The short answer to this question is no. Solar panels do not work at night. The whole solar system needs the sun in order to function. That goes for solar panels as well.
Solar panels are not like leaves that mainly absorb sunlight during the day and starts generating power at night. Solar panels do these at the same time.
Solar systems do more than just generate power during the day, however. Here are a few things you need to know about solar panels.
The Workings of a Solar Panel
To help you understand how solar energy can be used at night, learning the technicalities of a solar panel will help. Solar panels are a collection of solar cells. Each of the cells can generate electricity. The cells are made up of chips of semi-conductive material, usually silicon, and are lined with impurities to make them more effective. One chip would be coated with a material that makes it negatively charged, while the other one would be positively charged. Once they are connected, free electrons move between the chips until they achieve balance.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Light from the sun travels as photons, which are small packets of energy. When these photons hit the solar cells, they dislodge an electron to make an electron space. Because of the way it is structured, the electron space moves to the positive side while the electron that was thrown off is moved to the negative side. Since the electron just wants to get back to the electron space, it will now travel through the long way. These traveling electrons are the main current of the photovoltaic system. The electric field it generates makes up the voltage. End of science lesson!
Utilization of Solar Energy
Solar systems today are made to generate more energy than needed during the day. The excess energy then gets exported to the electricity grid where you are connected Owners of solar systems in the Philippines are issued credits for the excess energy they generate. When the owners use electricity at night, these credits are the ones being used. This whole system of crediting excess energy is commonly known as “net energy metering”. Some call it a form of energy banking.
If the idea of energy banking isn’t what you like, then you might be the type to use battery packs to store your excess power. Charging battery packs is usually done by solar system owners that want to be independent of the power grid or at the very least, use it seldom. Using battery packs with your solar panels can also help you when a power outage happens.
Efficient Use of Solar Energy
By now, it should have been established that solar panels do not work at night because solar systems need sunlight in order to produce electricity. With that being said, if you are one of those people who have a solar system in the Philippines, then you must now how to be as effective as you can in the use of your solar power source.
If you want to experience being fully sustained by solar power, then the first thing you need to do is to increase your home energy efficiency. Save electricity wherever you can. This means getting rid, of all the energy consumptions that you deem are not necessary, or at least reduce them to the minimum amount for your daily life. Once you’ve increased your energy efficiency, then think about your solar system. Can your solar system satisfy most, if not all, of your power needs?
Know Your Appliances
You have to have a good understanding of what appliance is being used in your home. For appliances that need the most power, particularly washing machines, dishwashers, and dryers, it would be best to use the during the day, when solar power is being produced. It is recommended to use one of the appliances at a time so that it will get to use the maximum output of the solar modules installed.
If it were possible, an efficient way of using these appliances would be by putting them into a timed system. Time them so that you can optimize the power usage of each appliance. For example, if you were going to leave your house on a bright, sunny day, you might as well set up your washing machine and dishwasher to turn on while you’re gone, taking full advantage of your time away.
Take Advantage of the Sun
Since you will be trying to make full use of your solar power system, all kinds of electricity consumption should preferably be done during the day. Charging phones and power banks, and using essential appliances. As such, try and prevent yourselves from using a lot of electricity during the night. Using electricity at night without a battery storage would entail getting power from the grid, thus adding to your electric bill.
Monitor Your Energy Usage
Always monitor your system’s output so that you can identify when they are at their most productive state. Many factors affect the production of solar power, some of which are the time of the year, the location, and even the direction they are facing. For solar panels installed in the Philippines, it is highly suggested that they are tilted slightly facing south.
Aside from monitoring the output of your solar system, you should also consistently monitor your own usage of appliances. If you have the chance to reduce your energy consumption even more, then it would help greatly in the long run.
Solar Panels rely on the sun to generate power. But that doesn’t mean it’s practically useless during the night. If you are thinking of getting your own solar system, then it would be best that you first prepare yourself by increasing the energy efficiency of your household. Most solar panels produce more than enough energy for your daily needs, so finding a way to utilize the excess power, either by doing energy banking with the utility companies or by charging your own battery pack will help provide your busy nightlife with all the energy needs you’ll be needing.