Solar Panel Lights (How They Work Best)

The basic idea behind solar panels is that they pull the power they need from sunlight. People who install solar panels on their roofs put them on the south-facing slopes of the roof, so they get the most direct sunlight. But is that the only option for solar panel light?

Believe it or not, solar panels can charge from artificial light and direct sunlight. You can use incandescent bulbs or even LED lights to charge solar panels.

Understanding the different light sources and power options for solar panels will help you get the most out of this electricity source. Learn about things like:

  • Types of artificial solar lights
  • Solar panel light battery options
  • Indoor and outdoor solar panels and solar lights
  • Charging times and energy output

Knowing the specifics of indoor and outdoor solar panel lights will help you maximize the charge. Before you invest in solar panels and solar lights for your property, make sure you understand what works best for your needs.

Solar panel and LED light in a garden

What Light Is Best for Solar Panels?

Direct sunlight is best for solar panels. You can install solar panels on your roof or put solar lights along your driveway and yard pathways. When the sun is out, it will charge every solar cell on these items. 

The cells can pull power from the sun even on cloudy days, though they won’t charge as entirely as they will in full sun.

Do Solar Panel Lights Need Direct Sunlight?

No, solar panels don’t need direct sunlight. This option charges them the quickest and most efficiently. It’s for this reason that most homeowners install solar panels on the roof to face the sun for the longest time of day.

However, solar panel lights charge even on cloudy days. The daylight alone is enough to provide some charge, though it won’t be as much as direct sunlight.

After a few days of cloudy weather, you might notice that your solar panel lights aren’t producing as much electricity as they usually do.

Though their batteries can store some power, it takes longer to get the same charge they would from direct sunlight.

See also: How Solar Lights Work (types – Charging – Maintaining)

Do Solar Panels Work with LED Light?

Though direct sunlight and daylight are best for solar panels, they’re not your only options. Similar to how you can use grow lights for plants, artificial light will also charge solar panels and solar lights.

LED lights take longer to charge solar options, but they’re better than nothing.

After a long stretch of cloudy days or rainy weather, you’ll likely find that your solar panel batteries are close to depleted. However, recharging them with artificial light will prevent them from stopping completely.

LED lights produce a spectrum of light similar to that produced by the sun. However, the beams aren’t as intense, so the size, output, and color temperature of LED lights change how efficiently they charge. 

It’s always best to put the LED light as close to the solar panels as you can so there’s less distance for the light to travel.

You most likely have LED lights in your home because they’re energy-efficient. But to properly charge any solar panels or solar lights, you’ll need to run the LED lights for up to 12 hours. 

Doing this could increase your utility bill, so it’s worth utilizing this charging strategy only when necessary.

See also: Can Solar Lights Get Wet (Water Rating + Protection )

Do Solar Panels Use UV Light?

Solar panels can use a small fraction of ultraviolet (UV) light. This type of light has a shorter wavelength compared to sunlight, though UV radiation is in the natural spectrum of sunlight.

UV light is great for black lights and tanning beds, but it’s not the best option for solar panels.

UV light has more energy, so while some of it creates electricity, the bulk of it creates heat. So instead of giving the solar panels power to store, they heat the panels. As a result, warm solar panels aren’t as efficient.

About 4% of sunlight is UV light, so not much of it reaches your solar panels naturally. So when you’re trying to charge your solar panels with artificial light, it’s best to avoid any UV lights and stick with incandescent bulbs, if possible. 

LED lights also charge solar panels better than UV lights would.

See also: 16 Steps To Install + Plan Solar Lights

Do Solar Lights Need Batteries?

Yes, solar lights need batteries. They store power in rechargeable batteries as they pull energy from the sun. The cells convert the sunlight into a current that stays stored in the battery.

When the sun sets, the solar lights sense the change and power on using the stored battery charge. You’ll need to replace the batteries in your solar lights periodically. As they charge and deplete, the overall capacity for energy decreases.

Get new rechargeable batteries as soon as you notice your solar lights aren’t as strong as they used to be.

See also: How to Connect Solar Panels to Light Bulbs (Top Tips)

How Many Solar Panels Does It Take To Run an LED Light?

  • An LED bulb uses 12 watts a day. A solar panel produces 250 watts per hour. One solar panel is enough to power an LED bulb for over 20 days.
  • An average home with LED bulbs uses up to 450 watts per day, so having at least two solar panels will keep the lights on.

See also: Do Solar Lights Need Direct Sunlight? (Do This …)

Does the Color of Light Affect Solar Panels?

Different solar panels are sensitive to various light frequencies, so the color of light can impact how much energy it absorbs. Yellow and red produce the most energy. As previously mentioned, UV light is the least efficient for solar panels.

See also: Solar Panels With UV Lights (Indoor Solar)

Solar Panel Lights Indoors

Using solar panel lights indoors will decrease your overall utility bills. Instead of having to use electricity to power your lamps and overhead lights, you can use solar panels.

See also: When You Need To Turn Solar Lights Off (What’s Best)

Solar Panel Light with Battery 

Solar panels absorb the sunlight to convert that energy to power. Then, they store the electricity in rechargeable batteries. When the sun sets, the panel senses that there’s no more energy coming in.

That’s when they kick in and start using the stored electricity to power your home.

See also: Solar Lights Without Batteries or Sun (Guide)

Can You Charge Solar Lights with a Flashlight?

