Solar panelsFun facts about solar

10 things people get wrong about solar panels

While solar panels are an everyday sight, some people still don’t quite understand what they are and how they work. Check yourself and see if you know all of these 10 things that people often get wrong about solar panels!

1. Solar panels DO work when it’s cloudy

Solar panels make use of more than just direct sunlight

Solar cells in panels convert photons into electricity. Does it mean that solar panels don’t work when it’s cloudy? No! Their performance decreases by 20-40% but as long as there is daylight, they keep going. The reason is that panels can make use of solar radiation that is invisible to the eye and penetrates the clouds. The more modern solar panels become, the better they perform in low-light conditions.

Shading is the natural enemy of solar panels though. Solar cells in a panel are interconnected and when one stops working, it impacts the others as well. Even when a small corner of a panel gets shaded, its power output drops heavily. In fact, the whole system suffers because panels are also connected and depend on each other. Read more about shading and the ways of dealing with it in our article “Shading analysis: How to pick a sunny spot for solar panels”.

2. Solar panels do NOT benefit from hot weather


average power losses of a solar panel caused by heat on a summer day

The best weather for solar panels is cold and sunny. When panels heat up, lots of energy gets lost. In general, on a hot summer day solar panels perform about 10% worse than they should. That’s why installers leave a few inches between solar panels and the roof when installing them to let the air circulate underneath. How well a solar panel performs when it’s hot depends on its temperature coefficient.

3. Solar panels can NOT power your home by themselves

About 80-90% of solar systems in the US are grid-connected

Some believe that you can just plug a TV into a solar panel and it’s going to work like this. Not quite — the electricity from solar panels cannot be used as is for household appliances. Every solar system has to have an inverter.

Solar panels produce direct current (DC) under the sun. Most things in your house require alternating current (AC). That’s why there always should be an inverter in between your appliances and solar array. An inverter converts AC to DC, interacts with the grid, maximizes the production of your array and protects your home from electrical arks.

AC solar panels come with a preinstalled microinverter and don’t need a separate one. The installation is simpler with AC modules — the panels can be directly connected to an electric panel of your home. 

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We offer string inverters and microinverters for all kinds of solar installations.

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4. Solar panels do NOT store energy

Some people mistake solar panels for batteries and think that having a solar system means having energy at all times. Solar panels only produce electricity and can’t store it. You only get electricity from a solar panel when it gets sunlight so having a solar system without energy storage doesn’t make you energy independent.

To catch sunlight in a jar, get batteries. There are home battery systems such as Powerwall that ensure backup for your whole house. Read more about them in our article “Backup plan: Best solar batteries in 2024”. 

5. Solar panels do NOT work during power outages

There is a common misconception that having solar panels means you have your home powered when the grid is down. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. When a power outage happens, an inverter shuts off and the solar system goes inactive along with it. The reason for this is safety rules: the grid must be free of current in order to fix it. A grid-connected active PV system might inadvertently send current through power lines and disrupt repairs.

There are hybrid inverters though. They can be paired with batteries or have built-in energy storage. When a power outage happens, the hybrid inverter disconnects from the grid and switches your house to battery support, essentially turning your solar system into an off-grid one.

6. Solar panels’ output is NOT constant

When you have a 400-watt solar panel, it should always generate 400 watts, shouldn’t it? In reality, it never does. The rated output of a solar panel is checked at lab conditions: 1000 W/m² irradiance, 25 degrees Celcius cell temperature, and air mass equal to 1.5. Real-world conditions never match these numbers and change all the time. This is why the power output of a solar panel also changes throughout the day. 

Your panel will give out different amounts of power depending on irradiance, the angle at which the sun strikes it, the wind and air temperature. Besides, the transfer and conversion of energy also lead to power losses. Usually, a solar panel produces 20-25% less than what the nameplate says. It’s called the difference between DC rating and AC production. 

7. Solar panels do NOT take long to install

How long does it take to install solar panels? The answer depends on what it means to install: put the panels on a roof, or choose equipment, find contractors and have a system designed, inspected, and approved.

The process of mounting solar panels on the roof and installing all other equipment takes 1-2 days for a standard home system. The time needed depends on the size of a system and the type of your roof.

Tatiana Ivanova

Getting solar equipment is fast and easy if you order at A1 SolarStore: We process all orders in 24 hours, ship them in 48 hours and delivery takes 5-7 days. You can also choose to pick up the order yourself from one of our fulfillment centers across the US

The paperwork is the longest part of getting a solar system. You have to get permits from your electric company and city building department which check the system’s blueprints and make sure that it’s safe. Depending on where you live, this process may take from a few days to more than a month. In places like California, this process is streamlined but in small counties, officials can be unfamiliar with the procedure. After the system is installed, an owner should also get permission to operate (PTO) — this is when an electrician from the utility comes, checks the system and turns it on.

8. Solar panels do NOT look ugly on roof

Polycrystalline panels used to be the go-to choice 10-15 ago but become rare nowadays

People used to complain about how solar panels look on the roof. That’s because 10-15 years polycrystalline solar panels were the most popular type. Polycrystalline panels are bluish which doesn’t work for every roof.

The most popular solar panels today are monocrystalline type which are black in color. Some brands even offer all-black panels for better aesthetics. the industry is moving towards customizing the look of solar panels. A great example of it is the LONGi Solar Hi-Mo 6 Artist solar panel which comes in custom colors.

In stock

Solaria 400W Solar Panel 108 Cells Bifacial PowerX-400R-4T

  • Rated Power Output 400 W
  • Voltage (VOC)37.3
  • Number of cells108
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Pickup on Thu, Jun 20 from San Diego, CA

Delivery on Jun 25–28

9. Panels do NOT damage roof — when installed correctly

Some people claim that solar panels cause leaks. Leaks are only a result of careless installation. The way you install the panels depends on what kind of roof you have, but sometimes you don’t even have to make penetrations. When installed correctly, solar panels actually protect your roof from elements and prolong its lifespan. 

Read also:

10. Solar panels are NOT expensive by themselves

Soft costs make up 65% of a home solar system’s cost 

A home solar system would cost up to $40,000 in 2010. The panels dropped in price by 80-90% since then and they continue to get cheaper. Today a residential PV system comes at around $10,000-$20,000 depending on the size and design. The hardware costs of a solar system are only about 30-40%. The rest are soft costs: labor, permits, shipping, inspections, etc. When you look at solar panels, they are cheaper than ever.

Incentives also make going solar much easier. There is an Investment Tax Credit in the US which lets you claim back 30% of your installation cost through taxes. The net cost of a PV system is $7,000-$13,000 after incentives. On average, a home solar panel system in the US pays for itself in 6-8 years. With the lifespan of solar panels being over 25 years, you can get your money back two or three times.

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Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

More articles from this author

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