Do Solar Lights Need Direct Sunlight?

We owe almost everything that we own to better our lives today to electricity, from our electric fireplaces to the phone or computer you are using to read this blog.

However, producing electricity is not cheap and could be bad for the environment. This is why people are adopting greener energy solutions like solar lights.

Sometimes, the weather may cause the Sun to take a partial break from his duties. This is why solar light owners ask the question, ‘do solar lights need direct sunlight?’

Solar lights do not need direct sunlight to charge. However, increased exposure to light automatically means that you will produce more electricity. Direct sunlight is the most effective way to produce electricity using solar panels. This does not mean the solar panels would not work during other daylight conditions. The only difference is that they work at a reduced capacity.

Solar panels are about 60 percent less effective on cloudy days than on sunny days. It does not mean your solar panel has become defective. Solar panels can only create electricity from the light they can absorb. In conditions when there is reduced sunlight, there is less to convert into electricity.

How Solar Energy Works

Solar energy involves capturing the heat energy from the Sun and converting this heat energy into electricity. This electricity can then be used to light up our homes, schools, places of work, businesses, etcetera. 

Solar power is a renewable source of energy- we can exhaust the power of the Sun.

Solar power uses photovoltaic cells (those black panels) to absorb energy from the Sun. This energy is then converted into direct current that can either be stored in batteries or used to run lights for some time.

Of course, the concept of solar power is way more complicated than this. There is a lot more ‘science’ that goes into this. But this is solar energy in its basic form.

How Long Does It Take for Solar Lights to Charge?

Most solar lighting devices need to receive direct sunlight for about 4 to 10 hours to work very well. Fully charged solar lights can last all night long. Bigger outdoor solar lights (for instance, street lights) get fully charged much faster (about 6 to 8 hours) and last longer 5 to 7 days.

How to Get the Best Out of Your Solar Panels When You Do Not Have Access to Direct Sunlight?

solar spot lights

There are several ways to do this. In this section, we will take a look at the primary ways that you can do this.

#1 Make Use of The Little Light Available During Less Sunny Weathers

Solar panels are more effective in low temperatures. Light will always find a way to reach your solar panels regardless of the weather conditions. The PV cells will always receive and store energy regardless of the amount of sunlight available in the environment.

The cold temperature will limit electron movement in the panels to the barest minimum. This will render a higher voltage difference. Thus, they produce more energy.

#2 Make Use of an LED/Incandescent Light

It is somewhat ironic to use energy from a light-bulb powered by hard-wired light to charge what is meant to save energy. But look at it this way, it is like using rechargeable flashlights when the power is out. In the same vein, the absence of sunlight to charge solar panels can be solved by using intense artificial lighting.

However, this can be a great option if it is convenient for you. For instance, if you need to use your solar flashlight on a hiking trip the next day after a not-so-sunny day, you can use an indoor LED/Incandescent light to charge it.

Solar panels also react to artificial lighting because they operate on a spectrum that is similar to sunlight. Incandescent Light bulbs can charge any solar object that you have.

However, it is important to note that charging using artificial lighting takes a much longer time.

#3 During winter, clear snow or dust from the surface of your panel

During winter, snow may cover the surface of your panels. This will make it difficult to extract energy from the Sun. Cleaning the surface of your solar panels with a damp microfiber cloth will make everything as clean as new.

Do not make the mistake of using detergents. It may cause streaking, which could make everything worse and potentially damage your solar panels.  

#4 Change the position of your Solar Panel so you can receive more light.

Sometimes, you may need to change the position of your solar panels to maximise their access to sunlight.

Always ensure they are positioned somewhere they can get access to sunlight. This means you should avoid areas with lots of shade like tall trees.

#5 Use A Mirror

You can use a mirror to reflect sunlight to your solar panels. This can be very effective during the winter.

The only demerit of this method is that it could be labour intensive. You have to keep changing the position of the mirrors throughout the day.

If you want to use this method, you should consider using mirrors that are bigger than the solar panels.

#6 Use Alternative Charging Methods

Some solar lights come with a USB that can be used to charge the device using wall sockets or a power bank.

This should be your last resort because it defeats the entire purpose of having a solar enabled device in the first place. It could also be a costly option.


Using solar panels to harness the powers of the Sun is a safe, secure, and cheap way to create electricity. This is a significant reason why countries all over the world are beginning to adopt solar energy.

However, what happens when there is little sunlight to harness? Are there alternative ways to charge solar enabled devices?  In this article, we have answered this question and many more.

Thanks for reading!