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Can Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light?

By Benjamin Strusnik February 15, 2022

Can Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light

The Solar Industries Association determined that savvy solar enthusiasts have installed over 100 gigawatts of solar panels nationwide. That’s more than enough electricity to provide power to 18.9 million homes.

The same study found that the number of solar panels will grow by an astounding 300%. The demand for eco-friendly, free electricity is a significant driver behind this growth. 

Yet, as more people turn towards the fantastic benefits of solar power, they bring all manner of questions with them. At Shop Solar Kits, we’ve been asked questions such as: do clouds affect solar panels, and even do solar panels work in the winter?

Today, we’ll be looking at another burning question: Can solar panels work with artificial light?

Let’s shed some light on the topic and learn more about solar panels. The more you know, the easier it is to find the perfect solar system for your needs.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Typically solar panels catch sunlight and convert it into useable electricity. We can use this electricity to power various appliances. 

You can even connect several solar panels to produce more electricity until you have enough to power your entire home. 

Let’s look at a slightly more technical explanation for how solar panels work.

A solar panel, such as these portable solar panels, is made up of multiple solar cells. Each cell has a unique material that can convert the energy from visible light particles, known as photons, into direct current (DC) electricity. 

do solar panels work with artificial light

The light energy that a solar panel requires to work is known as photovoltaic energy. As the photons strike the solar cell’s surface, the solar cell converts that energy into usable electricity.

Today, solar panels are trendy because they generate electricity essentially for free. After all, sunlight is available to everyone, no matter where you are. As long as you have sunlight, you’ll get electricity.

So, do solar panels work at night? The short answer is no. Solar panels won’t work at night, but they can store the electricity they generate in a solar battery to use at night when the sun is down.

If solar panels require light to work, it begs the next question.

Will Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light?

The short answer is yes. Solar panels will work with artificial light. The longer answer is, unfortunately, more complicated. 

Solar panels won’t have the same high performance or output with artificial light as they have when exposed to sunlight. 

The type of artificial light will significantly impact the solar panel’s performance. 

For instance, the type of light (warm or cold), intensity, and even wavelength will affect the solar panel’s performance.

But wait, aren’t all lights the same then?

What’s The Difference Between Sunlight and Artificial Light?

Sunlight has a broader spectrum with more wavelengths than artificial light. 

Scientists use nano-meters (nm) to measure light’s wavelengths.

We find that sunlight ranges from 250nm to 3000nm, a broad spectrum. 

In sharp contrast, most artificial lights only produce light within the 300nm to 800nm range, a very narrow spectrum.

Let’s explain this concept without being too technical. 

The scientific name for sunlight is solar radiation. We call it radiation because sunlight consists of different forms of light that range all across the spectrum. 

If you’ve ever seen a rainbow after a rainstorm, you might have seen the different parts that make up sunlight. 

We find UV light, visible light, near-infrared light, and even infrared light are all present in sunlight.

Solar panel manufacturers design their solar panels to absorb light within the visible light, and near-infrared spectrums as most of the sun’s rays are in this range. 

Scientists call this section of sunlight the 400nm to 1200nm wavelength spectrum.

In sharp contrast, artificial lights don’t produce the same broad spectrum of light as the sun does. It’s because artificial lights don’t have the same output as the sun. 

does solar panel work with artificial light

In fact, most artificial lights only provide light in a narrow-band wavelength, from 300nm to 800nm.

While solar panels can work with this small section of artificial light, their output will drop dramatically. 

Will My Solar Panel Charge With A Flashlight?

While, in theory, you can use a flashlight to make your solar panel work, you’ll need to have a pretty big and powerful flashlight.

However, using a flashlight to make your solar panel work will go against an important scientific law known as the conservation of energy

Simply put, you’ll end up with diminishing returns when you use a flashlight to make your solar panel work. 

Your flashlight’s battery will run out long before the solar panel has generated enough electricity to charge it back up. 

So, you’ve used a lot of energy from your flashlight to generate a tiny amount of energy from the solar panel. In that case, you’ve lost power, and it doesn’t make practical sense to do this.

Can I Use A Solar Panel With UV Light?

In theory, you could use a UV bulb to charge a solar panel. However, only a small portion of UV light, the 315nm to 400nm section in the near-visible spectrum, will power a solar panel.

This light segment is so small that it would practically be insignificant and inefficient.

Can I Use My Solar Panel With Indirect Sunlight?

You certainly can charge a solar panel with indirect sunlight. Many companies use rotating mirrors to focus sunlight onto their solar panels.

These rotating mirrors automatically track the sun’s movements across the sky via sensors. They redirect sunlight onto the solar panels throughout the day, ensuring optimal efficiency. 

3 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Solar Panels

Luckily, you don’t have to resort to computerized mirrors on motors or giant floodlights to get the most out of your solar panels. Here are three steps you can take to ensure that your solar panels will operate at peak efficiency.

Install Solar Panels At The Correct Angle

When you install your solar panels at the correct angle to get as much sunlight as possible, you can maximize their electricity output. 

While you may not always be able to adjust the angle of a solar panel if you’ve installed it against a wall or on a fence, you can be pretty creative about it.

Remember that sunlight is at its strongest during midday. This time of day is when you want your solar panels to capture as much sunlight as possible. 

The more sunlight your solar panels have, the higher their efficiency and the more electricity they’ll generate. 

Chat to your solar installer if you aren’t sure about the correct angle for your solar panels. They’ll have years of experience and know what’ll work for your setup.

Keep Solar Panels Clean

Many solar panels lose efficiency because they’re dirty. Dust, grime, and even bird droppings can cover the solar cells. When these cells are covered, they won’t convert sunlight into electricity.

If you’re in a rainy area, the rain is sometimes enough to keep your solar panels clean. If not, you only need a hosepipe to keep your solar panels clean. 

Will Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light

Suppose you live in an area that gets loads of rain. In that case, you’ll love to read our guide: Do solar panels work during rain? This guide will help you get the best performance out of your solar panels, even during the rain.

Know The Ambient Temperature

The ambient temperature is another critical factor that can dramatically affect your solar panel’s efficiency and output. 

For instance, most solar panels lose efficiency in temperatures above 88 degrees Fahrenheit. You should avoid installing your solar panels on dark surfaces for the best performance, as this can make the panels hotter during the day.

If you’re concerned about the efficiency of your solar panels in a specific climate, feel free to get in touch with us, and we’ll happily advise you. 

Plenty of solar panels operate exceptionally well in some of the hottest and coldest places on earth.

Final Thoughts

While solar panels can work with artificial light, it’s pretty impractical. 

You’ll end up using more electricity to get your solar panel to work than what the solar panel will generate. Using an artificial light on your solar panels will leave you with diminishing returns and ultimately a loss. 

However, when you install your solar panels at the correct angle, keep them clean, and look after them, they’ll provide you with optimal power generation for years to come.

If you liked learning about solar panels, you might also love reading this guide: Do solar panels work underwater? Or, visit our free solar Learning Center.

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