It is not difficult to make your own panels and the parts that you need are readily available for purchase online.
With a little patience and some skill with a soldering iron you will be able to put together a solar panel that will produce electricity for you to use around your house.
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Is making your own solar panels worth the effort?
If you are looking to learn how to make solar panels then before you start it is worth thinking about your intentions.
The reason for this is that panels that are professionally produced are done so under strict, controlled conditions, to ensure quality and reliability, as well as power production.
Re-producing this quality is very difficult for the DIY solar enthusiast.
Having said that, there is a sense of reward in making things, particularly when you get a reward such as power.
So why not give it a try?
You’ll save money and have fun in the process.
Making your own panel - where to start
This guide will show you how to make solar panels.
You will need to get a few parts to put your solar panel together and many of these are available to purchase online. Where possible we’ve added links to parts that will help you to get the job done.
There may be some items that you will have to get from the hardware store too.
It is important to have all the parts ready before you begin the assembly process.
You will need:
1. Solar Cells – To produce the power. Find solar cells here.
2. Tabbing Wire – To connect the solar cells together. Find them here.
3. Solder – To attach the tabbing wire to the solar cells. Find it here.
4. Bus Wire – To wire everything together in a series when done. Find bus wire here.
5. Plywood – To use as a backing
6. Framing material (square aluminum tubing or 1 x 2 lumber) – To build a frame on top of the plywood.
7. Plexiglas or Lexan – To seal your assembled unit up, and protect your solar cells.
8. Silicone – To ensure the whole unit is sealed up.
9. Misc Hardware – Screws, etc to put it all together.
The most important component is the solar cells themselves.
For most people, a suitable solution is to choose your standard 2Watt Polycrystalline cells sose such as those shown above.
These types of solar cells are less efficient than the more current thin-film cells, but the difference in efficiency is only about 7%. The cost difference is about 400% (in other words thin-film cells are expensive).
By choosing to use your standard cells, available on sites like eBay, you’ll enable yourself to build a 100 Watt panel for around $125.
Some people even opt for chipped, or B-Grade cells, that produce the same amount of power but are defective by the manufacturer’s standards (ie chipped corners, etc).
With this choice of solar cells a completed 100 Watt panel may cost less than $70.
With the parts in hand you are now ready to start putting everything together and making your solar panels.
How to make solar panels - the process
The steps to create solar panels are actually quite easy and anyone is capable of building a solar panel.
Before you start you need to look at how many solar cells you have and then divide them into an even number.
For example if you have 50 cells to make a 100 Watt panel, you might choose to make 5 rows of 10 cells.
Step by Step to Make Solar Panels:
1. Tab Your Solar Cells – Cut two pieces of tabbing wire for each cell. These should be double the width of a cell, and then solder those wires to the cells themselves.
2. Wire the Cells in Series – With all of the cells tabbed, begin wiring the cells in a series. Solder the wires from the top of one cell to the bottom of the next cell ( – to +).
Continue this until you have the number of rows you decided on before you started.
3. Build a Panel – Using your plywood and your 1 x 2, cut the correct size to house your series of cells out of the plywood and then build a frame around it.
4. Place the Solar Cell Series in the Panel – Place your solar cells in your panel. Before you tack them down using silicone, wire two more tabbing wires to the end of each series (so that you have a + connection off one side of the series and a – connection off the other).
5. Wire it Together – Once you cells are in the panel cut bus wires that can reach across to two groups of cells.
Wire them together in a series so that you are wiring the positive side of one group to the negative side of the next. Continue this until all of your series are wired together.
6. Attach Your Final Wires – Take some braided copper wire and solder it to the + connection of the first series of cells, and then wire another piece to the – connection of the last series of cells. Run these wires out of the panel.
7. Test and Seal – With the wiring complete all that is left is to test your panel and then close it up. Take it out in the sun to test it.
Assuming your voltage is what you expected, close the panel up using your silicon and Plexiglas.
At this point you’re ready to wire your solar panel into it’s final position.
That’s it – you’ve learned how to make solar panels, and seen how, with a little time and care you can easily put your own solar panel together.
With practice and with the right amount of solar cells you’ll be able to make different sized panels with different power outputs.
Try arranging the panels into different shapes, such as circles, for a more decorative effect, or triangular to fit in awkward places.
Position your panel in a place where it gets the maximum level of sunlight for best results.