Are your energy bills soaring through the roof? Are you looking to cut down and go green?Solar panels can cut your electricity bills substantially. Not only are they cost-effective, but they are also much better for the environment and produce a smaller carbon footprint. However, despite all of their advantages, the initial investment is quite steep, which dissuades the average consumer from installing them.
What if we were to tell you that you could save thousands of dollars if you make your own solar panels at home? While it does require a little additional effort from your end, it will be completely worth it when the time to pay bills comes around!
So, are you wondering how to go about a DIY solar panel project? Well, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to find out how to make a solar panel at home.
Step By Step Instructions For A DIY Solar Panel
Looking to save money on your shift to solar energy? A DIY solar panel can do just that. Here’s how to make a solar panel at home:
Step One: Planning
Like in any good do-it-yourself project, you should begin by forming a detailed
plan of action. The first few questions you should be asking yourself are:
- What do you want to power using solar panels?
- How many panels do you require?
- Do you have backup power for the construction process?
- Where will the solar panels be mounted?
The more powerful you want your solar panel system to be, the more panels you will have to purchase and attach. It is good to understand this very early on so that you don’t face any hiccups midway during your project.
Buying in bulk is generally more affordable too. So, it’s good to decide how many solar panels you will need beforehand to buy bulk materials. This will also help save some time since shipping takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on where you buy the materials.
Step Two: Budgeting
One of the main reasons people choose to build their own solar panels rather than buy them is the cost. During this DIY project, you should expect to spend four to five hundred dollars in totality. This includes the cost of solar panel cells, batteries, and charge controllers.
There is an abundance of reliable websites through which you can purchase affordable solar panel cells. We recommend checking them all out and comparing prices to get the best offer. The stores listed below have various prices, but all of them suit those on a tight budget:
- Canadian Solar
What To Look For When Buying Solar Cells
The most inexpensive solar cells may be the most appealing if you try to stick to a tight budget. However, it is much smarter to invest a little more money into getting a cell that will last longer and work better.
Some solar cells are priced so much lower than others because they are made of cheap materials, which negatively impact their efficacy. While they may run well for a small period, you’ll be looking at problems and issues with prolonged use. You can avoid this if you buy better quality solar cells.
On eBay, the Chinese solar panel cells are the cheapest ones available, but they will also cost you the most in maintenance. For just a few extra dollars per cell, you can opt for the Japanese models that will last longer and be a better purchase overall. If your first priority is quality, American cells cost more but are the best option out of the three given.
How To Shop Smartly and Safely
Doing some research can save you both time and money, especially when making a solar panel at home. Online shopping has proven to be untrustworthy at times, and buying cheap quality cells can cause a delay in your DIY project.
In this regard, eBay is tricky to work with because you can easily get scammed. To avoid something like this happening, you should always check seller ratings and make sure they provide some form of authentication.
One more thing to keep in mind is that if something looks too good to be true on sites like these, it most likely is. Instead of immediately falling for a good deal, investigate some more into why the seller is offering what they are at such a low price.
If you plan on making your home completely dependent on solar power, this cost could rise to over one thousand dollars. However, the exact value will be determined by the size of your home. Remember that this is still a very small proportion of what it could cost to buy solar panels.
Step Three: Gathering Supplies
For a DIY solar power system, you will need a few tools. If you build things
frequently, you probably own most of what you need already. But, if that’s not the
case, you should know that these tools are relatively inexpensive and can be found
at almost any hardware store.
- Smoldering iron
- Solder and solder paste
- Wooden board
- Protective glasses
- Bus wire, tabbing wire, or pre-soldered wire
- Charge controller
- Deep cycle battery
- Solar cells
The multimeter will be used to measure the solar unit’s voltage once you have completed the electric connections. You need the rest of the items for the construction of the panels.
The size of the inverter you purchase is directly related to how much power your solar panels will be able to provide you with, so take that into consideration when buying it.
If you’ve never worked with any of these tools before, we recommend reading all the instructions they come with. You can also watch online tutorials on how to use these tools safely so you don’t injure yourself.
Step Four: Creating a Template
Before you actually begin constructing the solar panels, you will need to form a template for your solar cells. You can do this by using some plywood, cardboard, tile spacers, and a staple gun.
The first step is to cut out a cardboard piece to the same size as your solar cells. You can also cut the size to be a bit larger than your cells if you want to be left with some extra space.
Place the cardboard piece on the plywood and make an outline using a pencil. Attach tile spacers to the ends of the cardboard piece and outline those as well. It’s a good idea to use a staple gun or adhesive to stick the tile spacers onto the plywood.
Then, outline the cardboard piece once again on the other side of the spacers, attaching new spacers on the vacant side. Repeat this process until you’ve drawn 12 solar cells, after which you can cut the plywood with a jigsaw and start making the solar panel.
Step Five: Forming The Base
Finally, you can begin building the solar panels. The first thing you need to do is make a frame for your solar cells out of plywood. You can use plywood of different sizes to make solar panels of various sizes. However, the classic rectangular solar panel can be formed using a 1 x 2 x 8 piece of plywood.
You’ll need a flat piece of plywood and small thick slits of plywood for the edges. Keep the slits around ½ inch thick so that the amount of sunlight the cells receive is not affected. The base should now resemble a large picture frame.
