How To Make A Solar Panel At Home

Switching to solar power can be an expensive undertaking. One solar panel costs several hundred dollars. Fortunately, one can be built for a fraction of that price. Here are instructions for how to make a solar panel at home.

Key Ingredient: Solar Cells

New solar cells are available in bulk. Manufacturers must discard flawed cells, and used ones can be obtained from industrial sites. Some people collect these imperfect items and resell them on sites like e-bay at reduced prices.

Handle the fragile cells with care. New ones may come protected in wax coating. Remove it using a bath of hot but not boiling water. Minor chips and flaws will not prevent a cell from working. To be sure, test each one with a voltmeter.

The power produced equals volts times amps. For example, one panel of 36 cells rated at .5 volts and 2 Amps will produce about 36 Watts. If purchasing used cells, make sure they are all the same size. Smaller ones reduce the efficiency of larger ones.

Other Materials and Tools

• 3/8-inch plywood sheet
• four 1-by-1-inch strips of wood
• weather-proof paint
• plexiglass sheet
• 2 pieces of flat-tabbed wire for each cell
• insulated copper wire
• solder
• soldering iron
• 1-inch flat-head screws
• screwdriver
• drill
• screw-setter and countersink bit
• 1/4-inch bit
• small scraps of fiberglass
• silicone sealant
• wood saw
• clamps
• voltmeter

Assembly Instructions

1. To determine the size of the panel, lay out the desired number of cells on the plywood, leaving some space between and a two-inch margin around all four sides.

2. Cut the plywood and plexiglass to the same size for the panel.

3. Cut wood strips to fit around the edge of the plywood, forming a shallow tray.

4. Drill a few 1/4-inch holes in the bottom strip to release air pressure and moisture.

5. Apply two coats of all-weather paint to all surfaces of the plywood and strips, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly.

6. Plug the moisture holes with small pieces of fiberglass to keep bugs out.

7. Glue wooden strips around the plywood edge with silicone. Clamp them and allow to dry.

8. Drill and countersink holes from the back of the plywood into the edge strips and use screws to secure them.

9. Solder two flat-tabbed wires to the back of each cell. Leave wires long enough to connect adjacent cells within each row, and longer wires at one end to connect to the next row.

10. Place a blob of silicone sealant on the back of each cell and press it in place. They should be free to expand and contract. Allow silicone to set.

11. Solder wires from the bottom of each cell to the top of the adjacent one, using longer wires to connect rows. Make sure positive wires of each cell are soldered to negative pads of the next, connecting them all in series. This should leave one positive and one negative wire remaining for the entire solar panel.

12. Drill a hole in the outside frame for two copper wires.

13. Feed two copper wires into the hole and solder them to the positive and negative ends.

14. Seal the hole and secure the wires with some silicone.

15. Test whether the panel works using a voltmeter. Now is the best time to discover and fix any problems or replace cells that do not work.

16. Apply sealant to the top of the wood strips, place the plexiglass on top, clamp it and allow the caulking to dry.

17. Use the screw setter to drill holes in the plexiglass and screw it onto the wood strips.

The panel is complete. The copper wires can be attached to a female plug, or however is most appropriate for connection to the power storage system.

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