Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days, at Night, in Rain? Yes & No (Here’s How)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

Man holding two electrical plugs next to a solar panel on a cloudy and rainy day wonders do solar panels work on cloudy days, and do solar panels work at night, and can you collect solar energy at night and if so, do solar panels work in the rain?

Do solar panels work on cloudy days? How about in the rain or at night?

Since solar panels have been in the market for a while, it is common knowledge that they obtain power from the sun. But, do they need sunlight to operate, and what happens at night or during cloudy and rainy days?

The answer to the question is yes, but conditional. Which means that there are several factors involved in how solar panels work, especially when sunlight is limited.

Some factors include, how long do solar panels last? What type of solar panels system is installed and are you using a MPPT vs PWM charge controller?

Solar panels last 25-30 years under proper care and produce 250-400 Watts within the time based on several factors.

Before you reduce your carbon footprint with solar panel carbon offsets, you must consider all factors, including the efficiency of solar panels and the system operations.

This complete guide examines the answer to the question, do how solar panels work on cloudy days, and explains how they work to maintain energy levels for their intended use.

Related Reading: Carbon Footprint: Solar Panel

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Before explaining do solar panels work on cloudy days, it is crucial first to understand how they work.

The sheets in the setup contain smaller cells that collaborate to generate electricity by converting sunlight to direct current (DC).

Before installation, buyers always ask how many solar panels do I need; while a panel or two can power small electronic devices, you will need more for the entire house.

Calculate the number of solar panels you need here:

The UV from the sun converts to DC (direct current, aka a one directional flow of current) and transmits to the inverter,6 transforming into an alternating current that runs the household or building.

This power facilitates cooking, runs kitchen appliances, and keeps the lights on, and any excess energy goes to the battery storage for later use.

How Much Power Does a Solar Panel Produce?

If you are wondering how much power does a solar panel produce, the answer depends on the size.

Most standard residential solar panels produce 250-400 watts an hour, with an average home production of 1-4 kW.

This rate is sufficient to run a typical household but not a massive building, which will need more panels with a higher output rate.

A two-storey house with large floor area and solar panel system installed on the roof.

(Image: Vivint Solar11)

The total power you need from your solar panels usually depends on several aspects; the more the number, the higher the power and capacity.

Your location and prevailing weather also play a role because some regions have more sunlight hours than others.

Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

A common question first-time buyers always ask is do solar panels work on cloudy days, especially when living in regions where sunlight is limited.

The system will work on cloudy days when a MPPT charge converter is used, despite heavy cloud cover, although less effective than on clear days.

Due to the panels’ design, they emit only 10-25% of the standard power output based on the cloud cover. The rays reflected from the sun still reach the sheets, where they absorb and convert to AC.

Therefore, your setup will still work, even when you live in cloudy cities like Seattle.4 Depending on the cover, a 100 Watt solar panel output on cloudy day can range from 10-20 watts.

Interestingly, solar panels love clear skies but are not fans of sweltering climates.9 They become less effective when the temperatures increase; their performance may drop by 10-25% when the heat rises above 77 degrees (F).

How Effective Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days? How To Test a Solar Panel on a Cloudy Day

PV panels can run under direct or indirect sun, but their performance is optimum when the rays directly hit them.

They will still produce power for your household even on cloudy days but at only 10-25% of their standard output.

Closeup of Photovoltaic solar panel system.

(Image: Michaelyeoman12)

Coverage or shading prevents the light from reaching the panels, making them inefficient. You can always test how well your panels are working on cloudy days using a multimeter.

If you are wondering how to test a solar panel, hook the gadget’s positive end to the panel’s corresponding terminal and the negatives together.

The multimeter should read the panels’ output, and you can compare it with the standard rate to see the discrepancy.

Which Solar Panels Work Best in Cloudy Conditions?

If you live in one of the cloudiest cities in the country, you can still buy solar panels but high-performance versions. You’ll want to choose efficient panels that produce more power, even on cloudy days.

You won’t have to worry about cloudy days or weather interference. The most effective ones are usually pricier but more energy-efficient and long-lasting than typical panels.

