Do Solar Panels Need Direct Sunlight?

Do solar panels need direct sunlight to work? Let’s find out if shade, clouds or rain impact the performance of solar panels

Tom
February 14, 2024
Should I get solar panels?

Quick Navigation:

  1. Do Solar Panels Work Without Direct Sunlight?
  2. Installing Solar Panels Where There is no Direct Sunlight
  3. Other Weather Conditions That Affect Efficiency
  4. How Much Energy Could Solar Panels Produce for You

Living in the cloudy UK, it is natural to wonder whether solar panels need direct sunlight to work. Luckily, we’re here to break down the science behind green energy and help you work out whether solar panels are a worthwhile investment for you. 

Do Solar Panels Work Without Direct Sunlight?

Solar panels work just fine without direct sunlight but at a greatly reduced efficiency. Whilst direct sunlight is ideal for energy production, it’s not necessary - solar panels will produce electricity as long as they receive daylight.

Solar panels require daylight, not sunlight to work so even on a cloudy day, they will produce electricity for your home. For a deeper look into how solar panels work and how much energy they can produce, we’d recommend the previously linked article.

Installing Solar Panels Where There is no Direct Sunlight

We would typically advise against installing solar panels in areas of constant or regular shade - such as when a taller building or even trees obscure direct sunlight for much of the day. 

However, it’s worth noting that most roofs will experience some shade at different times of the day (perhaps caused by a chimney or dormer window). In these situations, the shade cast on the roof does not rule out solar panels. As long as most of your roof is basked by light during the day, solar panels will still be worth installing.

For roofs that experience shading, we would recommend the use of optimisers. These are small components that are attached to each of the panels. Their purpose is to ensure that each panel operates individually, thereby ensuring that shading on a few panels does not cause the entire string of panels to become less efficient. 

In other words, even if one panel is in the shade, the others go on producing free electricity for your home. Optimisers make solar panels a viable investment for houses with shaded roofs. 

If your property’s roof suffers from shading, we’d recommend using our free solar panel calculator tool - our system will analyse information about your geographic location (amongst other details!) and use this to calculate the amount of direct sunlight your roof receives over a year. 

You will also be provided with a Green Home Guru who will help ensure you find the best panel arrangement for your house should you choose to proceed with a solar panel installation. 

Solar panels on a detached house

Other Weather Conditions That Affect Efficiency 

Will my solar panels work on a cloudy day?

Absolutely! Solar panels do indeed function on cloudy days. It's important to note, though, that the performance might dip slightly due to the reduced direct sunlight. But don't worry, this decrease in efficiency can be effectively managed. 

One way to counter this is by adding optimisers to your solar system. These devices help in maintaining a more consistent energy output, even when the skies are overcast. So, while there might be some variation in performance, your solar panels won't leave you in the dark on cloudy days.

Will my solar panels work on a rainy day?

Yes, your solar panels will still function on rainy days. While rain may reduce direct sunlight, it comes with its advantages. Rain plays a helpful role in naturally cleaning your solar panels. This natural cleaning process can enhance their efficiency by washing away any dust or debris that might have accumulated on the panels. So, even during rainy weather, your solar panels continue to work, and they get a helpful cleaning boost that keeps them running effectively.

Will solar panels work when it snows?

Solar panels can indeed function during snowy conditions. The key factor is that the panels need to be exposed to sunlight. Light snowfalls typically don't pose a significant problem, as the snow often melts quickly due to the heat generated by the panels themselves. Plus, the smooth surface of the panels makes it difficult for snow to accumulate.

However, heavier snow can cover the panels and block sunlight, temporarily reducing their efficiency. In such cases, it's important to safely remove the snow to restore the panels’ functionality. It's also worth noting that solar panels are generally installed at an angle, which helps the snow slide off more easily.

How Much Energy Could Solar Panels Produce for You

Now that you have a clearer understanding of how solar panels perform under various weather conditions, including whether they need direct sunlight, why not take the next step? 

Our solar panel calculator is an exciting tool that lets you explore how much energy solar panels could produce for your home. Just input a few details about your home, and it'll do the rest, giving you a personalised estimate of the benefits you can reap from solar energy.

And if you're hungry for more knowledge about generating your energy, we've got plenty of resources. 

Need a more personal touch? Feel free to drop us an email at team@makemyhousegreen.com, and we'll be happy to assist.

Recommended Guides:

- How many solar panels will fit on my roof?

- Are solar panels worth it in the uk?

- How efficient are solar panels?

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