Do Solar Panels Work When It's Cloudy? (2023)

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Your solar panels still generate electricity during cloudy weather. But they are most efficient when it's sunny.

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Sarah Drolet is an associate writer at CNET covering home energy, residential solar power and emerging energy technology. She previously wrote about home and moving-related topics for MYMOVE. Sarah graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a bachelor's degree in communications.

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The sun is one of the cleanest and most accessible sources of energy. Solar panels turn the free sunlight we receive every day into electricity to power our homes.

A common myth: solar panels don't work at night or when it's cloudy. Solar panels technically still function at night, but they won't be generating electricity. However, they will still produce electricity during cloudy weather. As long as there's at least a little sunlight, solar panels will generate electricity. Exactly how much depends on the sunlight available.

"The panel is always working. The question is how much electricity comes out of it based on the amount of light," James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, told CNET. "You will get close to zero electricity at night, but if there is a little bit of ambient light, sometimes even the reflected moonlight can do it. However, if you were to buy a solar panel, and you actually see the output on your cell phone every day, you'll see that it's close to zero at night."

Solar adoption is on the rise, with the number of residential installations up 40% in 2021, according to data from theSolar Energy Industries Association.

If you're interested in becoming energy independent,the best way to make a solar purchaseis to understand how solar technology works, especially how they generate electricity and whether or not they work on cloudy days or at night.

(Video) Do Solar Panels Work When it's Cloudy?

Best Solar Companies of 2023 See at Cnet

What are solar panels and how do they work?

Put simply, a solar panel is a device that uses sunlight to generate electricity. There are two main types of solar panel technology: photovoltaic, or PV, and concentrating solar power, or CSP. However, since CSP technology is mainly used in large power plants (and not practical for at-home use), the main focus here is PV solar panel technology. It's what you're likely used to seeing on rooftops.

How does a PV solar panel create electricity from sunlight? A panel contains many layers of photovoltaic cells. These PV cells absorb photons (tiny particles of electromagnetic radiation) from sunlight and create an electric field across the PV cell layers, generating electricity. One PV cell can only produce a small one to two watts, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That's only enough electricity to power a calculator.

This is why solar panels contain a large number of PV cells. Just one solar panel typically generates between 250 to 400 watts of power. The average home solar system has 20 to 25 solar panels, to keep up with how much energy the average American home uses in a year (10,632 kilowatt-hours).

Do solar panels work on cloudy days or at night?

Solar panels will generate electricity as long as there is sunlight for them to absorb. Here's how they function during periods of cloudy weather and at night.

Cloudy weather

Solar panels will still generate electricity during cloudy weather, rain or any other period of indirect sunlight, just not as efficiently. Solar panels are most efficient in direct sunlight and will generate less electricity during cloudy conditions. If you live in an area with a lot of overcast days, your solar panels likely won't be performing at their best on a day-to-day basis.

"Even on a very cloudy or rainy day, you'll get some electricity," Fenton said. "But on real cloudy days, you might only get half as much electricity as you would on a sunny day."

And if you're worried about rain, don't be. Solar panels are waterproof, and rain can actually help clean your solar panels by washing away any dirt, keeping them running efficiently.


Solar panels are called "solar" panels for a reason -- they need to absorb sunlight to generate electricity. Your solar panel will technically always be functioning, but you won't be getting any electricity without some form of sunlight. The only way to power your home with solar energy at night is to install a solar storage system, like a solar battery.

Do Solar Panels Work When It's Cloudy? (5)
(Video) Do Solar Panels Work When It’s Cloudy and Rainy?

How do I get power at night if I have solar panels?

With the help of a battery, it's still possible to use solar energy to power your home at night. However, solar batteries are expensive and may not be right for your solar setup. Depending on the type and size of the solar battery, it can cost just as much as your solar panels.

On the other hand, you can stay connected to the power grid and still receive electricity during nighttime and periods of time when your solar panels aren't generating enough power. You might even be compensated for your excess solar energy through a process called net metering.

Solar battery storage

While it's true that solar panels can't work at night due to a lack of sunlight, you can still use solar energy to power your home at night with the help of a solar storage system. The most common form of solar storage is a solar battery, according to the US Department of Energy.

A solar battery allows you to store excess energy generated from your solar panels, which can then be used to power your home at night and during power outages (if you're connected to the grid).

Another benefit of having a solar battery is that you avoid paying higher electricity rates during peak hours. These are hours when more people are at home using electricity, and are usually weekday mornings and evenings. Some utility companies will charge higher electricity rates during peak hours.

The cost of a solar battery is nothing to sneeze at. You can expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $16,000 or more for a solar battery, according to SaveOnEnergy, CNET's sister publication. The two main factors affecting the cost of a solar battery are the type of battery and its power capacity. You'll likely get the most out of a solar battery investment if you plan on living off-grid or if you want your home to be 100% powered by clean energy. If you have a solar battery installed, you'll also never have to worry about blackouts, since you'll still have stored solar power to draw from.