You can confirm which system will work best for you from your provider, who will guide you on the solar panel size chart, the size of standard solar panel and installation costs.

Related Reading: How Much Do Solar Panels Cost

The best ones capture a wider UV range, leading to more energy production regardless of the weather. Some cells also have a mirror behind them to bounce off some already absorbed light, hence the higher power output.

Can Solar Power Work Well in Typically Cloudy Locations?

You may ask do solar panels work on cloudy days based on your region. Some states are known for cloudiness but still register the highest savings due to solar power use.5

The following is a breakdown of average daily sunlight hours in each state. Note that your panels need at least four sunlight hours daily minimum.


State Average peak sunlight hours
Alabama 4.23
Alaska 3.99
Arizona 6.57
Arkansas 4.69
California 5.38
Colorado 4.87
Connecticut 3.84
Delaware 4.23
Florida 5.67
Georgia 4.74

Graphics showing the monthly peak sun hours at Anchorage, Alaska with the kilowatt hour/square meter/day on the x-axis and months on the y-axis.

State Average peak sunlight hours
Hawaii 6.02
Idaho 4.92
Illinois 3.14
Indiana 4.21
Iowa 4.55
Kansas 5.79
Kentucky 4.94
Louisiana 4.92
Maine 4.51
Maryland 4.47

Graphics showing the monthly peak sun hours at Honolulu, Hawaii with the kilowatt hour/square meter/day on the x-axis and months on the y-axis.

State Average peak sunlight hours
Massachusetts 3.84
Michigan 4.0
Minnesota 4.53
Mississippi 4.44
Missouri 4.73
Montana 4.93
Nebraska 4.79
Nevada 6.41
New Hampshire 4.61
New Jersey 4.21

Graphics showing the monthly peak sun hours at Las Vegas, Nevada with the kilowatt hour/square meter/day on the x-axis and months on the y-axis.

State Average peak sunlight hours
New Mexico 6.77
New York 3.79
North Carolina 4.71
North Dakota 5.01
Ohio 4.15
Oklahoma 5.59
Oregon 4.03
Pennsylvania7 3.91
Rhode Island 4.23
South Carolina 5.06

Graphics showing the monthly peak sun hours at Albuquerque, New Mexico with the kilowatt hour/square meter/day on the x-axis and months on the y-axis.

State Average peak sunlight hours
South Dakota 5.23
Tennessee 4.45
Texas 4.92
Utah 5.26
Vermont 4.13
Virginia 4.13
Washington 3.57
West Virginia 3.65
Wisconsin 4.29
Wyoming 6.06

Graphics showing the monthly peak sun hours at Austin, Texas with the kilowatt hour/square meter/day on the x-axis and months on the y-axis.

Solar power can work even in the cloudiest cities in the US, like San Francisco, Milwaukee, New York, Boston, and Seattle.

In most cases, using renewable energy saves energy and money, especially in regions with high electricity costs.

The power cost in your state and city usually determines whether solar power is worth the investment.

For instance, regardless of the low sunlight hours in New York, solar power is a cheaper alternative considering the high electricity costs.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night? How Does Solar Panels Work at Night?

Solar panels stay inactive all night or immediately after the sun goes down.

They are special designs that utilize the sun’s rays to convert DC to AC; without them, they cannot generate electricity.

They don’t draw power at night since there is no photovoltaic effect or the cell’s activation by the sun.2 You may ask how come households using solar power have electricity at night.

A solar panel battery storage with a capacity of 12V 100Ah.

(Image: Newpowa13)

The cells absorb the sun’s rays all day, and the unused surplus power charges the battery; therefore, the solar energy at night comes from stored power.

Some homeowners also use net meter options to transmit their surplus energy to the grid, receiving credits that they can convert to electricity from providers.

These credits are handy at night and on cloudy days when the panels have low power output.

Can You Collect Solar Energy at Night?

Solar panels convert direct and indirect UV from the sun into electricity. However, it can only work at night if you collect energy during the day and store it in batteries for later use.

You can also make a net meter connection to obtain credits that you can exchange for electricity from your nearby grid.

Do Solar Panels Store Energy for Night Use and Cloudy Days?

