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Do Solar Panels Work at Night?


If you’re considering investing in solar, you are not alone. Last year was a record year for American solar power, with more homeowners than ever making the switch. By all estimates, this year will be even bigger.

As rising utilities costs, unreliable grids, and volatile oil and gas prices prompt more people to choose the unlimited energy of the sun, now is the time to understand how solar can benefit you.

While there are many questions about going solar, one of the more common ones, people tend to ask is “do solar panels work at night?”

This is a reasonable question to ask, since by definition, the sun is not directing its rays to your roof panels in the dead of night. If you find yourself pondering this question, read on to get the definitive answer. 

How Do Solar Panels Work?

First off, it’s worth breaking down how solar energy actually works. You can check this link for a run-down on the basics of solar power from an expert solar company.

The sun is our planet’s most powerful power source. For every hour that the sun’s rays shine down on us, we receive enough energy to power the entire planet for a whole year.

What solar panels do is store and harness this energy. The light from the sun’s rays reaches us as little cells of energy called photons.

When the photons make contact with the solar cells on your solar panel, a reaction occurs. This reaction contributes to the movement of elections, which creates a current that provides electricity.

This is the abridged version of how solar panels work. You can also ask your solar installer for a more detailed run-down of the science behind solar. 

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

So, we know that solar panels require the rays of the sun to work. This means that, technically, solar panels do not work at night. By this, we mean that solar panels are not actively producing electricity when the sun is not shining.

However, that does not mean that solar panels are useless at night. After all, solar panels will continue to meet your energy needs in the evening.

You will most certainly not be without power during the night, as energy produced by the panels during daylight hours will be stored up for you to use as and when you need it.

So, while solar panels themselves go into sleep mode during the night, you will still be able to make use of the energy that they generate during the day. 

Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

When it’s a cloudy day, things are a bit more complicated. Even when the sky is gray with thick rainclouds, the sun is still shining on our world, albeit from a hidden vantage point.

As such, your panels will still produce solar energy during cloudy days.

However, the amount of energy they produce will always be lower than on a clear, sunny day. Estimates vary, but the general consensus is that panels produce only 10-25% as much energy on cloudy days than on sunny days.

This means a significant drop in output when the weather is not ideal. On top of this, solar panels also tend to function worse when it is too hot, regardless of how sunny it is.

This is why solar panel farms often perform worse than expected in very sunny parts of the world, such as Saudi Arabia, where the heat is often far beyond the ideal for panel functionality. 

Using Net Metering

So, let’s get back to night-time solar. As mentioned, while solar panels are not producing energy at night, you should still be able to enjoy the benefits of solar power, no matter the time of day.

One way to do this is through net metering. This is when the excess solar energy you produce during the day can be used to acquire free energy from the grid during the evening.

By choosing a solar plan with net metering, you can “sell” every watt of excess energy you do not use in your home to the local grid. In exchange, you receive “energy credits”.

If you require energy during the evening, you automatically use those credits to “buy” the energy that you need back from the grid, at no cost to you. 

Using Solar Battery Storage

One of the most compelling responses to adopting solar energy is so that you and your family can enjoy energy self-sufficiency. Grids are unreliable at the best of times.

Meanwhile, greedy utility companies can always be relied on to provide you with your energy at fixed and affordable costs. This is why net metering is not always the preferred option for homeowners that go solar. 

If this is your reasoning, you might not want to rely on the local grid. Instead, you can make use of solar energy batteries on your property.

These allow you to store up all of the excess energy produced by your solar panels during the day. Then, when nighttime rolls around, you can simply dip into these reserves to make sure that all of your energy needs are met.

Of course, solar battery storage costs extra, and it isn’t cheap. However, by choosing an effective, high-quality storage system, the long-term savings will outweigh your initial upfront costs. 

In addition, solar batteries can be a literal lifesaver in the event of a natural disaster. When earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes strike and your access to the grid is cut off, you can rely on your solar battery to continue giving you the power you need. 

Solar Is the Key to Energy Security 

Now, you know the full answer to the question “do solar panels work at night?” While the panels themselves might not be operational while the moon is out, you can still expect to enjoy the full benefits of solar power, no matter the time of day.

Remember, in an age of increasing energy volatility, attaining true energy security for yourself and for your family is truly priceless. This is the promise of solar. 

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