Do Solar Lights Need Direct Sunlight?

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These days, if you can imagine it, you can do a search for it and find… something.

The articles that you come across are generally very helpful. But let’s be honest, sometimes they’re not. I know I’ve read many an article regarding solar power, that were supposedly written by verifiable experts, and were unfortunately completely and totally wrong!

Such is the world we live in.

To be fair, sometimes the variables have changed outside of the authors’ knowledge. In this case, it is completely understandable why a wrong conclusion has been reached. Other influences on a poor article are a lack of proper research or simply blind bias.

As someone who has lived off-grid since 2015 and is consequently fairly familiar with living on solar power, it is my opinion that your solar lights will work best in direct sunlight.


It should be noted that there are variances in the type of solar cells installed in solar lights. And these variances can impact your specific result.

Amorphous (Thin Film) Solar Cells

The type of solar cell you see in the above picture is called an Amorphous Solar Cell. It is part of the family of thin film solar cells that can be flexible and historically, has been less expensive to acquire due to their ease of manufacturing.

Two positive characteristics of the Amorphous Solar Cell are:

  • They are usually less affected by heat.
  • They tend to deliver more power in low light environments than their crystalline counterparts.

Unfortunately, the Amorphous Solar Cell is, currently, one of the least efficient solar cells when operating in optimal lighting conditions. This then requires, engineers to either ‘go big’ on physical size or limit their use to low watt situations.

Knowing these qualities, we can discern that if your solar light is going to be located in less than optimal sunshine or, if it is going to be exposed to extreme heat, a solar light with the Amorphous Solar Cell will provide you with the best chance to achieve your lighting goals.

Mono/Poly – Crystalline Solar Cells

The Crystalline family of solar cells is, by far, the type of solar cell most people are familiar with. They are generally the black/blue colored solar panels that you commonly see on rooftops.

Two positive characteristics of the Mono or Poly’s (Crystalline) are:

  • They offer great efficiency in optimal sunlight.
  • They can have enhanced protection against the elements.

The drawbacks of the Crystalline family of solar cells is that they do require a certain amount of adequate sunlight in order to perform. They also tend to be heavier and more expensive than their thin film counterparts.

Understanding this, should you have need for your solar light to be outdoors year round, exposed to the harshness of winter, it would probably be to your advantage to find a light with a crystalline type solar cell.

Just make sure that you place it in a location that gets adequate light and that it is fixed securely.

Main Types Of Solar Lights

Outdoor solar lighting is a big family with many, MANY different amazing opportunities to brighten your home – and do so in Eco-friendly way.

But for someone who is shopping solar lighting for the first time, it should be understood that there is a functional type of solar light – think motion detect flood lighting – and a decorative type – think string lights or accent pathway lights.

The type of light and its year round purpose, will determine what type of solar cell you should look for.

For example, we have pathway lights for the front our home. These lights are installed in the spring and are not to be exposed to the several feet of snow we get every winter. These lights have the Amorphous (Thin Film) solar cells.

Our solar powered electric fence, however, is exposed, year after year, to the harsh Michigan winters. This device has the harden crystalline type solar cell.

The solar array that powers our home is also of the Crystalline family.


So to answer the original question, ‘do solar lights need direct sunlight?’ the answer is;

Yes! Your best chance of success will come from placing your solar light in an area where it can be exposed to direct sunlight, regardless of the type of solar cell it utilizes.

Just understand, that choosing a solar light with the type of solar cell you need, can improve your chances for a successful lighting endeavor even more.

For more info on solar flood lighting, check out: 3 Different Types Of Solar Flood Lights

THANK YOU for sharing!