Power is expensive, it’s something you can’t go without and it’s astonishing sometimes how much we use and therefore have to pay for. Reducing these costs is a very attractive option but it’s a huge outlay to convert to solar, wind, or water energy – and it’s extremely daunting to think of creating your own solar panels, windmills, or water turbines. However, making your own homemade solar panels is cheaper than you might think – and easier, to boot! Today we’re going to go over a few options in building them and cover some important information about using your panels.
First, you want to figure out how much power you want to create, in terms of wattage. This will guide you in how many individual cells you need to buy, and what size/grade. Many do-it-yourself sites will tell you that you can use factory seconds or used cells off of ebay, but please be aware that these are extremely fragile and you can get badly cut if they break.
Once you’ve figured out your energy needs, you can decide how you’re going to mount the panels – on the house, ground, a cart, there are many options. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to begin getting the materials for your homemade solar panels.
If you’re feeling particularly handy and adventurous, you can assemble the cells yourself. Be aware, however, that doing so requires delicate soldering work and specific instructions. These are more difficult to make and we won’t be covering those today, simply because we don’t have the time. However, there are many sites that cover this information, and it’s easily found. A simple Google search for “homemade solar panels” will get you the details you need.
That aside, the basic setup you need is wood paneling, beams to make a frame, your wiring, a diode or two (based on the amount of power you’re going to be making, you want one that can take a little bit more), and some plexiglass. Oh, and your cells. You’re going to want to get extras, as you’re likely to wind up with some breakage. This is all in addition to your basic needs for a project like this – screws, nails, epoxy, etc.
The Benefits of Homemade Solar Panels
There’s a lot of benefits to be had from making your own homemade solar panels. You can reduce your power bill, you can make an effort towards reducing your carbon footprint. A lot of places will tell you that you can even convert enough energy that you can sell power back to the grid, thus making money off of your panels.
One of the things that’s great about a homemade solar panel is that you can customize the size, shape, and energy output. Commercial panels offer some of this, of course, but doing a full custom rig including cases and wiring can run pretty expensive, and if you know a little about construction and carpentry, you can build a great rig that you can move around your yard as the seasons change. Or you could set them on a satellite mount, where you can program it to follow the sun through the day. Or you can plant it in a flower bed to hide the mounting. Or… you get the idea! There’s so many choices to make that you can find the rig that fits your situation and your housing the best.
A Cautionary Note
While using solar power is great, energy-saving, and environmentally conscious, there are some things to keep in mind when working with homemade solar panels. First is quality. You have to ensure that you buy supplies that are going to hold up to the elements. If you use plywood, seal it. Make sure to cover any holes in the framing and between the frame and your plexiglass – otherwise moisture and vermin can get into the panel.
There’s a great website called “Solar Electricity Handbook” that has a list of warnings.
Second, you really have to know what you’re doing with your soldering and assembly work. Because of the amount of power running through a solar panel, there’s a big risk for shorts and electrical fires if things aren’t exactly right.
Third, homemade solar panels generally aren’t up to code and would be violating the National Electric Code if hooked up to your house power system. For this reason alone you should be extremely careful with how you work your panels.
Fourth, and last, homemade panels aren’t allowed to provide power to the grid, for various reasons. Make sure you review the regulations before you do so.
Homemade solar panels are fun to build, and would be great to provide power to, say, a greenhouse, but are complicated enough to provide issues when trying to cover your house. Simply be careful, read all you can about it, and stay safe.