Yes, you can charge solar lights with a flashlight because it’s a form of artificial light. However, since flashlights are so small, they don’t have much power to charge the solar light, so it will take a long time.

Solar panel and street light

See also: Do Solar Lights Attract Bugs? Debunking Myths & Providing Facts

Solar Panel Lights Outdoors

Using solar panel lights outdoors is an efficient way to light your property without needing to install electrical wires.

See also: Can You Convert Solar Lights to Electric? A Comprehensive Guide

Outdoor Solar Lights With Separate Solar Panel

You can install outdoor solar lights to line your driveway or pathway. These are efficient lights that won’t require external wiring or constant changing of standard batteries. 

The lights will pull energy from the solar panel, meaning the charge will last longer than what the small light itself could store.

See also: How Long Do Solar Lights Last? Unveiling the Lifespan of Solar Lighting

Solar Panel Light Bulb 

You can buy solar light bulbs that pull energy directly from the sun. You don’t need to worry about wires or power sources because the bulbs contain everything necessary to convert sunlight to electricity.

See also: Can Solar Lights Catch Fire? Debunking Myths and Facts About Solar Safety

Solar Panel Lights for Shed 

It’s an expensive and intense process to wire a shed for electricity. Using solar panel lights on any separate structures on your property is affordable and efficient. 

You won’t have to wire the building for lights because you can install solar panels on the roof instead. In addition, you don’t use shed lighting as much as you do in your home, so you’ll also have power stored.

See also: How to Make Solar Lights: A Step-by-Step Guide for Eco-Friendly Lighting

Do Solar Lights Charge on Cloudy Days?

Yes, solar lights still charge on cloudy days. Even when it’s raining, there’s some light that the solar panels and lights can pick up. 

It is especially true if you keep the lights or panels clean. Dust and debris contaminate the surface and make it harder for sunlight to charge the solar panels.

However, the clouds block the sun and prevent full exposure compared to bright days. As a result, your solar lights won’t get a complete charge, even after six hours of exposure. Instead, you’ll just get a fraction of the power.

Since solar lights have batteries to store the power, you don’t have to worry about depleting your resources. The batteries can store energy for several days, so a week of cloudy days or even rain won’t prevent your lights from coming on completely.

See also: How to Fix Solar Lights: A Comprehensive DIY Guide for Homeowners

Can Solar Panels Work at Night?

Solar panels work at night using the power they store during the day. If they absorb a lot of sunlight throughout the day, they can stay on for about eight hours.

When they’re getting direct sunlight, solar panels need about six hours of exposure for a full charge.

Using incandescent lights takes a bit longer. Depending on the bulb size and wattage, it can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours to charge a solar panel. Incandescent bulbs ranging from 40 watts to 100 watts are best for charging a solar panel.

LED lights take much longer. After 10 to 12 hours, your panel has enough charge to power something for the full eight hours it’s capable of.

See also: How to Clean Solar Lights: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide

Solar Panel Lighting Kit 

Some people install solar panels on their roofs to get more power for their interior appliances. However, you don’t need to invest that much money to take advantage of solar power. You can buy solar panel lighting kits to power lights in your home. 

A solar panel lighting kit includes:

  • A solar panel to power the light
  • A lamp, lighting piece, or light bulb
  • A cord
  • A control panel

You can set up these lights to get sunlight from your roof or even set them up on your porch or lawn. The length of the cord might influence the best placement for your needs.

You’ll get a more efficient charge time if you can set up the panel outside. But, as previously outlined, artificial light will also charge your panel, which will, in turn, power the included lights.

Solar Light Panel Replacement 

Replacement times vary according to what solar lights or panels you’re using. Batteries in solar lights can last anywhere from one to four years. However, over that time, their capacity will decrease, so using new rechargeable batteries is the most efficient option. 

The LED lights in the solar lights will last at least ten years, so you’re not likely to need to replace those.

In terms of replacing solar panels, they can last up to 30 years, so replacements are rare unless you want to change the overall appearance of your home or roof.

Frequently Asked Questions

Having a basic foundation of knowledge about solar panel light helps you know how to keep your power charged. In case you need more information, check out the answers to these frequently asked questions.

Do solar panels need direct sunlight?

No, solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to charge. While this is the best option, you can also use artificial light. If you’re using solar panels inside, you might find that incandescent bulbs give you a reasonable charge.

Keeping solar panels clean also improves their efficiency. If you keep them dusted, they’ll charge even in cloudy weather. Also, since nothing obstructs the panels themselves, they’ll soak up every bit of light. Clean the solar panels gently, using water and a cloth. 

Detergents can leave streaks that prevent light from charging the cells, so don’t use any harsh soaps when cleaning.

What light is best for solar panels?

The sun is the best light source for solar panels, especially where there isn’t a cloud in the sky. If you’re unable to expose your panels to direct sunlight, incandescent bulbs are the next option.

Incandescent light bulbs contain a filament that heats up to produce light. You can find these bulbs in various sizes and wattages to best power your solar panels.

How do you power a solar panel with lights?

Incandescent bulbs are the best choice for powering solar panels with artificial lights. The filament heats up to produce light, so they closely resemble sunlight.

In addition, putting the solar panels close to the bulbs helps them charge quickly.

LED lights can charge solar panels as well, but they take much longer—anywhere from 10 to 12 hours with direct LED light exposure.


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Elliot has 20+ years of experience in renewable technology, from conservation to efficient living. His passion is to help others achieve independent off-grid living.

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