When thinking about installing solar panels in your home to save money on energy bills, one of the first things you may wonder is whether or not you need direct sunlight to get the most out of them. In other words, do solar panels need direct sunlight?
The short answer is yes; solar panels perform better when they have direct access to sunlight.
However, depending on where you live and the layout of your home, it may not be possible to place them in a location that receives abundant direct sunlight at all times of the day.
But don’t let that dissuade you from going green with renewable energy. You can find ways to make them work in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.
Let’s say the only suitable spot for your solar panel installation happens to be impacted by shade caused by trees. There are still plenty of ways to boost their efficiency and take advantage of any available sunshine.
Solar panels can produce electricity even on partly cloudy days, or when there is indirect sunlight.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks for getting more out of your home solar panel system regardless of the natural light conditions.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels are large panels that are installed on rooftops to convert sunlight into renewable electricity.
A solar panel contains photovoltaic cells that generate an electrical current when they are exposed to photons from the sun’s rays. It is then used to power appliances and lighting throughout your home.
Solar panels come in different shapes and sizes to accommodate the needs of different homeowners. In general, they are available in two different formats:
- Mounted panels, that are permanently installed on the rooftop of the house.
- Portable panels, which are installed temporarily on a rooftop. They can be removed after they’ve produced enough electricity to cover the homeowner’s monthly power bill.
Installing solar panels on a rooftop with limited sunlight
Even though solar panels perform best when they are in direct sunlight, there are still many ways to maximize their effectiveness even on partly cloudy days.
For example, they can be installed on the shaded side of your rooftop, which is still within the reach of sunlight. It might not be the best location, but it can still offer some exposure to natural light and help your solar panels generate electricity.
Another option is to install the equipment on a roof that doesn’t receive direct sunlight at all times of the day. For example, if your roof faces west, it doesn’t get direct sunlight after about 1:30 p.m. In this case, it might be better to install solar panels on your roof’s east side and take advantage of sunlight earlier in the day. Doing so allows the equipment to generate electricity from the sun’s rays before it sets and after it rises again.
Do solar panels work on cloudy days
Cloudy days can make solar panels less efficient, as well as rain or snow. Cloud cover’s effect on photons. Clouds reflect most of the light that hits them, only allowing a small amount of radiation to pass through. This means less light is available to activate the solar cells, which means the electricity production is low.
The good news is that cloud cover usually isn’t an issue at all times of day and during most months of the year.
In fact, solar panels can work in all weather conditions. Cloudy days might not be ideal for solar panels, but they can still create electricity in these conditions.
These panels can use sensors to detect cloud cover and adjust their angle accordingly. This allows them to continue generating power even when there is a lot of cloud coverage.
However, this is not true for all types of equipment. Certain types of panels, such as those made from amorphous silicon (a-Si), are particularly sensitive to low levels of light and cannot produce energy on cloudy days.
Things you can do to maximize solar panel efficiency
Even if trees or another structure cause shade on your solar panel installation, there are still many things you can do to maximize their effectiveness and get more out of your solar panels.
First, make sure you purchase high-quality solar panels; they’ll last longer and produce more electricity over the years.
Next, make sure your system’s wiring is optimized to handle large amounts of electricity and draw as much power from the sun as possible. This can help your solar panels generate more electricity and make up for their limited sunlight exposure.
Finally, always be on the lookout for potential obstructions that might block sunshine from reaching your solar panels. Over time, vines, branches, and even trees can grow and block sunlight from reaching your solar panels. The same is true for dust and dirt that can build up over time and block the sun from reaching your panels. Make sure your solar panels are not blocked by anything that could reduce their productivity by conducting regular inspections.
Install panels facing south
Even if your solar panel installation is facing north, south, or east, it can still take advantage of indirect sunlight. However, it will only be able to create a fraction of the electricity that it would if it were directly facing the sun.
There are two ways you can increase your solar panels’ exposure to indirect sunlight.
First, you can turn the panels slightly to the side, allowing for a larger surface area to receive natural light.
Second, you can install a reflector on the back of your solar panels. The reflector will bounce sunlight from the sun back towards the solar panel, increasing its exposure to sunlight.
Maximize the power of direct sunlight
Add a storage battery
Storage batteries collect electricity produced by solar panels and store it for later use.
If your home’s solar panel system doesn’t have a storage battery, excess electricity generated is fed into the local grid and sold to utility companies.
With a storage battery, you can store your home’s solar energy for use at night or during cloudy days.
This way, you can continue to save money on electricity even when the weather isn’t conducive to solar panel installation.
Storage batteries can be connected to your home’s solar panels either directly or via an inverter. The type of storage battery you choose will depend on your needs and how much electricity you want to store.
Use solar tracking technology
Solar tracking technology allows solar panels to follow the sun throughout the day, maximizing the amount of sunlight they are exposed to. There are two types of solar tracking technology: manual tracking and fully automated tracking.
Manual tracking involves manually repositioning your panels throughout the day to follow the sun. This option is ideal for homeowners who want to save money while maximizing their panels’ productivity.
Fully automated tracking moves panels at set times throughout the day to follow the sun. This option is ideal for people who don’t have the time or energy to manually reposition the panels throughout the day.
Take advantage of your home’s design and features
Even if your roof receives little to no sunlight and isn’t an ideal location for solar panel installation, you can still take advantage of your home’s design and features to produce more electricity.
For example, north-facing roofs shaded by trees in the spring and summer will reduce solar panel efficiency. However, you can maximize it by planting tall trees on the south-facing side of your house. Tall trees on the south side of a home block sunlight from reaching solar panels on the north side of the roof. This way, you can maximize your home’s north-facing roof to create electricity at all times of the year.
Solar panels need direct sunlight to perform their best. Southern exposure is the optimal location to install them. That way, it will maximize their access to sunshine.
If you have limited sunlight in your house, you saw that there are many ways to maximize your solar panel efficiency. It’s time to maximize the electricity they generate, even on cloudy days.
And if you have a partially shaded rooftop? You can still install solar panels in optimal locations or reposition them throughout the day to follow the sun. You can also take advantage of your home’s design and features to boost your solar panel effectiveness. With these tips and tricks, you can get more electricity and save money on energy costs.