Can Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light?

Even though these different types of solar gear can soak up light and heat even when it isn’t bright and sunny outside, it causes concern to some people who often wonder, “can solar panels work with artificial light?”

Using solar energy is certainly gaining in popularity, and why not? Installing solar panels on your home or office saves you money on your utility bill starting the very first month and using other types of solar-powered gear can provide you the power that you need no matter where your travels take you.

Besides, it feels good knowing that you’re reducing your carbon footprint and helping to take care of good old Mother Earth.

Can Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Why Use Artificial Light?

If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sunshine, there is no need to worry because solar energy systems are created to soak up solar energy 24/7 even when it isn’t daylight time. Even though direct sunlight will always be soaked up in larger quantities than artificial light sources, the latter may still be something that you may be interested in if you live in one of these areas.

To start with, what types of artificial light should you consider when this is what you’re interested in? There are numerous types of artificial light and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before you make a final decision. Artificial light sources include:

●        Incandescent lighting: This is composed of a balloon of gas with a filament on the inside that is heated to a high temperature in order to become a light source.This type of lighting was found to be the most efficient of the artificial light sources tested.

●        Fluorescent lighting: There are 12 types of fluorescent lights and most are electrically charged with gases such as mercury in order to create a path for the current to flow.

●        LED lighting: These are solid-state lamps that use a band gap’s electro-luminescence to emit light.

●        Metal halide lamps: These high-pressure discharge lamps use one of several different types of artificial light to work, including metal halide technology.

Researchers at Belgium’s Ghent University tested all of these types of artificial light to see if they would, in fact, be able to produce a charge in solar panels. What did they discover? In a nutshell, they found that all of these types of lights can be soaked up by solar energy systems easily.

Do they soak up the same amount of energy as that which is available through direct or even indirect sunlight? Of course not, but they do indeed soak up the light energy and save it into the battery bank just as the sun does.

They also found that when you consider all of the various types of solar power — monocrystalline, polycrystalline, cadmium tellurium, CIGS, and others — the most effective combination was when monocrystalline technology and incandescent lights were used together. The next-best combination was polycrystalline and CIGS technologies with an incandescent light.

Do These Findings Have Practical Applications?

So now that the question “can solar panels work with artificial light?” has been answered, you might be wondering what all this fuss is about regarding using artificial light to power up your solar power system. Well, let’s say that you have some travel solar panels or other solar gear that you forgot to place in the sun the day before and now it’s time to take off on your vacation. What’s a person to do in this situation? You got it: use an artificial light source to power up your panels before you leave.

How can this be done? Believe it or not, you can simply use an incandescent bulb or regular light bulbs to power the panels that you need to use later on. Doing this is simple because all you do is position the light bulb roughly 20 inches away from the solar panels and leave it there as long as possible. The reason for waiting so long is because it will take up to twice as long to soak up the power from the bulbs as it does the power from the sun.

For instance, if it normally takes eight hours to fully charge your panels, it may take 12 hours or more to charge them with a regular light bulb. In addition, if you choose a bulb with a higher wattage number, it will likely take less time than this. In any case, charging your panels without using the sun is entirely possible even though it isn’t as efficient and will take much longer in the end. This is why, when all is said and done, most people simply use the heat and light from the sun and let nature do most of the work.


While it is possible to charge solar gear using artificial lights, the larger question then becomes whether or not you charge your solar gear using those artificial lights. Unless you are in a pinch and absolutely need to charge your solar panels or gear when there is no natural sunlight available, there is no efficiency or reason to try to charge your solar gear using artificial light sources. 

The reason for this is because you will expend more electrical power running the artificial light than you would ever get in terms of charging capabilities of that artificial light source. In most cases, it would be more efficient to charge your gear by directly plugging it into a power outlet if your solar gear has that capability or leaving it in the sunlight while you are traveling to your destination.

If neither option is available or possible then by all means use artificial light sources to charge your gear, but keep in mind the fact that using these types of light sources will take your solar panels or gear up to twice as long to fully charge.

If you are still unsure about solar works then be sure to check out our beginner’s guides to solar energy and PV technology.

James Adams

Just a geek with a passion for saving the planet with solar technology...Or at least my little corner of it. Researching tech is something I really enjoy doing so my joy became this website. Hope you enjoy the content!

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