Do Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather or at Night?

by wrylilt

Solar panels are a great way to lower your carbon footprint and save money, but there are a range of reasons they might not work; we discuss two of them.

If you've recently installed solar in your home or business, you may be wondering why the energy they produce varies by time of day. If you have solar monitoring installed, you may see the production go up and down in a matter of minutes.

Powered by sunlight, solar panels often won't work in certain circumstances. We'll take a look at two of the top reasons solar panels may stop producing, or produce less.

Solar doesn't work when the sun isn't out
Solar doesn't work when the sun isn't out

Do solar panels work at night?

The simple answer is no; solar panels rely on sunlight to produce energy, and there is no sunlight at night. For this reason, your solar installer should have advised you to use timers and change some of your energy usage habits so you can maximise your solar self consumption

If you have high energy usage at night, the simplest solution is to add a battery to your system, so you can store energy during the day, and then have it ready to utilise at night time. Batteries have longer payback periods than solar, however, so many people prefer to change their energy habits instead of investing into a battery system that may not pay for itself in the long term. 

Do solar panels work in cloudy weather or storms?

The good news is that yes, solar panels will still produce electricity during a cloudy day, although production can decrease as much as 25%. The density of the clouds and weather impacts the amount of electricity produced; during a bad storm, output can be very low. 

There's a silver lining to this cloud though; rain can wash away dirt and debris, so when the sun returns, your panels may produce even more power. 

What else can stop solar panels working?

There are a range of reasons that solar panels may stop working, and we recommend you check your inverter for any warnings, and then talk to a solar professional to troubleshoot the issue. 

Lower quality, cheap panels, may take longer to pay for themselves, as they can't convert the same level of sun into electricity as a higher quality panel can. However, if your panels have a noticeable decrease in efficiency, warnings or anything that looks unusual or broken, it's always best to check with the installer.  

Solar can save a lot of money for the average homeowner
Solar can save a lot of money for the average homeowner

Solar panels can stop working for a range of reasons; some are caused by the sun, others by the product and yet others by broken parts. 

It's important to have your solar serviced at least once every 1-2 years and clean it every 6 months, so you know your system is safe and producing to its optimum capacity. 

Updated: 09/16/2020, wrylilt
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blackspanielgallery on 09/18/2020

I have noticed small clouds passing drop my solar energy, but overcast days dramatically drop solar energy if the clouds are thick enough. Even in direct sunlight a certain intensity is needed to have any electricity produced. The sun must be up a few hours before the angle of the sun makes it intense enough to trigger any electricity at all. In fact, your 25% drop is really more like 25% efficiency, at best, or a 75% drop for long light paths through clouds. Photons must dislodge electrons to obtain the voltage, which must exceed the energy threshold for dislodging electrons.

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