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What Time Do Solar Panels Start Working?

What Time Do Solar Panels Start Working, Other factors affecting solar panel performance throughout the day.

Making the switch to solar energy can be intimidating because of its large upfront cost. So it’s important to know just how effective these panels are at converting the sun’s rays into solar electricity. Hence, why you’re wondering: What time do solar panels start working?

Well, the short answer is that solar panels start working as soon as they are exposed to direct sunlight. While this answer may seem straightforward, several factors affect solar output and energy production throughout the day.

In this article, I’ll explain the different solar power outputs throughout the day. Below is a list of topics that I’m covering. Let’s get started!

Solar panels start producing energy at about 6 AM.

6 AM is only a rough average for when solar panels start generating electricity because, in reality, they start working at sunrise. This, of course, varies depending on location, weather, and time of year. 

That being said, solar panels can still generate a small (perhaps insignificant) amount of energy even before sunrise due to ambient light. Power output gradually builds up with the increasing brightness of the sun until it reaches its peak. 

The peak output of solar panels is at around noon.

Graph from a study showing the different light intensities throughout the day.

The peak power output of solar panels usually occurs around noon when the sun is directly overhead. At this time, solar panels receive the most direct sunlight, allowing them to generate the maximum amount of energy possible.

Light intensity is typically measured in lux, and a study has shown that sunrise is measured at around 100 lux, compared to the 100,000 lux measured around noon (see graph above). Hence, why it’s also where solar power production is at its peak.

Note that these figures oversimplify light intensity and don’t consider factors such as season, geography, and weather. Nevertheless, this information should give you insight into the changes in solar panel efficiency throughout the day.

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Solar panels stop working at 6 PM.

Graph from a study forecasting solar power outputs throughout the day.

Solar panels may continue generating electricity past 6 PM, as long as there is still some sunlight available. However, the energy output will be significantly lower than during peak hours due to the decreasing angle of the sun in the sky.

As mentioned earlier, the intensity of the sunlight can vary throughout the day depending on the sun’s position and other factors. But, in general, solar power output gradually also decreases after it peaks at noon – and gets especially low after 6 PM. 

By now, I hope I made the patterns concerning solar power output and time of day clear to you. I’ve also touched on factors that affect power outputs apart from time, so let’s move on to that. 

Other factors that affect how solar panels work throughout the day

Orientation

The orientation of solar panels is a critical aspect of their performance. In particular, the direction they face and the angle they’re installed significantly impact their energy output and efficiency.

In Australia, the best orientation for solar panels is north-facing since we’re located in the southern hemisphere. If the panels face east or west, they produce roughly 15% less power but also peak in the morning and afternoon respectively. 

A south-facing orientation is generally one you should avoid because it produces the least amount of solar power but, if all else fails, it’s still a viable option. 

That being said, the angle of your solar panels should ideally be equal to the latitude of your property. Generally, though, an angle of 10-30°is acceptable. 

For further reading: 

Shading

Shade blocks sunlight from reaching your panels, therefore reducing their energy output. If you live in an area where shading is a frequent issue, such as urban environments with tall buildings or heavily-wooded surroundings, your solar system’s efficiency can be compromised.

To ensure optimum solar panel performance despite the presence of shade, it is important to choose an inverter that’s specifically designed to cope with such obstacles.

String Inverters are the most commonly used type of solar inverter and generally the least expensive. However, a downside to this technology is that shading or damage to just one panel can impact the entire solar system’s output. 

On the other hand, using micro-inverters and power optimizers means shading or damage to one solar panel won’t affect the performance of the rest. So, they’re particularly useful if you have problems with shade. 

Heat

Increased sunlight can lead to increased solar power and more electricity production. However, sunlight also brings heat. And, in excess, heat can negatively affect the efficiency of your solar panels

That being said, different solar panels have different temperature coefficients. The lower the coefficient, the less the module gets affected by increasing temperature. 

Of the two most popularly used types of solar panels in Australia (monocrystalline and polycrystalline), monocrystalline fairs better with heat. So, it’s what we strongly recommend, too.

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The different seasons

The different seasons in Australia can have a significant effect on the light intensity, which affects the amount of electricity that a solar system can generate. 

During the summer months of December to February, days are longer, and the sun is higher in the sky – resulting in significantly more sunlight hitting the solar panels.

This means solar systems have more hours to convert sunlight into electricity, leading to higher efficiencies and increased energy outputs. 

The quality of your solar panels

Not all solar panels are created equal. Higher-quality solar panels are designed to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently than lower-quality solar panels produce. 

This means that if your system used higher quality solar panels, your modules could potentially start generating electricity at an earlier time. 

Not only that, but higher quality modules are also more durable. So, although they’re generally more expensive, you get more from your money in the long run. 

FAQs:

Do You Get Power From Solar Panels At Night?

No, because solar panels generate electricity from sunlight. However, you can still use the excess energy and electricity generated by your solar panels if you had a solar battery

Recommended: Here’s how you can still enjoy solar power at night. 

Do Solar Panels Work On Cloudy Days?

Solar panels can still generate electricity on cloudy days albeit at a lower rate. Solar panels generate electricity through sunlight and on overcast days, there isn’t a lot of that. 

What Are The Worst Months For Solar?

The worst months for solar are the winter months. In Australia, that’s June, July, and August. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, solar panels begin to work as soon as they are exposed to the sun, which means they start generating electricity at sunrise. Power output gets higher from then on and peaks at noon. After that, power output also dwindles until around 6 PM at sunset. 

The difference in power outputs throughout the day is also because different hours have different light intensities. Moreover, other factors such as the quality and type of solar panels you have, their orientations, as well as weather conditions affect energy output, too. 

If you haven’t made the switch to solar yet, we can help. We have a network of pre-vetted installers that can get you 3 FREE quotes right away.