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Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

4 min read

Solar panel technology is one of the most important developments in modern energy production. Using the photovoltaic effect, these panels make it possible for us to convert sunlight into clean, available, affordable electrical energy. But sometimes there’s something standing between solar panels and the sunlight that feeds them. Naturally, we’re talking about clouds.

Clouds may be nothing more than a stray bit of water vapor, but in the wrong place and at the wrong time, they can turn a sunny morning into something downright gloomy. And when you’re depending on sunlight to power your home, you might worry about bad weather ruining your day.

But how much impact do cloudy skies actually have on solar energy output? And are there ways to ensure that the power keeps flowing even when the fog rolls in?

Solar Panels Need Sun… but Maybe not as Much as You Think

Have you ever gotten a sunburn on an overcast day? If so, then you already know that it takes more than a few clouds to completely block out the sun. Sunlight gets through. It may not be as bright or as warm as direct sunlight, but it’s there. And that means it’s hitting your solar panels.

That said, clouds do still have an impact on how much electricity is being produced. But according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), even in partly cloudy weather, solar cells can still operate at 80% of their maximum output. Depending on your energy requirements and the number of panels you have, this occasional drop in output will likely not mean that much. And if the clouds don’t burn off in a few days, there are ways to benefit from the clean power that your solar panels have already produced.

Storing Some Sun for a Rainy Day

If cloudy skies are hampering your panels’ energy output, you have two options: With net metering you can maintain a connection to the electric grid and draw from city power when you need to. Or, you can use a battery-based solar storage system.

These two options make solar energy an all-weather solution for your home. But let’s take a closer look and see exactly what these options entail, starting with net metering.

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing agreement between solar customers and their utility company. The specifics of net metering are different depending on your utility, but basically it allows you to send any excess power your solar panels produce to the grid for a credit on your utility bill. Those net metering credits can then be used to draw electricity from the grid when your panels aren’t producing enough energy to power your home, like when it’s cloudy or dark outside.

Similarly, during the spring and summer months when the sun is shining and your panels are producing more electricity than you need, that extra energy goes to the grid. Then in the winter when the days are shorter, you can draw on those energy credits to help offset some of your energy needs.

*Note: Net metering can work differently depending on your utility and won’t completely eliminate your power bill, but it can help you make the most of the energy your solar panels are producing.

Another way you can make the most of the power your solar panels produce (with or without net metering) is solar storage.

What Is Solar Storage?

Solar storage is a battery system that can be integrated with your solar panel system. As your panels convert sunlight to electricity, unused energy will charge the battery, which your home can then draw from when panel output is low. And while batteries don’t last forever, it’s worth noting that the LG Chem batteries installed by Vivint Solar come with a 10-year warranty, so you won’t have to worry about replacing them often like a cell phone battery.

How Vivint Solar Can Help with Your Solar Energy Needs

Do solar panels work on cloudy days? Simply put, yes, they do. And if heavy clouds are affecting their efficiency, net metering and solar storage can help make up the difference.

But more importantly, solar panels operate most effectively when they’re selected to fit your specific circumstances. That’s why Vivint Solar designs a solar energy system specific to each home to ensure the best fit for every customer.

Before we install your system, we send out a trained expert to evaluate your unique home situation. Taking into account factors such as natural obstructions and local climate conditions, our experts provide you with a detailed analysis, so that you can cut the questions out of the equation and invest in a system capable of optimizing your electrical output.

Don’t let cloudy weather rain on your parade. Contact Vivint Solar today, and see how you can enjoy clean, inexpensive solar power, even when the skies are gray.

See how much solar could save you!

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