Solar Panels

Everything Solar

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

You might think solar panels stop working during the night. Indeed, solar panels can’t produce electrical energy without the sun. However, a solar panel system can still provide power when the sun goes down. So, how do solar panels work at night?

A Technical Look at How Solar Panels Function

Throughout the daytime, solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it through photovoltaics. The converted sunlight is trapped in silicon cells, altering the structure of the silicon to make the electrons active. This produces DC electricity. A solar inverter converts the electricity to AC and sends it into your home if you have a solar storage system, or into the power grid if you don’t.

When the sun goes down for the day, solar panels can store electricity and continue to transmit energy into your home, despite not being able to take in sunlight. This nighttime power supply is accomplished with a solar storage system. Stored electricity continues to be sent into your home via this system. This is how solar panels work at night, and homeowners can also use stored energy during a storm or natural disaster when the power goes out.

Nighttime Power with Solar Storage

For homeowners, solar storage is a general phrase to describe three forms of solar batteries: lithium-ion, saltwater, and lead acid. All three battery options use active chemical processes to maintain the flow of electrons in a closed space, giving off energy when necessary.

Battery storage isn’t required to transmit electricity from solar panels to your home. However, once night falls, the system can’t supply power without a hybrid system, and you’d have to rely on the power grid.

You may still benefit from solar power even without a storage system. In states like Florida and California, electric companies will pay for excess electricity produced by solar panels during the day and give you a rebate through net metering.

How Many Solar Panels Does It Take to Power a House?

Unfortunately, without consulting an expert, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to determine how many solar panels you need to power a house. Different panel models convert varying amounts of electricity, and installation is complex without a solar panel technician.

Your current energy usage, personal energy mix, and the slope of your roof also determine the number of panels necessary. Not to mention, solar engineers overestimate how many solar panels you need to deal with unpredictable weather.

How to Calculate How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Power Your House

You can approximate your solar needs if you do not consider roof slope and local weather conditions—which vary from season to season and are affected by climate change.

You’ll need to start with:

  • Your annual electricity usage in kWh
  • The solar panel wattage for the solar panels you want to install
  • The solar production ratio for those panels

An experienced solar company can help you get an accurate estimate for the production ratio. You may be able to find a rough estimate online using satellite photos of your home, but it won’t be as accurate as tapping into expert knowledge.

Get a rough estimate of the number of panels you need by dividing your energy usage by the production ratio and panel wattage.

For Example

Let’s look at the Johnsons from Southern California for a more accurate picture:

  • The Johnsons’ annual electricity usage is 11,000 kWh.
  • The Johnsons’ solar panels are 350 watts.
  • The Johnsons’ solar panels have a production ratio of 1.5.

If you put the numbers into the equation from above, you’ll see that the Johnsons need approximately 21 solar panels to power their home.

11,000 kWh Total Electricity Usage / 350-watt panels / 1.5 production ratio = 20.952 panels

How Does Weather Affect Solar Panels?

Solar panels become more productive when the sky is clear and less productive when it’s cloudy or rainy, especially when night falls. In larger states like California and Florida, dark clouds that accompany rainfall can vary drastically from town to town, making solar panels inoperable without stored electricity.

In areas with especially heavy rain or those prone to natural disasters, you should install more solar panels than expected and invest in solar backup storage.

The Design of Your Roof Impacts How Much Solar Energy You Can Get

Contrary to popular belief, the size of your home does not determine how many solar panels are required to power your house (although larger homes may consume more electricity). The angle and shape of your roof play a more significant role.

All American homes are located north of the equator, so solar panels are most effective when facing south. Other houses can still install solar panels, but they will be less efficient.

Solar panels should be angled differently depending on your location and the season. The optimal tilts from summer to winter vary by 30 degrees to account for the sun’s angle.

What Are Solar Panels Made Of?

Solar panels are made of multiple photovoltaic (PV) cells. The cells have varying chemical compositions. Although solar panels may look like they’re made of tinted glass, that is far from the case.

To better understand what materials solar panels are made of, it’s helpful to look at each section individually. The first section is the back-sheet, which holds the solar panel in place and stabilizes it against a surface. Attached to the back-sheet is a junction box, which takes in and distributes electricity.

The next section is the solar module, made of arrayed solar cells that take in light. A frame, often made of steel, holds the solar module together from the front. A sheet of glass or plastic covers the two layers of semi-conductive materials to protect them from external damage.

Solar Cells

The core processing of the electricity produced by solar panels occurs through the composition of the solar cells. Solar cells have layers of semiconductors at the base mixed with phosphorus and boron. Between the sections of solar cells is the depletion zone, which takes in electrons and transfers them to another layer of semi-conductive material.

Approximately 95% of solar panel producers in the United States make solar cells out of silicon. Since silicon is the second-most common element on our planet, it’s a low-cost material readily available. Other solar panel manufacturers include cadmium telluride, perovskite, quantum dots, and organic photovoltaics as semi-conductive material in their panels.

