Do-It-Yourself Solar Panels: Pros And Cons

The appeal of solar power is undeniable. The energy is free, easy to access, renewable, and does not harm the environment. The catch, of course, is that although sunlight is readily available it is not easily harnessed and turned into electricity. For that, solar panels are needed. A complete, professionally-installed solar energy system designed to provide enough electricity to run an entire household’s worth of appliances can cost thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. This high initial cost prompts many people to ask whether do-it-yourself solar panels can be a more economic alternative. The answer to that question depends on many different factors.

Working With Electricity

Electricity is not something to mess around with. Someone who does not know exactly what they are doing can easily cause an injury, or create a fire hazard, when trying to wire his or her own solar panel. For a person who has never put together a panel before, the first one will be a learning experience regardless of his or her electrical expertise. In addition, most homemade panels can only be used off-grid, meaning they are not wired directly into the home’s electrical system. This is because that sort of wiring is extremely complicated and requires conforming to building codes; it is something that should only be handled by a licensed electrician.

Solar Panel Materials

To construct a basic solar panel several things are needed, many of which can likely only be purchased online. The most important components are the solar cells, which are what converts the energy from the sun into usable electricity. Solar cells come in different sizes, affecting the power output from the completed panel, and are incredibly fragile. Other things you will need include a soldering iron, tabbing to connect the cells together, a charge controller to regulate the output of the panel, a battery bank to store energy for use when there is little sunlight, material to create the panel that the cells are mounted on, and miscellaneous other supplies. These things can all be purchased individually, but some manufacturers sell do-it-yourself kits that contain many of these materials.

Other Considerations

Homemade solar panels are, as a rule, less efficient than professional models. Therefore it would take more do-it-yourself panels to power a house than manufactured panels. Although the homemade panels are likely more cost effective, they are considerably less time-effective, particularly if many are needed. If a homeowner would like to connect homemade panels to the home’s electrical system it will require hiring an electrician and possibly the purchase of specialized equipment, both of which can be costly. Another difference between DIY and professional panels is that the professional ones tends to look much nicer, especially when there is a whole row of them being used.

Conclusion

The difficulties in attaching a self-made panel to a home’s central wiring as well as its relative inefficiency mean that do-it-yourself solar panels are more commonly used for small things like powering an outdoor light, sprinkler system, or fountain. Constructing one can be time-consuming and complicated, but many people find the experience educational, fun and ultimately worthwhile. Creating something that turns mere sunlight into electricity is a feat to be proud of and can spark interest in further environmentally-friendly home projects.

Leave a comment