If you live in an area of the country that doesn’t get as many hours of sunlight as other states, you might be wondering whether a solar system for your home is a wise investment. However, there is more to the question than mere sunlight hours, and to answer this question in the best way possible, it’s necessary to look at how solar power actually works.
Solar power: how does it work?
By harnessing the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity, solar photovoltaics are the panels commonly seem on rooftops or in fields all over the country, and indeed, all over the world. Once sunlight has been captured by the solar panels, an inverter converts the Direct Current electricity into the Alternative Current that homes and appliances use. By producing your own solar energy, you can save money on your utilities, and when your system produces excess energy during the day, it’s sent back to the electricity grid for other people to use.
When do solar panels generate the most energy?
While working at their best in direct sunlight, solar panels can also generate energy on cloudy, rainy, snowy days. In the absence of direct sunlight, solar panels are capable of producing energy using just indirect sunlight. That said, naturally there will be a drop in performance during those hours when direct sunlight isn’t available, as solar panels need 1000 W/m2 of sunlight to reach their maximum output; that much can only be achieved when there is direct sunlight shining onto the panels.
Can solar panels generate energy at night time?
Unfortunately, the light of the moon isn’t enough to run a solar panel, and while the moon may be shining brightly some nights, it only reflects light from the sun and doesn’t generate any light of its own.
Can solar panels still be effective during the winter?
It’s important to understand that solar energy generation is related to sunlight and not heat, so while the temperature may drop considerably during the winter months, if the sun is still shining brightly, your solar panels can still generate energy. In fact, cold but bright weather is the ideal time to generate electricity for your home, as solar panels operate more efficiently at colder temperatures.
Should you supplement your energy supply with that produced by the grid?
Without solar energy storage in the form of a battery, most American households will power their homes partially with solar power, and partially with the grid, to keep interruptions to the power supply to a minimum. Many households simply won’t be able to produce enough solar energy to power their homes all the time, due to a lack of peak sun hours, or obstacles giving shade such as tall buildings.
If your home is situated in an area that doesn’t receive full sunlight exposure every day, it’s best to harness what you can with a small array of solar panels and position them where the light will hit them for the longest duration. You can use your own power as much as possible, and then rely on the grid to meet all your other energy needs. If you live in an area that receives maximum sunlight exposure every day, on the other hand, your solar company will guide you as to how many panels to purchase, and where to position them for maximum effect, and will likely recommend that you invest in battery backup to give you an uninterrupted power supply at all times.