If you’re thinking about installing solar panels, the Solar Pathfinder
is a tool you’ll want to have. In fact, you might even say that the Pathfinder is a solar installer’s best friend.
Well, sometimes with solar power the little things have really big effects. This is especially true in the area of solar site evaluation (AKA: “Now where’s the best spot for these here solar panels?”).
Even the smallest amount of shading on a solar panel can cut its power output considerably. This means you’ll want to know about any shading issues throughout the year before you decide where to put your shiny new solar panels.
One way of doing this would be to take a year off work, set up a lawn chair, and stare at your potential solar panel site for twelve months to get an idea of how much sunlight the area will receive.
Another option, which may be better for your career and your sanity, is to invest in a Pathfinder.
This cool tool will show you a site’s solar potential for the entire year in a matter of minutes.
The Pathfinder consists of a clear plastic dome on a platform which is mounted on a tripod base.
All you need to do is:
- Put the Pathfinder where you’re thinking of installing solar panels
- Make sure the built-in compass is pointing north
- Make sure the bubble level is in the centre of the circle
- View the Pathfinder from directly over top of the unit
- Use the provided wax pencil to trace a line on the diagram around the shaded areas
Presto! You have all the solar data you need for your potential solar site. You know what time of day the sun will rise and set on your site for every month of the year.
Also available is Solar Pathfinder Assistant Software
This is a software program that gives you a customized report of the solar potential for your site.
To utilize the Pathfinder Assistant software you’ll need to set up your Pathfinder on your potential site and take a picture from above with your digital camera.
Next, you open the picture with the Pathfinder Assistant software and:
- Enter some location-specific information
- Crop the picture
- Properly position the level and compass
- Trace the skyline reflection on your picture
- Click on “Create Report”
Presto, once again. Now you have a report that compares “ideal” with “actual” monthly solar figures along with a bunch of other stats and percentages that will keep you busy for a while.
The Pathfinder tells you everything you need to know about how much sunlight a site receives and it’s easy to use. Sounds good to me.
The price of the Solar Pathfinder
with tripod is $299.
Prices for the Solar Pathfinder Assistant Software
range from $49 to $189, depending on whether you
just need a plug-in or the entire package.