Written by Sarah HancockSarah Hancock is passionate about green living and sustainability. She frequently writes about renewable energy and manages the Solar blog at BestCompany.com.
Even a person who doesn't have solar panels on his or her roof will have enough reason and insight to realize that a solar power system works best during peak sunlight hours. The panels atop your roof will soak in direct sunlight and convert the sunlight into electricity.
But what happens when it's night and sun is seen on the other side of the world?
Rest assured, your solar power system will continue to power your appliances and devices, even when darkness fills the sky.
Solar panels and solar power systems have been designed to allow you to have access to electricity during any part of the day and in any weather. This all happens thanks to net metering.
Solar panels will not work at night; they will only do their job when solar rays are hitting the cells within the panels. Fortunately, homes are connected to a utility grid, which can be thought of as an enormous repository for excess energy. During the day, solar panels will produce more electricity than you will use. Through a handy process known as net metering, this excess electricity will be stored in a shared grid and can be recalled for use at night when your panels aren't converting the sun's rays into power.
If you are fortunate enough to live in certain areas, you might be able to tap into the grid for excess power without having to pay extra. Some states will allow solar power customers to receive credit for the excess power they produce.
In some areas, an adequate, efficient utility grid might not be available to handle your nighttime power needs. In these cases, solar power customers can use backup batteries, which, like net metering, can then be summoned to free stored electricity back to the home for use.
Obviously, different areas in the country will produce more sunlight and will have more hours of peak direct sunlight on rooftop panels. If you happen to reside in the Southwestern portion of the country-Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada or Southern California-you nighttime storage will be greater than if you live in the northwest, for example.
Regardless, it's a good idea to use your electricity with prudence. Conserving your power during the day will ensure you will be able to run your dishwasher, dryer and other appliances at night.