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Do solar lights work on cloudy days?

Solar lights are a great add-on to any home. They give charm to your decks, create a soft glow in your yard, and add great looking highlights to your garden. Using these solar-powered devices, you can create warm and beautiful spaces and well-lit pathways.

The concern that many homeowners have, and what sometimes causes hesitation in purchasing solar lights, is if they will function when you have cloudy days. They don’t want to invest in solar lights if they’re not going to work.

But do they work on cloudy days?

The short answer is – yes, solar lights will work just fine, despite a few cloudy days. For a more detailed answer, read on.

How Solar Lights Work

Solar lights work just like large solar panels you see used in homes and businesses. They just work on a much smaller scale. Each solar light has a solar cell that collects energy from the sun. This, in turn, is transferred to a small battery in the device. As the solar cell collects the sun’s energy, it slowly charges the battery. On a sunny day, 6-8 hours of sunlight can fully charge the solar light’s battery, allowing it to run for 12-15 hours.

Due to the need for direct sunlight, light placement is very important. Place your lights so the solar panel is always facing where the sun will appear in the sky. Avoid placing them in locations that are in shadow for much of the day (near large trees, bushes, structures).

Impact of Clouds

Clouds serve to diffuse direct sunlight. The solar panels are still receiving sunlight, but the density of the cloud cover reduces it, making the solar power generators less effective. This can impact the charging capacity to varying degrees. The batteries will still charge, just more slowly. The specific impact can be a reduction of charge from 30% to 50% less than normal. The good news is that most solar lights can easily store enough energy to keep working well despite a couple of days of cloudy weather.

When Solar Light Usage Might Need Adjustment

There are a couple of circumstances that can more seriously impact how solar lights charge and function.

If you live in an area where the majority of the days are cloudy, you can still use solar lights, but they may not work as efficiently. Your lights will likely only run for 6-8 hours before the batteries are depleted, due to the constant cloud cover.
A bigger concern is if you live in an area that receives consistent snowfall through the winter. The snow accumulating on the solar panels will prevent the batteries from charging very well. In these areas, it might be advisable to take your solar lights down and store them until spring.

Should I Buy Solar Lights?

Solar lights are a great investment that will add value to any home. They look great and add a touch of class. In most places across the country, your solar lights will perform at peak or near-peak efficiency for a large part of the year.

Even if you live in a location that has more extreme weather, your solar lights will still perform well. Just don’t expect peak performance if you have cloudy skies five days in a row. And if you are in an area that is prone to large amounts of snowfall, be prepared to take them down for the winter.

Once you find the right lights for your home, you’ll be thrilled that you invested in these great products.

My name's Craig, I am a general contractor currently living in Dallas, TX. I've worked with different kinds of electric tools throughout my career, including the portable generators. In my spare time, I love going camping and tailgating with my family and friends. I've created this site to provide honest advice for people looking for the right portable generator and other related equipment for work and leisure.

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Generator Advisor