Solar Panels

Do Solar Panels Work At Night?

By:Michael Johns

solar panels at night

In this article you’ll discover whether solar panels work at night.

Below you’ll find out how people use solar power to keep their appliances and electronics running 24 hours a day, even when there is no sunshine.

Together we’ll go through the issues with solar panels at night, how to get around the problem, and if you can charge solar panels with moonlight.

By setting up your solar array in the correct way you’ll be able to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your system. This will keep you powered up for longer and provide you with a maximum return on your investment. 

Do Solar Panels Work During the Night?

No, solar panels do not produce any electricity at night. This is because they rely on sunlight to charge electrons and create an electric current.

A solar panel is built from lots of small solar cells. These cells are what produce electricity when they are hit by photons of sunlight.

And when there is no sunlight a solar panel stops working completely. In fact, these cells will only work at maximum capacity for a few peak sunlight hours each day. This is usually 3 to 5 hours per day.

Power will significantly reduce in the early mornings and evenings before completely stopping at night.

solar panels at sunset
Low light isn’t good for electricity production

An easy way to tell if your solar panels will be producing electricity is to look at the street lights on the roadside. Often these lights switch on and off based on light sensors. So if the street lights are off then you should be generating solar power. When the street lights switch on, sunlight will disappear and solar energy stops.

The fact that you can’t generate any electricity at night with solar panels is a massive drawback. Most of us use more energy during the evening as we switch the lights on, cook dinner, and watch TV.

How are you meant to binge Netflix if you don’t have any power?

Well, I’ll tell you, because all is not lost.

How Do Houses With Solar Panels Work During the Night?

When night falls things will change in a solar home. Solar panels stop generating electricity and you need to rely on other sources. 

In fact, there’s a couple of tricks you can use to store your energy for use at a later time. Solar panels have a limited amount of daylight to get their work done. Ideally, they should keep you running during the day and produce extra to be stored for the evening.

Here’s two ways to store solar power for use at night.

Grid-Tie and Net Energy Metering

The most popular way to wire up solar panels is with grid-tie inverters and Net Energy Metering. 

This effectively allows you to store your extra electricity on the main grid. When you generate electricity from solar panels it can be used to power your home and any excess is sent to the main grid. This is called ‘grid-tie’ as you are still tied into the main grid.

As you send electricity into the mains you will receive energy credit from your utility company. Then when the solar panels stop working, your home automatically draws energy from the mains just like a normal home.

How solar panel electricity works in a house
A house connected to solar panels and the main grid

Of course, this electricity is not the ‘same electricity’ you originally produced stored somewhere in the wires. 

In actual fact, what you are doing is storing the economic value of the energy with your supplier. 

You simply earn credit from your electricity production to then spend when you need power from the mains. This transaction is known as Net Energy Metering.

Battery Storage

Battery storage is a little easier to understand as it’s exactly what it sounds like…

You use your solar panels to run your house, plus you have batteries to charge up and store electricity for later.

Generally, you will find these solar batteries in off-grid remote situations like cabins, RVs, and boats. With a completely off-grid installation, you use the solar panels to charge the batteries and then draw electricity from the battery via a power inverter.

RV with batteries at night
RV using batteries for electricity at night

Grid-tie and Battery Storage: The Best of Both

An increasing number of people are installing battery backups in their homes too. This adds a number of benefits including protection against an outage, emergencies, and balancing peak power usage.

In this scenario, a home solar array works the same as a grid-tie system where you use solar in the day and mains at night. 

The addition of batteries protects you during a blackout. This is because a solar powered home will still lose power during an outage. This is to protect engineers working on the main grid. However, with backup batteries, you can keep your house powered up for a while.

In addition, smart monitoring systems can further reduce your energy bills through batteries. Many utility companies are employing Peak and Off-peak tariffs. When demand is high, like early evenings, you will pay more for energy. And when demand is low, like the middle of the night, energy is cheaper. Batteries can help to get around this by switching to battery energy during peak times and recharging during solar or off-peak times.

Battery storage needs to be carefully set up and programmed. If done incorrectly, it can actually increase your bills as mains electricity starts recharging batteries at the wrong times! Massive fail.

Do Solar Panels Work with Moonlight?

No, no, and no again.

Solar panels do not generate electricity from moonlight. They need either direct or diffuse sunlight during the day.

Moonlight is simply a reflection of sunlight and by the time it reaches Earth (and your solar cells) it doesn’t carry enough energy to charge your panels.

In rare instances, you might get a very very small voltage during bright moonlight, but it’s not going to be a noticeable amount of electricity. 

Whatever you might read, the moon will not charge solar panels.

Do Solar Panels Make Noise at Night?

Solar panels should not make any noise at night or any other time of day. They don’t have any moving components or sound generation. In fact, seeing as no electricity is produced at night they should be dead silent.

If you can hear sounds coming from your solar panels then it is usually from another component in the system or an external factor. The most common reason for noise is wind whistling or flapping the equipment. Other than this, a power inverter can create a buzzing, whooshing, or vibration from its cooling fans.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night Summary

No, solar panels do not work at night. As soon as the sun disappears, electricity production stops.

In any case, you will need to store electricity for use at night which can be done using Net Energy Metering or battery backup.

At first, many people ask if they can run their whole house on solar panels. The answer is yes you can completely off-set your utility bill with a large array but you’ll generally need to rely on the mains grid during the night.