Net metering

Going solar doesn't mean you have to be completely reliant on solar energy to have power. Solar batteries are expensive, and they may not be worth the investment for some homeowners. If you choose to stay connected to the grid, your home will draw electricity from the grid during nighttime or periods of limited energy production, so you'll still have power even when your solar panels aren't generating electricity. Any electricity you pull from the grid will be billed from your local utility company like normal.

Experts recommend homeowners invest in energy efficiency around their home before going solar. "If you have a whole home approach to efficiency, you could put solar on top to cap it all off, but you could really lower your bill just by doing efficiency measures, and then you can do solar afterwards to make sure that it's sized appropriately," Andrew Slater, executive director of Energize Delaware, a clean energy nonprofit, told CNET.

Using energy efficient appliances and smart thermostats can help you spend less on power from your local utility company.

Home solar systems connected to the grid can also take advantage of net metering: the process of selling your excess solar energy to the power grid. This means you'll get credits on your bill from your local utility company. Not every state has a net metering policy and some utility companies will compensate you for your energy better than others.

How to get started with solar panels

Interested in buying solar panels for your home? First, you'll need to find a trustworthy solar installer in your area. CNET has already reviewed a few of the best national solar companies out there, but make sure to look into any local installers near you. Local solar installers may offer cheaper prices than some of the national options. To get the best price possible, make sure you get quotes from multiple solar installers.

(Video) What About When Its Cloudy? - Solar Panels On A Overcast Day

A trustworthy solar installer will do a home consultation, in which they'll inspect your property to see if your home is right for solar. A good solar installer should also check your roof's condition and your household's energy usage to recommend the best solar system size and equipment for your home. Going solar is a big (and expensive) decision, so take your time, and don't feel like you need to commit to the first solar quote you receive.

More solar advice

  • 5 Things to Consider Before You Buy Solar Panels
  • Where to Buy Rooftop Solar Panels
  • How to Know if Your Home Works For Solar Panels
  • How Solar Panels Can Earn You a Big Tax Credit


Do Solar Panels Work When It's Cloudy? ›

Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt.

How effective are solar panels on cloudy days? ›

While solar panels still work even when the light is reflected or partially obstructed by clouds, their energy production capacity will be diminished. On average, solar panels will generate 10 to 25% of their normal power output on days with heavy cloud coverage.

Do solar panels work less on cloudy days? ›

Solar cells can produce 80% of their energy potential on cloudy days, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Living in a cloudy climate should not deter a homeowner from installing solar panels to their home.

Will a solar panel charge a battery on a cloudy day? ›

The short answer is – yes! Although direct sunlight is key to charging solar panels, they continue to charge even on cloudy, overcast days.

What happens if there is no sunlight on solar panels? ›

Solar panels will not operate at maximum production when clouds are blocking the sun, and they will not produce electricity when there is no available sunlight during nighttime hours.

How much will a 100 watt solar panel output on a cloudy day? ›

A 100 watt solar panel will output around 10 to 20 watts on a typical cloudy day. But that amount can range widely depending on how cloudy it is, as well as all the other factors that affect power output, such as panel temperature and charge controller type.

Do solar panels work in the shade? ›

As noted above, we need sunlight in order to create electric current. If your solar panels are in the shade they will in fact still work, just at a lower capacity due to lower sunlight exposure levels.

What type of solar panels work best in cloudy conditions? ›

As such, half-cut, monocrystalline solar panels are the best option if you want to maximize energy savings in an area that experiences frequently cloudy days.

How do you know if solar panels are working? ›

A simple way to check on the health of your system is to look at the colour of the lights shining on the box on a sunny day, when the system should be busily generating solar power. In the event of a red or orange flashing flight, look for an error code on the display.

Do solar panels work in winter? ›

Even in below-freezing weather, solar panels turn sunlight into electricity. That's because solar panels absorb energy from our sun's abundant light, not the sun's heat. In fact, cold climates are actually optimal for solar panel efficiency.

Are there solar lights that don't need direct sunlight? ›

No, solar lights don't need direct sunlight to charge solar lights. Whereas, solar lights need light in some form to power them on. But this can be produced without the presence of sunlight. hence solar lights can get charged from artificial light, incandescent bulbs or LED lamps, etc.

How many solar panels does it take to power a house? ›

An average home needs between 17 and 21 solar panels to fully offset utility bills with solar. The number of solar panels you need depends on a few key factors, including your geographic location and individual panel specifications.

What happens at night with solar panels? ›

At night your solar panels and inverter power down. The inverter isn't running overnight because it doesn't want to draw power. Instead it'll wake back up when the sun shines in the morning. Your home and solar system are connected to the utility grid.

