Given that solar panels are powered by, well… solar energy, concerns about how they work in the absence of the sun are quite common. So, how do solar panels work at night, anyway?
Simply, solar panels work at night by adding a solar battery storage to your system and/or through net metering.
This article explains both methods in detail to hopefully clear up some confusion. But, first of all…
Do solar panels work at night?
Short answer: No, solar panels generally don’t work at night. I say this in the sense that most solar systems can’t gather the light particles that they need to generate electricity.
Conversely, this means that your solar panels produce electricity only during the daytime (and, yes, that includes during snow and cloudy days, too).
However, this doesn’t mean you have to go without power when the sun goes down. Which brings us to the main part of this discussion:
For more information: A beginner’s guide to how solar panels work
How solar panels work at night
While solar panels can’t produce energy at night, you can still enjoy solar energy through 2 things:
- Solar battery storage, and
- Net metering
You can use solar batteries to use excess power you generated during the day
First, not all systems come with solar batteries but they can be added in if you already have an existing solar panel system. If you’re still planning on putting up solar panels, however, I recommend asking your installer about adding in a solar battery storage to your plan.
That being said, a solar battery can allow you to continue benefiting from your solar panels by storing excess solar energy. Without it, this excess electricity will be sent back to the grid a la net metering (more on this later).
In terms of cost and savings, adding a solar battery will admittedly raise the price of the entire system. However, you also save more money over the long run because you rely less on power companies which, in turn, lowers your electricity bills.
Net metering allows you to use power from the electric grid
A net meter allows electricity to flow to and from your home. Whatever excess power output your solar system produces, the net meter measures and sends back to the grid and vice versa.
For every kWh that you send to the electric grid, the electric company also credits you in the form of feed-in-tariffs (FiTs). Likewise, you can buy energy from the grid using these tariffs.
So, in a way, it’s almost like you’re using the grid as a solar energy storage service where you can import and export electricity.
Want 3 Quotes By Trusted Solar Installers In Your Area?
Solar battery storage VS. Net metering. Which one is better?
Well, that depends on your circumstances.
Generally speaking, using battery storage is the better long-term option.
For one, it saves you the most amount of money because you’re able to use every single kW of solar power that your solar panels produce. However, it’s also a larger investment as batteries can be expensive even though prices have gone down over the past decade.
A net meter, on the other hand, costs less upfront so it’s better if you’re not yet ready to make a huge investment. The downside is that the feed-in-tariffs from exporting solar power to the grid are worth less than importing electricity from the grid.
Best case scenario: You use both battery storage and net metering together.
This has been increasingly the most sought after solution. Best of both worlds, so to speak.
Using a solar battery while still being connected to the grid ensures that you have power all the time without having to pay full price.
You can set this up so that you use grid electricity only when your batteries run out or you can use both simultaneously. Really, it’s all up to you.
Now, when you’re ready to take the next step, we have a network of pre-vetted solar installers that we trust with our own systems. We can get you 3 FREE quotes from them right away.
What time do solar panels start working?
Solar panels start working at sunrise, so roughly 6AM. However, they will make the most amount of power during midday when the sun is at its brightest.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels work by absorbing light particles through its solar cells which, in turn, knocks electrons loose. Movement from these electrons generate DC electricity that an inverter converts to AC electricity.
Can solar panels help during a power outage?
Yes, solar panels help during power outages. If the power outage happens during the day, your solar panels can produce electricity to keep your appliances operational. If the power outage happens at night and you have a battery, you can use the excess solar energy you stored.
Conclusion: How can solar panels work at night?
In summary, solar panels are able to work at night through a battery and/or through net metering.
Battery storage allows you to use excess electricity that your solar panels produce during the day while net metering lets you buy and sell power from the grid.
Batteries are more expensive upfront but save you more money over time. On the other hand, net meters are significantly cheaper but how much money you save may fluctuate depending on the cost of electricity and the value of feed-in-tariffs.
The best solution, though? Use both.