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Do Solar Panels Work At Night?

By Benjamin Strusnik February 15, 2022

Do Solar Panels Work At Night

In the last decade, solar panels have significantly increased in popularity not only in the U.S. but globally as well. That being said, solar panels are notorious for being entirely dependent on whether or not the area you’re living in is routinely bathed in sunlight or cast in shadow that could render them useless.

If solar panels work on cloudy days and whether solar panels work in the winter are some of the numerous questions that you need to consider before you spend any money on purchasing a solar panel kit for your home. 

You should understand everything about this fantastic energy opportunity before you install one on your house. 

In this article, we’ll delve into and address not only the above two questions but especially the most frequently asked question of all: Do solar panels work at night?

How Do Solar Panels Work? 

Solar panels work by capturing the energy from the sun’s rays and converting it into solar energy to be used as the electricity that we then use to run everything from small appliances to entire households. 

This process of converting the sun’s energy into electricity is known as the photovoltaic effect and so, this type of energy is also referred to as photovoltaic energy. 

how do solar panels work at night

In winter, when days are more overcast and there is a higher percentage of rain and snowfall, solar panels will still work, but their energy output will be less than usual.  

Your solar panel will still capture some of the light sifting through the clouds, but most of the sun’s rays will be prevented from reaching the photovoltaic cells of the solar panel. This is because the path of these rays from the sun to your solar panel will be obstructed either by clouds, or either rain or snow on the surface of your solar panel. 

Thus, if the question “do solar panels work in the rain?” popped into your mind whilst reading this, you’ll find that technically speaking, the answer is yes. However the rain serves as an obstruction to the sunlight reaching your solar panel and as such, it will significantly reduce the power output of your panel. 

That being said, the functioning of solar panels at night is another matter.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

In the traditional sense of the word, solar panels do not “work” at night as they aren’t able to generate solar power during this time. This is because they need sunlight in order to do this. 

However, there are some other considerations we have to take into account before we can fully answer this question. For one, solar panels generate some electricity from moonlight, and they even work with artificial light. So, even at night, solar panels will generate a small amount of electricity, even if it’s nowhere near enough to power your home.

Moonlight

Essentially, moonlight is just sunlight that’s being reflected off the surface of the moon towards the earth. As such, technically speaking, solar panels can produce solar energy using moonlight, but it will not even be a fraction of what is necessary to power your house at night. 

On the clearest of nights with a full moon, your solar panel’s energy production will be a maximum of 0,3% of what it is during the day. For this reason, moonlight is generally discarded as a solar energy source and so, most solar panels enter sleep mode at night.

Artificial Light

Once again, technically speaking, your solar panel can convert light from artificial sources (such as street lights) into solar energy. That being said, any time that you convert energy into different from, you will be left with a net loss of energy. 

Thus, although artificial light does provide a solar panel with light energy to be converted into electricity, it is also by no means as effective as sunlight as a source of light energy.

How Do You Power Your Home At Night?

Taking into account what we have discussed thus far, you might be wondering what the point is of owning a solar panel if it can’t power your house at night. The answer to this is fairly simple. 

solar panels at night

Solar panels are generally designed to produce and provide you with more power than you’ll need to power your home or business in one day. Thus, at the end of the day, there will be a reserve of surplus energy that was produced by your panel and which is stored in one of two ways: battery banks or net metering.

Battery Banks

Battery banks are pretty self-explanatory in the sense that they simply store the surplus solar energy that your solar panel produced throughout the day for the purpose of being used to power your home at night. 

This is both a straightforward and effective method of energy storage.

Net Metering

This is a method of solar energy storage that can be used in the event that your solar power system doesn’t have built-in storage facilities like a battery bank. Net metering bypasses the conventional notion of energy storage and “stores” the energy that your solar panel produces throughout the day in the utility grid.  

It does this by exporting this surplus energy to your utility grid, earning you credits that will ultimately accumulate in your utility account that can be used to purchase electricity for use at night. So essentially net metering allows you to store the economic value of the surplus energy that your panel produced, affording you either discount on or full coverage of your electricity bill.  

Thus, although no physical solar energy is stored for your use or benefit, you are still able to draw value from this surplus solar energy that was produced – value that will provide you with a means of powering your house at night.

Conclusion

It should now be clear that, by capturing enough sunlight during the day and, subsequently, converting it into enough energy, your solar panels will still be able to provide you with more than enough solar energy to, or at least a means to, power either your home or business at night as well thanks to the modern methods of energy storage and net metering. 

Thus, solar panels still fulfill their primary function by providing you with energy at night although they do not actually work at night.

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