Homemade solar panels are a great way to integrate green energy into your home or business. Even adding or experimenting with small solar panels to a structure can have a significant impact on your electricity bill. Read this article to learn how to make solar panels.
In addition to purchasing energy efficient appliances, weather proofing your structure and being mindful of personal electricity usage, installing solar panels can increase your energy independence.
If you would like to learn more about how solar panels work, you should read What is Solar Power?
Also, if you want to receive a state or federal tax rebate, you should know that homemade solar panels generally do not qualify.
Undertaking a test project with small solar panels might be a good place to start while you get your feet wet.
However, with that said, building your own solar panels can be very rewarding, and there are many resources available to guide you through the process.
Even though you could piece together step-by-step instructions for building homemade solar panels by visiting multiple websites, it is advisable that after you do your electrical code and insurance research you invest in one or two comprehensive guides or program that will help you make sure that you are covering all your bases and that offer some form of customer support.
Many online “gurus” would have you believe that by visiting their websites, message boards and YouTube videos you can very easily build your own solar panels, but, in reality, you should expect to be more careful and thorough than this.
Building the Panels
You will follow a few general steps when constructing homemade solar panels:
- Calculate the amount of power and number of solar cells you will need to meet that capacity. Mono-crystalline solar cells produce about 1/2 Volt per cell. Note that when it comes to solar cells, size doesn’t matter. Cells of the same type produce the same voltage, even though larger cells will produce more Amps (current). Remember that Power = Amps x Volts. Therefore, the number of cells you will need will remain the same for the material you choose for your solar cells. But, you will get more power out of larger cells. Keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to mix cell sizes. The current your cells will produce will be limited by the smallest cell. It is completely up to you to build large or small solar panels.
- Purchase the solar cells. Solar cells can be very fragile, and you should plan on purchasing more of them than you need, since you will like break or damage a few. In order to control costs, you might want to purchase used or slightly damaged cells from Ebay. Minor damage generally does not reduce the cells’ output.
- Prep the solar cells. You want to look for solar cells that have not been dipped in wax, unless you are up for the painstaking task of removing the wax from the cells. Also, you should find cells that are tabbed. The tabs will allow you to reduce the amount of soldering you have to do when joining the cells together. You should leave the solar cells in the brick formation in which they arrive until you are ready to install them onto your base.
- Build and paint the frame/base for the solar cells. Using plywood, you can build a base for your solar cells. You will also need some sort of base or board to create a panel to which you will affix the cells. You can build whatever size and shape base you want based on the number of cells you need. Depending on where you decide to mount the finished product, you may want to construct numerous small solar panels. Just be sure to drill vent holes for equalizing air pressure and mounting holes or hardware prior to installing the fragile solar cells onto the frame.
- Build a protective covering for the solar cells. Solar panels are susceptible to moisture, weathering and damage caused by bugs and animals. For this reason, you should build a fitted, protective covering for them. The least expensive material to use for this purpose is plexiglass, but plexiglass can distort and lead to light infractions under high temperatures. Glass is a better, albeit more expensive, more fragile and heavier, material to use as a covering.
- Solder the cells together. You will need a low-Wattage soldering iron to solder the solar cells together. This will be done by fusing the negative tabs from the top of one cell to the positive pads on its neighboring cell. Continue to solder cells together until you get a configuration that matches the base you built.
- Affix the soldered cells to the panels and screw the panels into the base. Using a bit of silicon caulk applied to the back centers of the cells, you can affix the soldered cells to your base. This is a delicate step, and you may want to enlist a set of helping hands.
- Wire the panels together. Using wires and diodes, you then wire the panels together and pull the wires through vent holes pre-drilled into the base. Fix a two-pin Jones Plug to the end of the wire. Because this is the step where you’ll be experimenting with live wires and electricity, you should be very cautious here. Female plugs are generally safer as they are better at preventing short circuits.
- Test your new solar homemade solar panels. Before covering your solar panels with the glass or plexiglass, you should test them to make sure they work. you may need to replace a cell or two or modify the construction of your base in some way.
- Cover your solar panels, install and enjoy. When you’re comfortable with how your solar panels are working, install the protective covering, and install them where you would like them to reside.
This is a very brief overview of how to build homemade solar panels. There are much better guides available that include more detailed instructions, step-by-step photographs and customer support. Again, you may want to experiment with small solar panels before taking on a larger project. You will learn a lot about how to make solar panels in the process.
However, hopefully this article has given you some insight into the general process and allows you to see that with just a little patience and elbow grease, you can have your own homemade solar panels.