How many years does a solar battery last? ›

Most solar batteries on the market today come with a 10-year warranty; however, the lifespan is closer to 20 years.

How many hours of direct sunlight do solar panels need? ›

You Need How Many Hours of Sunlight for Solar Panels? In the best-case scenario, you'll want your solar panels to receive about four or five hours of direct sunlight. Specifically, that sunlight should reach your panels between 10 am and 3 pm.

Is it OK to leave a solar panel disconnected in the sun? ›

Disconnecting the solar panels still will generate electricity inside the solar panels if exposed to sunlight, which means the Voltage generated across that particular Solar Panel will be converted into heat.

How much power does a 300w solar panel produce per day? ›

About 2.5 kWh per day can be generated by a solar panel with a 300-watt output. Multiplying the speed by 365 days gives us a yearly total of about 900-kilowatt hours. A single 300-watt solar panel may produce 900 kilowatt-hours of energy.

What can you run on 200 watts of solar? ›

A panel of this size, with a good solar power bank, can run all your lights (LED lights), your microwave, even a toaster, and a coffee maker. A 200-watt solar panel can also run a small fountain, a laptop, and several chargers.

How much power does a 400 watt solar panel produce per day? ›

However, in general, you can expect a 400-watt solar panel to produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 kWh to 2 kWh of energy each day.

Where not to put solar panels? ›

7 Types Of Home Where You Will Want to Avoid Installing Solar...
  • 1 – North Facing Roof. ...
  • 2 – Little To No Roof Space. ...
  • 3 – A Heavy Shaded Roof. ...
  • 4 – A Weak Or Damaged Roof. ...
  • 5 – Too Shallow Or Too Steep A Roof. ...
  • 6 – You Have No Loft. ...
  • 7 – You Don't Use Power During The Day.
Oct 2, 2019

What wears out in solar panels? ›

By nature of their exposure to the elements, solar panels degrade over time. Heavy rainfall, snowfall, ice, as well as high temperatures cause hardening of the crystalline silicon, frame corrosion, and cell contamination.

Do solar panels need to be cleaned? ›

It is generally recommended to clean solar panels every 6 months to a year in order to maintain the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of the panels. However, based on where you live and the level of dirt and pollution, the need for cleaning may be more frequent.

How do you clean cloudy solar panels? ›

How to defog a solar panel. If you would rather not live with a foggy window on your station, there is a solution, and it is not complex: polish it out. The “fog” is mostly on outer surface of the window, so a good rub down with a mild abrasive or buffing compound and a soft cloth will remove the worse of it.

Why are my solar panels not saving me money? ›

Many homeowners use more power after going solar

If you start using more power after going solar than you were before going solar, you may not be saving money on electricity. Keep in mind that your solar system is designed to produce the amount of electricity your household was using before you went solar.

Why are my solar panels not feeding the grid? ›

Check the solar panels for any obvious dirt, leaves, mould, or shade issues. Check the solar inverter for any warnings or faults. Check the isolators are all on, and the circuit breakers have not tripped off. Check the grid voltage on the inverter display or app for over-voltage issues.

Do solar panels stop working when hot? ›

Heat can “severely reduce” the ability of solar panels to produce power, according to CED Greentech, a solar equipment supplier in the United States. Depending on where they're installed, hot temperatures can reduce the output efficiency of solar panels by 10%-25%, the company says.

What months do solar panels work best? ›

Solar panels work through all four seasons of the year, come rain or shine, or even hail or in light snow. But solar panels do generally produce less energy in winter. That's because the days are shorter, so there are fewer hours of daylight and the sun is lower in the sky, on average.

How much does cloud reduce solar panel output? ›

For that same reason, solar panels can still produce electricity on cloudy days. But depending on the cloud cover and the quality of the solar panels, efficiency can drop to anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the energy output seen on a sunny day.

Is solar energy cheaper than normal electricity? ›

Although solar energy requires an initial investment to purchase and set up, people find that solar energy is a lot less expensive than electric power in the long run due to the rising price of electricity.

Can a flashlight charge a solar panel? ›

Artificial light is a poor choice for charging solar cells

Nevertheless, artificial lights can never charge a solar cell as efficiently as direct sunlight can.

Will solar lights charge through a window? ›

The quick answer to this is yes. Solar panels can indeed work through glass windows or windshields. However, is it enough for your solar panel to work? While you can utilize Solar panels through glass windows, their effectiveness will be far lower than when installed outside.

Can I charge a solar panel with a light bulb? ›

Charge your solar lights with light from an incandescent bulb. The light from most incandescent bulbs is usually able to charge a solar light, although not as effectively as natural sunlight. Place the solar panels directly underneath a household light to charge them as quickly as possible without sunlight.