Types of Solar Panels

The three most common types of solar panels are:

  • Mono-crystalline: A solar panel made of a non-altered single semi-conductive crystal
  • Polycrystalline: A solar panel made of multiple crystals melted together
  • Thin-film: A solar panel with thin, flexible PV materials on top of glass, plastic, or metal

Understanding what solar panels are made out of can provide insight into how these units work to draw in, store, and convert solar energy.

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How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

State solar incentives and tax credits have made switching to solar energy more enticing for California and Florida homeowners. Despite this, some residents hamper their decision to switch to solar due to its initial cost. Understanding their lifespan and degradation rates can explain why solar panels are a worthwhile investment. So, how long do solar panels last, and what does it mean for you as a homeowner?

The Lifespan of Solar Panels

Generally, the longer your solar panels effectively generate electricity, the more savings you’ll enjoy. The average industry lifespan for solar panels is about 25 to 30 years, with reputable service providers offering up to 25-year warranties.

For most homeowners in the United States, it takes anywhere from 6 to 10 years to break even from the initial solar panel investment. If the payback period is ten years, California and Florida homeowners can enjoy around 15 years of additional savings on their energy costs. 

How long do solar panels last on a house? Fortunately, solar panels have a long life expectancy because of their durability. They don’t have moving parts and rarely break due to wear and tear. Panels can last for decades when properly installed. 

Solar Panel Degradation Rate

While solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years, they don’t stop generating electricity after their service life ends. They continue converting sunlight into energy at reduced efficiency rates.

As a general guide, the lower the degradation rate, the better the solar panel. This is because solar panels with lower degradation rates can produce more energy throughout their lifespan. The median degradation rate across panels is around 0.5% per year. Your solar panels will still be 90% efficiency after 20 years.

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How Much Does It Cost to Get Solar Panels?

Many homeowners in California and Florida want to install solar panels to save money on utility costs. However, some are on the fence because of the initial investment they have to make. So, how much does it cost to get solar panels installed? 

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in California?

California’s naturally sunny weather and the state’s pro-solar policies make it one of the best places for solar panel installation in the United States. As of 2022, California is considered the country’s largest solar market, with more than 20% of its energy generated from solar energy.

How much does it cost to have solar panels installed in California? On average, the starting cost for a 6 kilowatt (kW) solar panel system in California is $15,240. The average ranges from $3 to $5 on a per-watt basis. This is lower than the national average, estimated at around $3.28 per watt. California residents are also eligible for solar incentives and a 30% federal solar tax credit, reducing their initial investment in solar panel installation. 

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Florida?

Like California, Florida is blessed with abundant sunlight, making it an ideal place to harness solar energy. Florida ranks 3rd in solar energy generation in the country, with enough solar panels installed to power more than 1 million homes. But how much does it cost to get solar panels in Florida? 

Solar panel installation in Florida averages around $2.57 per watt. An average-sized 5 kilowatt (kW) solar installation in Florida can range from around $10,880 to $14,720, with state solar rebates and tax credits. While this is the baseline estimate, some factors, such as solar panel type, can affect the final price. For instance, Florida homeowners can expect to add around $1- $1.50 per watt if they opt for mono-crystalline panels, the most expensive ones to install. 

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How Much Energy Does a Solar Panel Produce?

Solar panels generate electricity by absorbing energy from the sunlight, creating an electrical current known as the photovoltaic effect. The panels consist of connected photovoltaic cells that convert solar energy into electricity. Now that you understand its inner workings, how much energy does a solar panel produce?

How Much Electricity Can You Get From a Solar Panel?

To figure out how much energy a solar panel produces, you’ll need to know the panel’s power output ratings and peak sun hours in a day. 

A solar panel’s capacity, or power output, is expressed in watts, referring to the amount of energy it can produce per hour. Most panels today have output ratings between 250 and 400 watts. Higher wattage is better but costs more. The higher the wattage, the more electricity is generated.

Knowing the peak sun hours (the average number of hours of direct sunlight) at a location can allow you to calculate the energy output of a solar panel. Since some places are sunnier than others, the amount varies for each location. Compared to Florida, where the average daily sunshine time is 4.25 hours, California gets 6.0.

Multiply the solar panel’s wattage by the number of hours it gets direct sunlight every day to determine how much energy it produces:

Solar panel wattage x average hours of sunlight = daily watt-hours

 Using 250 watts and the peak sun hours in California, your solar panel can generate 1,500 watt-hours or 1.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh):

 250 watts x 6.0 hours = 1,500 watt-hours per day 

How Much Electricity Does a Solar Panel Generate in a Month?

You can estimate how much electricity a solar panel produces per month by taking the numbers above and multiplying them by 30. On average, a single panel can generate 45 kWh of electricity per month.

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How Do Solar Panels Help the Environment? 

A growing number of Americans are choosing to power their homes with solar energy. The interest in this energy source is due to its financial benefits and falling investment costs, which are made possible by government rebates and incentives.

