The choice of installing solar panels to generate electricity in homes has steadily grown in popularity. Its use of natural sunlight, making it a more eco-friendly option, and the effect of reducing energy bills sounds like a no brainer.
However, there are quite a few misconceptions about solar panels,. The one you’ll hear most often is that if the clouds don’t part and the sun doesn’t show itself, then the panels won’t work and there will be no energy. Of course, the solar panels can’t work full swing when they are exposed to less sunlight. However, many factors determine how effective your solar panels will be when the sun goes away.
The good news is solar panels can work with both direct and indirect sunlight! We also recommend investing in some sort of insulation – something as simple as thermal curtains for temperature regulation make a big difference.
Related article: Solar Panels vs Wind Turbine for Homes
How Do Solar Panels Work?
The basic explanation is that solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it into direct current energy (DC). An inverter installed into the panel then turns this DC energy into alternating current energy (AC). AC energy is the form of energy which we use to power our homes, electrical devices, appliances etc. An added benefit is any excess energy produced is redirected into the electricity grid, helping others in an environmentally friendly way.
The way that it converts solar energy to measurable units of electricity and heating power is through net metering. Net metering allows solar energy users to only pay for electricity generated by their own solar panel systems. Users just have to keep an eye out for the net metering policies in their state or hometown, as they can differ from region to region.
Can Solar Panels Work in the Shade?
This is the big question all prospective solar panel customers need answering. If you lived in a country or a region closer to the equator where sunlight was consistent, this would not be an issue as you would be confident your solar panels would get the necessary sunlight required to power your home, however, if you live in a place where you experience all four seasons, and many cloudy days, would it be worth getting solar panels?
The simple answer is, yes – they are worth it.
The best option would be to install photovoltaic (PV) panels. These panels use photons to generate energy. Photons are particles of light which are crucially present in both direct and indirect sunlight, making your solar panels effective all year round.
For more details on directions and positions you need to maximize your array’s efficiency, check out my guide on where and how to place solar panels.
Do Solar Panels Produce Power When There’s No Sun?
Having said that, your solar panels do need a minimum amount of exposure to sunlight, and of course, direct sunlight is more effective than indirect sunlight. It’s said that the ideal amount of time for sun exposure that solar panels should get is four hours per day, which is easily achievable during three out of four seasons of the year. At least in most parts of the world!
And while this can mean less energy with cloudy weather – as solar panels produce as much energy, electricity or thermal, as they can get from the sun – with increasing electricity unit costs and solar panel system loans, it’s still a smart investment to set up the system for your home while living in a clouded city.
How Shade Impacts Your Solar Panels
The output of your solar panels in the shade comes down to two main factors:
1. How Long They Are in Shade
Though they are capable of producing usable energy in the shade, the longer they remain out of direct sunlight the less energy they produce. However, the panels do not require consistent and consecutive hours of energy. You could have a cloudy morning and a sunny afternoon, or vice versa, but as long as the panels get the total amount of sunlight they need, they will produce the required amount of energy.
2. What Inverter System is Being Used
The inverter is the key component in converting sunlight into energy, with there being two main types of inverters; microinverter and string inverter. For those living in areas where sunlight is not so consistent, a microinverter system is more suitable.
With a microinverter, when direct sunlight is impeded, the part of the panel which is affected by the shade is the only part that drops in output, with the rest of the sunlight exposed panels unaffected.
If string inverter panels are even partially exposed to shade, then the entire electric output of the panels drops. These systems are more appropriate for homes in hot countries which get more than enough sunlight.
Solar panels work in cloudy weather, too!
We get our fair share of rainy, cloudy, and overcast days here in Massachusetts. Thankfully, your solar panels can handle the tough New England weather.
Clouds block the sun’s energy and prevent it from reaching your panels, which decreases electricity production but doesn’t halt it completely. Plus, solar technology is getting better every day, and the solar panels that we install offer excellent performance in many weather conditions
What Are Some Benefits of Getting Solar Panels?
Harnessing solar power and converting it into thermal or electrical energy, it’s clear to see solar panels are excellent at creating clean, lasting, renewable energy.
Solar power is the most abundant renewable resource available, which not only has massive benefits to the environment, but also to your pocket! Setting up solar panels can stretch you a little thin with its installation charges in the beginning, but the payoff is long and plentiful. Even if your bill doesn’t get as low as you might have hoped for!
You can save money ASAP on electricity and heating bills, and even protect yourself against the rising unit costs on electricity and utility rates as time goes on. Solar policies can vary from area to area, but as many areas across the Northwest have access to sunlight – and probably will continue to in the future (global warming) – solar panels are a smart investment.
And with clean, green, renewable energy from solar panels, you’re looking at less gas emissions which means it’s great for the environment, but with less air pollutants and matter floating around your home, neighborhoods and communities, you’re also looking at less health issues!
How Much Will it Cost to Maintain my Solar Panels?
Just when you thought it couldn’t, here’s where it gets even better: solar panel maintenance is super low cost! Solar panels are made of a tempered glass that is incredibly durable, requiring very little care beyond wiping down the panels – and cleaning them isn’t even something you need to do all that often. Systems manufacturers for these panels often include warranties, maintenance if required, depending from company to company.
An even better news is that solar panel cleaning is DIY-able.
Can Solar Panels Work in a Blackout?
If your solar panel system is connected to the grid, which is almost always the case, it will most likely shut off if there is ever a blackout. As electricity can continue to flow through, it can potentially injure any electricity repair teams sent out to fix/send power back to grids. However, you can definitely use backup power in the form of an inverter with a battery pack that can retain solar energy generated by your panel systems.
For more details, head over to my article on solar panels during power outage.