Solar FAQ: Do Solar Panels Work On Cloudy Days?

A solar panel needs sun, right?

Yes, that’s certainly true but what confuses a lot of people is how much sunlight a solar panel needs.

While it’s a given that strong direct sunlight is going to harbour the most energy, your solar panels will still generate power on an overcast day.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at this.

How Do Solar Panels Work And Are They Reliable?

Solar energy is a sustainable form of power that’s both reliable and efficient. More people are enjoying the benefits of solar and taking the step to a greener future.

But we’re all so used to powering our homes using the grid which uses a variety of methods to generate power including some not-so-eco-friendly ones like nuclear and the burning of coal and natural gases. That said, we’ve all come to discover that, for the most part, grid power is very reliable.

There’s something of a stigma attached to solar power and that’s understandable as it’s only been in recent years that it’s become just as reliable as any other type of power.

The solar panels of the 90s and early 2000s were known for how unreliable they were and many people think that the modern ones are exactly the same. That’s simply not true. Technological advances have meant that solar technology is better than it has ever been.

So, how does it work?

Well, let’s try and keep this simple. After all, I’m sure you were looking for some light reading here.

Solar panels contain PV cells whose job it is to absorb light from the sun as it shines down onto the panels. This light is a form of energy and as that energy becomes trapped in the solar panel’s cells, it begins to create an electrical charge. This charge then moves around the panel creating a flow of energy.

There’s a lot of advanced tech inside your solar panels that’s used to convert the energy into something usable for your home.

Will My Solar Panels Still Work When It’s Cloudy?

One of the most common questions I get asked is whether it’s worth installing solar panels when we live in a country that hardly ever sees any sun.

Yes, in summer we may have a few reliable weeks of sunshine but for the rest of the year, it’s pretty hit and miss. Spending all that money on solar panels would be quite a waste if they’ll only power your home for a few weeks every year.

But wait!

Solar panels will still work when it’s cloudy. I won’t lie, the power they generate won’t be as much as on a clear, sunny day but they should still create enough energy to power your home.

The sun’s rays are incredibly strong. Think about it, even when it’s very cloudy, there’s still a good degree of light during the day and that’s because of how those strong UV rays can penetrate the clouds.

Do Solar Panels Work In Winter?

Another thing that people appear to believe is that solar panels won’t work in winter. For starters, the fact that there are not as many hours of sun is a cause for concern. But consider that even just a few hours of direct sunlight a day is enough to power your home. So don’t let those short days put you off a greener form of energy.

What’s more, there’s a myth that solar panels won’t work when it’s cold and let’s face it, it can get pretty chilly here in the UK during winter.

But this is definitely just a myth. Solar panels operate most efficiently around 25ºC but they’ve got a generous working range so there’s no need to worry if the mercury drops.

In fact, there are solar panels out there that have been tested at temperatures as low as -40º and since we don’t get weather anywhere near that cold in the UK, you can feel confident that your panels will still operate well during the winter.

For reference, I think it’s also worth mentioning that the same solar panels have been tested at temperatures as high as 85ºC. Again, there’s absolutely zero chance of things ever getting that hot and, if they did, I think your solar panels would be the least of your concerns!

How Much Sun Do Solar Panels Need?

It is recommended that you allow your solar panels to be exposed to around four hours of direct sunlight every day. But if we’re realistic, that isn’t always going to be possible, especially when we experience many days of overcast skies in a row.

But there’s no need to worry because, as I have discussed, your solar panels will still perform when it’s cloudy. They might just generate a little less power than on a bright day.

If you’re concerned about not having enough energy to power your home, I would recommend installing a solar battery. These add-ons store any additional power which can then supplement your home’s energy on days that not as much power is produced.

Where’s The Best Place To Put My Solar Panels For Maximum Sunlight?

If you want to ensure that your solar panels get as much direct sun exposure as possible, it’s really important to properly place them for maximum efficiency.

When you have your solar panels installed, your fitter will talk through your options with you and this will vary depending on the property.

However, it’s commonly accepted that a south-facing roof is the best location for solar panels as this will receive the most sunlight during any given day.

Where it isn’t possible to place the panels on a south-facing roof, you may opt for an east or west-facing roof. This will work very well but it’s worth keeping in mind that the panels may generate up to 20% less energy. It is never recommended that panels be placed on a north-facing roof.

By choosing the right position for your solar panels, you can ensure that they generate as much power as possible, even when the sky is full of clouds.

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