Can a house run on solar power alone? ›

Can a House Run Completely on Solar Power? The short answer: Yes, you can use solar energy to power your entire house. In fact, some people have used expansive solar panel systems to go off the grid completely, turning their homes into self-sustaining ecosystems (at least as far as energy is concerned).

How long will it take for solar panels to pay for themselves? ›

The most common estimate of the average payback period for solar panels is six to ten years. This is a pretty wide range because there are many factors that will influence the number of years it can take to pay off your panels and the monthly savings you can expect.

Can 1 solar panels power a whole house? ›

Fact vs Myth: Can Solar Energy Really Power an Entire House? [2023 Update] One of the most frequently asked questions by homeowners in regard to solar power is, “can it really power my entire house?” The answer to that is actually quite simple – yes, solar can indeed power your entire home.

Should I unplug solar panel at night? ›

It's best to disconnect your system in the early evening when the sun is at its lowest. The system is constantly generating electricity during the day which makes it riskier; early evening is safer. Lastly, the DC and AC switches have to be disconnected. The AC has to be turned off first, then its breaker.

Will solar batteries feed back to panels at night? ›

Do solar panels work at night? Solar panels draw power from the sun, which is only out during the day. So technically speaking, solar panels do not work at night, because there is no sun. Unless you are storing it, your excess (unused) solar power is being fed back into the grid.

Is it safe to sleep near solar panels? ›

Electricity from solar panels and transmission to the power grid emits extremely weak electromagnetic fields. Exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields has been studied extensively, and there is no evidence that it is harmful to human health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

What do solar panel batteries cost? ›

The cost of popular solar batteries ranges from $9,500 to $23,000. Financial incentives are available to reduce the total price.

How much is solar batteries? ›

The average capacity of a solar battery is around 10 kWh, meaning you'll pay anywhere from $4,000 to $7,500 for a typical solar battery system, not including the installation.

How often do you have to replace batteries for home solar system? ›

Home solar battery units last anywhere between 5 and 15 years. If you decide to install a solar battery today, it's almost certain you'll need a replacement in the future to match the 20- to 30-year lifespan of your solar power system.

Do solar panels work in the rain? ›

Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt.

What happens if there is snow on solar panels? ›

A dusting of snow has little impact on solar panels because the wind can easily blow it off. Light is able to forward scatter through a sparse coating, reaching the panel to produce electricity. It's a different story when heavy snow accumulates, which prevents PV panels from generating power.

Is morning sun good for solar panels? ›

This is because solar panels absorb light from the sun. The increased brightness of the light will lead to more energy being produced, with optimum, energy-producing clear light being common during the early hours.

Can you just turn off solar panels? ›

Solar panels cannot be turned off when exposed to light. In the event of a short circuit, fire or flood the solar panels continue to generate potentially lethal DC voltage. PVStop is the only safe way to deactivate panels at the source (the solar panels themselves).

Can my solar lights stay out of the winter? ›

So the short answer is yes, as solar lights are waterproof they can be left outside all year round.

What type of solar panel is best for cloudy conditions? ›

If you live in an area where it's frequently cloudy, high-efficiency monocrystalline panels are a far better option than poly or thin-film panels. While they will cost you more upfront, they will also make better use of the available sunlight, leading to greater energy savings in the long term.

Do solar panels work in indirect sunlight? ›

Solar panels can work with indirect sunlight, but they will not produce as much power. Indirect sunlight is sunlight that is reflected off of another surface before hitting the solar panel. This type of light is still usable for solar panels, but it will not be as effective as direct sunlight.

How do you restore cloudy solar panels? ›

A few easy maintenance steps can help clean cloudy solar lights. Wash the panel and bulb with soap and water regularly to prevent built-up grime from inhibiting the light's performance. Spray a layer of lacquer on the panel itself to restore its shine.

Which type solar panel has the highest efficiency? ›

The Most Efficient Solar Panels of May 2023
  • See at SunPower. SunPower M Series 440-watt. See at SunPower.
  • See at Canadian Solar. Canadian Solar HiHero 445-watt. See at Canadian Solar.
  • See at REC Group. REC Alpha Pure 430-watt. ...
  • See at Jinko Solar. Jinko Solar Tiger Neo 445-watt. ...
  • See at Panasonic. Panasonic Evervolt H/HK 410-watt.
6 days ago

Is morning sun better for solar panels? ›

As long as you have had your solar panels placed at a suitable angle and facing the right way, you can actually expect the optimum time for energy production to be the morning.

Can mirrors help solar panels? ›

Concentrating solar collectors use mirrors and lenses to con- centrate and focus sunlight onto a thermal receiver, similar to a boiler tube. The receiver absorbs and converts sun- light into heat. The heat is then transported to a steam generator or engine where it is converted into electricity.


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