out from the bottom of the tile.

Step 3: Secure rails

Rails are secured across the roof hooks

Step 4: Fit panels

The solar panels are laid onto the rails, angled for optimum performance and secured.

Step 5: Connect the system to the inverter

Your solar PV system is then connected to an inverter to change the direct current (DC) into alternating (AC) current. If you are using a solar battery, it will also be connected to the inverter during this step. The inverter is connected to your fuse box, which is how the solar power is transferred into your property.

Step 6: Connectivity check

The connections are then checked and tested.

Step 7: Debrief from installers

The solar panel installers, will give you a brief run down of how everything works and register your solar panel system with the Microgeneration Certificate Scheme (MSC).

Prior to solar panel installation, a survey, assessment and necessary permits are required.

Getting Optimum Efficiency From Solar Panels On A North Facing Roof

Installers will know the best way of optimising the efficiency of solar panels on a north-facing roof. Once all the contributing factors have been taken into consideration, a few adjustments or recommendations may be made. Efficiency can be optimised in the following ways:

Adjusting the slope angle

Typically south, east and west-facing solar panels in the UK are installed between 20° and 50° angle. For panels on a north-facing roof, the recommended angle is between 10 ° and 20°.

Increasing the number of panels if possible

If your roof space allows for it, increasing the number of solar panels can be highly beneficial for homes facing north. This allows for higher energy production and may shorten your ROI period.

Combining your solar panels with other renewable energy sources

If your main priority is lowering your carbon footprint, then using solar panels in conjunction with other renewable energy sources is a good way to go. You could, for example, use a solar water heater to meet your hot water requirements.

Limiting shading

Limiting or eliminating any shading that falls on your roof, is going to be one of the key ways of ensuring that your solar PV system receives a decent amount of sunlight.

Use a solar battery

Using a solar battery will allow you to store any energy that has not been used during daylight hours and use it after the sun has set.

How Long Does It Take to Install Solar Panels On North-Facing Roofs?

Installations on a north-facing roof will take the same amount of time as it would for any other roof regardless of the directionality. Typically, domestic solar panel installation can be completed in one day. 

This process usually takes between 4-6 hours to complete. Installation on commercial properties will depend entirely on the size of the building and the system size. Properties of small to medium size may require a few days, while much larger buildings could take up to several weeks.

The installation may take longer due to the following factors:

  • Steep roof inclination
  • The roof is not easily accessed
  • Solar panel system size
  • Roof size

How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar Panels On A North-Facing Roof?

The average solar panel installation cost is around £9,000-£10,000. This estimate is for a 4kW system and includes installation and solar panels. If you were to include a solar battery the cost would be£14,000-£20,000. Below is a more detailed breakdown of solar panel installation costs for homes and systems of varying sizes.

House SizeSystem Size (kW)Number of Panels Required (350W)Number of Panels Required (450W)Average Cost incl InstallationSolar Battery CostAverage Cost incl Installation and Battery
1-2 bedroom3kW86£7,000 – £8,000£2,500 – £3,500£9,500-£11,500
2-3 bedroom4kW108£9,000 – £10,000£3,500 – £4,000£12,500- £14,00
3-4 bedroom5kW1310£11,000 – £12,000£4,000 – £5,000£15,000- £17,00
4-5 bedroom6kW1613£12,000 – £13,000£5,000 – £7,500£17,500- £20,500

Get A Solar Panel Installation Quote Today

If you have a north-facing roof and are considering installing solar panels, contact us to receive a free quote. Our expert solar panel installers will also be able to give advice and answer any questions you may have about the unique challenges associated with your roof’s direction.


What is the difference in energy production between north and south-facing panels?

There is a significantly lower output from north-facing solar panels compared to those that face south. If you are living in the northern hemisphere and you have a south-facing roof with solar panels between a 20° and 50° angle the effectiveness is considered to be 100%.

 The effectiveness of a north-facing panel with no shade is estimated to be 60%. It is not zero but it is considerably less.

How long would it take me to see a return on my investment with north-facing panels?

The average ROI for a standard solar PV system is around 6 years. North-facing panels, if optimised correctly could take the same amount of time, but it will likely take a few years longer.

Why are south-facing solar panels the best angle in the UK?

South-facing solar panels have an optimum output as this directionality allows for the highest amount of absorption of direct sunlight as the sun moves from the east to the west each day.

Why shouldn’t solar panels be installed on thatched roofs?

Many solar panel installers are reluctant to do installations on thatched roofs due to the high fire risk. The shading caused by solar panels may also prevent moisture from evaporating, leading to the rotting of the thatch material.

Can I get a government grant for solar panels if I have a north-facing roof?

Most government grants for the financing of solar panel installations do not make mention of which direction a house must face. When filling out the online eligibility forms, roof direction is not called into question. This may be asked further into the process, but at the forefront, it does not discriminate against north-facing roofs.

Our Verdict

Solar panel installations are an investment. And your investment should be benefitting you as much as possible. If you are fine with having solar panels that are only 60% effective then the directionality shouldn’t be an issue. However, there are other options that you may want to consider.

There are other renewable energy sources such as biomass boilers, that can lower your carbon footprint and your energy bills. It’s also good to remember that solar panels are not limited to being fitted to roofs. If you have areas on your property that allow for a higher output, perhaps it would be a better place for installation.

James Elston

James Elston

Boiler Expert

James Elston is the top boiler replacement and heating expert at Eco Happy. He has over 20 years of experience in the industry, focusing on Gas Safe boiler installations and offering home-heating and energy-saving solutions to homeowners across the UK. From sourcing the most energy-efficient combi boiler to providing specialist heating advice, James ensures that Eco Happy maintains the highest standards and best customer service.

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