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Can LEDs Power Solar Panels?

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While solar power helps reduce carbon footprint and save money, there are times when you can’t charge a solar panel, especially when there’s no access to the sun. The question is — can LEDs power solar panels? Let’s look into how we can use LED lights in charging solar panels.

Can LEDs Power Solar Panels?

Yes, LED lights can charge solar panels, although the light waves are not as effective as waves coming from the sun. It will take longer than usual to charge a solar panel. While LEDs produce similar spectrums of light as natural sunlight, the distance, color temperature, and lumen output are different. 

While there are advantages to using a LED light in powering a solar panel, there are also some downsides to this method. To better understand the process, let’s look into how solar power works and how LED lights can charge your solar panel. 

Solar panels installed in a home

How Solar Power Works

Solar panels collect energy from the sun then convert daylight’s photons, not the heat, into usable electricity. While they won’t necessarily need direct sunlight, you must have the right solar power system with enough wattage and proper connecters. They also need to receive direct sunlight for about 4-10 hours.

Modern solar cells have silicon semiconductors containing layers of positive and negative charges. As sunlight hits the solar panel, the photons knock electrons off the atoms, generating electricity in the process. This converted energy is what we can use to power various kinds of appliances like lights, laptops, and fridges.  

More than that, the panels also contain a reserve bank that stores energy, which you can use later on.

Charging Solar Lights Using LED Lights 

Renewables make up 26.2% of global electricity generation, which is expected to rise by 45% in 20 years. It’s also the fastest-growing energy source in America, with a 100% increase from 2000 to 2018. Fortunately, we can use LED lighting to power up solar panels. 

As long as the energy source uses the correct lightwave spectrum, any lightbulb that produces light can charge a solar panel. LED lighting is an ideal way of powering solar panels, especially when you have limited access to sunlight.

Like the sun, LED lights create a spread of light wavelengths. This includes long infrared waves, ultraviolet waves, and visible light, which are lights that the sun also generates. You can point LEDs directly at a solar panel to optimize impact.

Disadvantages of Using LEDs in Charging Solar Panels 

While LEDs are good alternatives to sunlight when powering solar panels, it’s only advisable to use LED when there’s no other option. 

Person checking if LEDs can power solar panels
  • Counterintuitive: Remember that solar panels aim to reduce footprint by using renewable energy, so using a light source that requires energy is rather impractical and contradictory. 
  • Operational costs: Sunlight is free, while LED light is not. Aside from solar energy, electricity used to power LED can come from the national grid, which gets energy by burning fossil fuels. 
  • Less heat: Although LED lights are efficient sources of heat, they won’t generate heat the same as sunlight. In addition, the shorter distance means the panels will get direct intense heat, which can damage solar components. As a rule of thumb, keep the LED at least 20 inches away from the panel. 
  • Longer charging time: The sun generates around 1000 watts of solar energy per square meter, whereas LEDs can only produce 5 to 15 watts. Thus, a 15-minute solar charge equates to 8 to 10 hours of LED exposure. 

Despite some downsides, there has been a 20% increase in the use of solar energy in the past 15 years, mainly due to the falling prices and long-term benefits. 

Additional Tips on Charging A Solar Panel Using LED Lights 

LED lights can’t provide the same amount of photons as sunlight can give. However, there are ways you can improve the energy collection of your solar panels, even when using LED lighting

  • Choose the right kind of solar panel: While solar panels can still collect energy even on cloudy days, the sun won’t be as strong or bright on sunny days. In this case, it would be ideal to use an amorphous solar panel, which is more efficient and resistant than monocrystalline panels.
  • Position your solar panels strategically: Even if you are mainly using LED lights to charge your solar panels, you can improve energy collection by avoiding shadows. Thus, place the solar cells to the south to collect the most light. 
  • Clean the cells regularly: Remove dirt, grime, dust, dander, ashes, or pollen. During the winter months, you’ll need to clear the snow from the panels regularly. Use a soft cloth or soft bristles, so you don’t damage the solar cells. 
  • Use mirrors to redirect light: Mirrors can reflect sunlight to your panels, which can aid the LEDs in giving more light. While this can be labor-intensive, this method can give your artificial light a much-needed boost.
Man trying to install panel into solar panels

Related Questions

After learning how LED lights can charge solar panels, let’s look into other matters concerning powering solar cells. 

Can an Incandescent Light Charge a Solar Panel? 

As long as the light is strong enough, you can use incandescent bulbs to charge solar cells because they also create similar light waves as the sun’s ultraviolet waves. 

Can Fluorescent Light Charge Solar Cell? 

While they aren’t as efficient as LEDs, incandescent lights can also charge solar cells. Like incandescent lights, fluorescent bulbs can mimic the sun’s spectrum, making them an alternative form of charging solar panels.

Can Grow Lights Power Solar Panels? 

You can use grow lights, although it won’t be as efficient as LED lights. If you’re using grow lamps for plants, the short distance between the lamp and panel might cause intense heat. Additionally, you won’t get as much power because the shadow of plants may block the light.

Conclusion

While LEDs can power solar panels, it’s only ideal to do this if you have limited access to sunlight or you need to charge at night. In any case, make sure to use the correct lightwave spectrum and plan the charging hours to collect the necessary power.