Switching to solar energy helps households in states like California and Florida save money and become less reliant on the grid. Solar energy also has significant positive effects on the environment. How do solar panels help the environment? Let’s take a closer look. 

How Are Solar Panels Good for the Environment?

If you’re looking for more reasons to go solar, it helps to learn why solar panels are good for the environment. Here are the top environmental advantages of solar energy: 

  • Reduces Reliance on Fossil Fuels: The US sources a considerable portion of the energy it generates from fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas. Unfortunately, these energy sources are limited and expensive to extract. By contrast, solar energy is abundant, free, and infinite. Harnessing solar energy can reduce the world’s dependence on limited resources and take advantage of solar power, the world’s most abundant resource. 
  • No Emissions: Burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases, a significant driver of climate change. Solar energy is created by harnessing the sun’s energy and converting it directly into electricity. The process doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases. By switching to solar, you won’t create additional greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. 
  • Improves Air Quality: Switching to solar energy reduces air pollutants, improving the environment’s air quality. According to research, the widespread adoption of solar energy significantly reduces harmful emissions like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter emissions that can cause health issues. 
  • Solar Systems are Long-Lasting: The average lifespan of modern solar panels is around 25-30 years, with relatively low maintenance costs. Less waste is generated without the frequent need for replacement and maintenance, which ultimately benefits the environment. 
  • Reduces Your Overall Carbon Footprint: How do solar panels help the environment? When you switch to solar, you reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption from the grid. An average residential solar installation of 7,000 watts can offset emissions equivalent to the capacity of more than 180 trees

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Can Solar Panels Provide All My Electricity? 

The short answer is that it’s possible for solar panels to provide all your electricity. Solar systems are becoming more efficient, accessible, and affordable. Solar power capacity in the United States has increased to 135.7 GW, enough to power 24 million American households. Solar energy adoption, along with state incentives and rebates, lowers the overall cost of solar energy, making it more affordable for homes.

Ultimately, the answer depends on several factors. California and Florida are among the top states that utilize solar energy. Residents use solar energy to power their homes, lower their electric bills, and help preserve the environment. 

How Do I Determine if Solar Panels Can Provide All My Electricity?

Investing in solar energy is easier and more economical, but the feasibility of covering your entire energy bill depends on the following factors: 

  • Household Power Usage: To determine whether powering your home entirely with solar power is feasible, you need to assess your home’s energy usage. The average American home uses 10,632 kWh per year, averaging 886 kWh per month, but your usage could be lower or higher, depending on your lifestyle. After learning about your energy usage, you can determine how many solar panels you need to cover your energy consumption. 

A 1 kW solar panel system can produce up to 850 kWh per year. If your annual home energy usage approaches the national average, you’ll need a 13 kW solar installation to cover it.

  • Location and Weather: Solar panels harness energy from the sun during the day, making location and weather conditions essential factors to consider. While California and Florida are some of the best locations for solar energy, it’s still helpful to assess the meteorological data for your area to learn how much sunlight you can expect each month. Investing in a solar battery can increase your system’s reliability by storing solar energy for later use. 
  • Available Space: To install a solar system that can power your entire home, you’ll need enough space. Most homeowners place solar installations on the roof, but they can also mount them on the ground, depending on availability. The average 5 kW residential solar system requires roughly 500 square feet of space

The Bottom Line

It is possible to power your home entirely with solar energy, but it requires a significant financial investment, planning, and dedication over time. Energy-efficient measures, such as switching to eco-friendly appliances and improving insulation, can help reduce energy consumption and make it easier to be energy independent.

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How Is Solar Energy Stored? 

As the demand and adoption of solar energy grows, energy storage becomes necessary for expansion. Below are the most commonly used methods for how solar energy is stored. 

Battery Storage

Most residential solar installations solve the question of how to store solar energy with batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are the top choice because of their longer lifespan, higher energy density, and minimal space requirements. Emerging technologies are increasing battery efficiency and storage capacity to make them suitable for long-term storage. 

When solar energy enters a battery, a chemical reaction occurs within its components, storing the energy for later use. This reaction is reversed when the battery is discharged, allowing electricity to exit the battery. 

Thermal Energy Storage

This energy storage method uses a fluid (such as water or molten salt) to store heat from the sun. The stored heat is used to boil water, creating steam that drives turbines to produce electrical power. 


In this method, hydrogen is generated through a process called electrolysis using surplus solar energy. The resulting hydrogen can be stored as compressed gas, liquified hydrogen, or metal hydride compounds. Then, it can be turned into electricity through combustion. 

Compressed Air

This method uses electricity to compress air and store it underground or in a tank. During peak demand, pressurized air is released to drive a turbine, generating electricity. 

Pumped Hydroelectric Storage

This form of energy storage utilizes the kinetic energy of water to generate electricity. Surplus solar power pumps water to a reservoir. When the power demand is high, water is released and flows through a turbine to create electricity. 


This method stores solar power through rotational kinetic energy. Electricity accelerates a flywheel to very high speeds, which creates electricity during peak demand. 

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