Once this basic frame has been built, you can go back and sand everything down to make it smooth, screw it all into place, and paint it. To protect the wood from sun damage, you should use two Deck and Siding paint coats on the plywood.
This is the base of your solar panel, so do not try to eyeball measurements because it will cause problems when it comes to attaching the cells to the base. If you will be making numerous panels, it’s best to keep them all the same size.
Once done, you need to cut your pegboard to fit into this frame. Pain the pegboard and plywood separately. We suggest using two coats.
Step Six: Constructing The Solar Cells
Firstly, lay two solar cells next to each other on the template. Grab your tabbing wire and measure how much you need to go from the edge of one cell to the other. Cut out this piece of wire and use it as a measure to cut multiple other pieces.
Once you’ve cut all the tabbing wire, it’s time to attach it to the cells. Use glue or a flux pen on the 6 squares at the flip end of the solar cell, and then attach a piece of wire using a soldering iron. Each solar cell should have two pieces of tabbing wire.
Once you’ve done this for all cells, you can use the multimeter to check voltage. Once solar cell should give you 0.5 volts. If you’re indoors, you may get a lower reading because there’s no sunlight.
Now that you’ve made the solar cells, you have to connect them to each other. Using the template, place two cells into the spacers. Ensure that the tabbing wires of the two cells overlap each other and use adhesive and the soldering iron to fix the tabbing wire of one cell onto the lines on top of the other cell.
Repeat this process for however many cells you need to connect. The number will depend on how big your base is. But, for a standard base, 12 cells is a good estimate. Remember to keep checking the voltage of the cells with your multimeter.
Place these series of the cell onto the pegboard so you can see what spaces are free. These are the spaces you will use to screw the pegboard onto the plywood. Once done, go ahead and screw the pegboard down.
Step Seven: Connecting the Solar Cell Links to the Base
The linked solar cells you now have can go directly onto the dry base. Drill two holes at the end of the frame and put silicon around the holes. You can place something of plastic or rubber material in these holes as they’ll be used for wiring.
Now, use silicon to glue the solar cells down. Just put some silicon in the middle of the solar cell and stick it down on the plywood. It’s best to avoid gluing the outer edges and stick to the middle. Once the cells are glued down, you can remove the tile spacers.
Now, you need to connect the bus wire to the tabbing wire from one end. Use solder to attach the bus wire to the tabbing wire. Now, check the voltage and make sure it’s good (remember it should be approximately 0.5 volts per cell). You can then cut any excess tabbing wire. Use silicon and now glue the tabbing wire onto the pegboard.
Once this is done, you need to connect a bus wire to the tabbing wires on the other end. You’ll repeat the same process outlined above. However, this time the bus wire will only be attached to one column of cells – the column towards the frame’s edge.
Before moving forward, check the voltage once again.
Step Eight: Creating Electrical Connections
For this step, you will be using the inverter, deep cycle battery, and charge controller.
Connect the solar panel to the solar side of the charge controller and the deep cycle battery to the battery connection side of the charge controller. The battery is then hooked up to the inverter, completing the circuit.
The most difficult part of this process is connecting the solar panels to a set of batteries and continuing this connection to an inverter. Please try to opt for batteries manufactured for power storage instead of something like a car battery because the former is suited to handle high electrical charges for prolonged periods.
The exact kinds of batteries used will also depend on whether you plan on using your solar panels for your entire home or a smaller space.
Step Nine: Attaching The Junction Box
The final step to complete your solar panel units is to combine them with a junction box. Some boxes come with the ability to halt any electricity moving in the opposite direction, which is useful if you want to minimize the amount of time spent on repairs in the future. However, a regular junction box without this feature can also be used.
To manually stop the backflow in a regular junction box, you can install your own blocking diode. If possible, attach it to the outside of your solar panels because that area is most accessible for future fixes or replacements.
Step Ten: Fixing It Where You Want It
After completing all the steps mentioned above, you are ready to mount your solar panels! The roof is a common location for solar panels because it gets direct sunlight and is closer to the sun than the ground.
Before you haul the unit up, though, do a final check on voltage using your multimeter. You should be getting 0.5 volts for every cell you have. If there are discrepancies, go through the steps again and try to identify the error.
If everything is perfectly fine, you can take the unit to your roof. The lag bolt and flashing method is the most popular way to attach solar panels. It is a foolproof way of permanently fastening the solar panels to a surface using bolts that secure themselves to the racking.
Racking is used to mount solar panels to any surface, but it’s particularly popular for roofs. The roof and the solar panel are connected through clamps and make for a quick but efficient adhesive situation. Mounts are placed periodically along the roof, and clamps are connected to the solar panel to attach it to the surface.
Where Can These Solar Panels Go?
Now that you have solar panels, there is very little they cannot do. You can use them as your main source of energy at home too. They can also be used in motor homes to provide constant electricity while you are traveling.
It is a good idea to start with a smaller project instead of building solar panels for a huge home because the process is tedious, difficult, and complex. If something was to go wrong in small-scale construction, you would not have to spend hours fixing it, which would be the case if the project was on a large scale.
Nonetheless, anything that runs on the direct current will now work using these
newly built solar panels!
Congratulations, you have successfully cut out hundreds of dollars in future electricity bills and have turned to a more sustainable source of energy! Now that you have spent a great deal of time making solar panels, you are ready to reap their benefits.
At this point, you can disconnect your main power source and wire the electricity through the solar power unit!