During the peak sunlight hours of the day, your panels receive excessive energy than it needs; this surplus comes in handy at night and during cloudy days. While many go for batteries for storage, there is another option to consider.

You can add a battery to your system, allowing storage of the excess energy and usage when the sun exposure is too low or at night. However, it comes with some downsides.

It means additional cost for purchase and installation, you need space to store the massive cell, and you may need more of them if you need more usage hours.

Alternatively, you can use net meters, programs that allow the transmission of excessive energy to the electric grid, earning you credits from your electric company. You can cash them out to offset your energy costs when you use electricity at night.

However, the disadvantages of net meters are that sometimes they don’t break even,10 and you may eventually owe money to your provider. Besides, not all regions or utility companies offer net metering programs.3

Do Solar Panels Work in the Rain?

The answer to the question do solar panels work in the rain is yes and no, similar to blockage by heavy clouds. The cells generate less electricity than on a sunny day, at 10-20% of their rate.

Rainfall is worse than cloud cover because the clouds and water shade the panels. The ultraviolet rays still reach the cells but not enough to effectively provide electricity, causing inconsistencies and overall low performance.

The power output level usually depends on the cloud density and how heavy the downpour is.

A positive to this is that the rain helps remove dirt and debris, which helps, but to ensure maximum production and lifespan of the panels, you should learn how to clean solar panels.

Cleaning improves the power output for when the sun comes back up. If it is the rainy season in your region, it is best to get a battery or set a net metered connection for electricity supply, even on gloomy days.

Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days? How Efficient Are Solar Panels on Cloudy Days?

Yes and no. Solar panels run on direct or indirect sunlight; therefore, they will still emit electricity on cloudy or rainy days.

However, the output rate and efficiency will reduce to 10-25% of the initial optimum level.

While they will still work, it is unreliable, and you would rather make net metered connections or save power from batteries.

When Do Solar Panels Work Best?

Homeowners living in sunny cities make the most of their solar panels, receiving enough power for the entire day and sparing enough for nighttime and cloudy and rainy days.

Your panels will work best with sufficient sunlight regardless of where you live.

Bird's eye-view of a neighborhood, huge houses with solar panel systems installed on the roof.

(Image: Kindel Media14)

The best time for optimum performance is between the late mornings and afternoons when the sun is brightest. Luckily, the system works with direct or indirect sunlight, meaning they will still run on cloudy days.

While the luckiest homeowners are those living in sunny regions, remember that solar panels don’t function well in extremely hot climates.

Their performance usually deteriorates when the temperatures are too high, and the output can reduce by 10-25%.

Does Wind Affect Solar Panels?

Wind doesn’t significantly improve your panels’ power output but makes the system more efficient. The science behind it comes from how excessive heat affects cell performance.

Wind blowing over the panels cools them down, lowering the temperature and keeping the cells high-performance. Cooler solar panels are more efficient and work at their optimum level.

The colder they are, the better the chances of sunlight energy conversion to AC. The wind cooling the panels by a degree makes the cells 0.05% more efficient, it may not seem much, but it gradually adds up.1

Wind also has the advantage of reducing the humidity level around the panels. Therefore, water droplets don’t collect on the surface of the cells, reducing the chances of them bouncing off light from the cells.

It explains why high temperatures and humidity in the tropics can eventually damage solar panels and shorten their lifespan.8 If you live in a cloudy city, you may be conflicted about buying solar panels, worried that they will not serve your needs.

Thanks to their unique designs, solar panels can work using direct or indirect UV rays, even when it is cloudy or raining. However, they perform best under full sunlight, and their effectiveness reduces under heavy cloud cover.

Sometimes the rate can go as low as 10-25% of the full capacity. In such cases, you will rely on batteries or sign up for net-metered connections with your electric company.

The same applies to nighttime, the panels may not work without sunlight, but the stored energy can serve you for hours.

You don’t need to worry about asking, do solar panels work on cloudy days, because there are options that allow you to overcome even the worst weather and generate electricity using the sun.

Frequently Asked Questions About Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels last 25-30 years, after which their efficiency will reduce due to annual deterioration. You can still use yours after this time but start making replacement plans for better power output.


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