OK, so you are looking for information on how to build solar panels for your home or business? You have come to the right place that’s for sure. Here are some key pointers you should consider before going ahead with any “do it yourself ” installs. If it all sounds confusing or out of your technical capabilities, don’t worry, we will explain the whole process and you can decide for yourself.
Lets get started. In simple terms, a solar panel is a box containing solar cells.
A solar cell can be called a solid-state electrical device that is able to convert light energy into electrical energy. Different materials can be used to create solar cells but as you would expect, the variations in material will have an impact on cost and effectiveness.
Why & How To Build Your Own Solar Panel DIY System:
It is perhaps only natural that some people, after you tell them your ambition, will ask you “why would you want to build your own solar panel?“ You will likely already have some answers ready and waiting for them.
Here are some of the reasons you may wish to give your inquisitive friends about why you’re looking in to how to build a solar panel home system:
➤ Learn a valuable skill and save money doing it yourself
➤ The rising costs of electricity and energy
➤ Not having access to electrical outlets
➤ A desire to become more environmentally friendly
➤ You need power in a remote location
➤ The challenge it represents
➤ Because you can…
Yes, sometimes the easiest answer is because you can. It was a good enough justification to go to the Moon and it’s a good enough reason to build your own solar panels. DIY solar panels is easy to understand and implement. However, you can also buy solar panels. There are many solar panel kits available in the market, also you can build you own solar panel kits from scratch.
How To Build Solar Panel Systems – Beginners Guide:
The main working part of a solar panel would be the solar cells. But you need somewhere to house the cells together, which is why every solar panel should start off as a shallow box.
You may decide to buy a shallow box pre-made and if that’s the case, grab your measurements and carry on. If it works for you then that’s the most important thing. But where’s the fun it that. The box is the starting point of your project and of your fun!
Making The Box:
The reason for having a shallow box is to ensure that the sides of the box do not place the solar cells into the shade when the sun arrives at an angle. Maximizing the level of sunlight you have available is a sensible idea for your solar panel and a shallow style box will give you access to more sunlight.
Taking the solar cell considerations of earlier (the 36 3″ x 6″ solar cells), a 3/8″ plywood base would be acceptable, with the length and breadth dimensions measuring 45″ x 22 1/4″ . The pieces of wood around the edge will be satisfactory as 3/4″ x 3/4″ and these pieces should be glued and then screwed into the plywood board.
For ease and convenience, you may wish to place a piece of wood across the middle of the board to split the board into two sections. This will see each section hosting 18 blocks of cells in either side. If you want to build your own solar water heater then box plays a critical role.
You Need To Protect The Solar Cells:
While learning how to build solar panels it is important to start thinking about how you will protect the solar cells from the extremities and weather.
It makes sense to use a plexi-glass front for your solar panel. Glass is certainly an option, but given that glass can be fragile, is it the sort of protective layering you want for your small panel?
Debris and even hail stones can cause your glass to shatter and then smash the solar cells, so opting for the plexiglass is a sensible option. Again, the size of plexiglass you need will depend on the size of the solar panel, but you’ll be more than aware of your sizes by this point.
A Coat Or Two Will Work Wonders:
At this time, it can also be of benefit to paint the shallow box that will become your solar panel. A few coats of paint will give it an added element of protection from the weather and moisture. It’s beneficial to paint both inside and outside of the box. Color is of no importance, so if you have paint lying around the house or garage, feel free to use that. Otherwise, think about what would work with the look and feel of the surrounding and opt for that.
You should also give the peg boards or whatever inner lining you’ve chosen for your solar panel a few coats of paint too. It is important to paint both sides of the board in order to minimize any exposure to moisture they may experience.
This is important because moisture can lead to the board curling and this will damage the cells attached to it. This is pretty much everything with respect to the shell of the solar panel. At the end of the process, the plexiglass will be securely fastened to the box. But for now, attention falls to the solar cells.
The Solar Cells:
Just to re-emphasize the point, remember that the solar cells are extremely fragile and need to be carried and looked after well. Knowing the size of your solar cells, your first task with regards to placing the cells into the panel should be to draw a grid pattern onto the pieces of peg board within your box. This is to outline where the cells will be placed on each section of the board.
It doesn’t really matter how you mark these outlines as they are only for guidance, but many people prefer to work in pencil, so that is recommended.
Once the spaces have been marked out, you should lay the cells onto the pattern upside down. The cells need to be placed in this way to enable them to be soldered together.
You Need To Solder On:
You should note that the cells in each panel (in this case 18, but again, your panel can contain as many cells as you like) will have to be soldered together in a series. It is easier to start with just two cells which should both be upside down. The trick is to reach out the solder tabs of a cell onto the back of the solder point on the next cell.
The way the connection should run is that the negative tab of a cell, to be found on top, should be directly connected to the positive tab on the following cell, which will be found on the bottom. This creates the series, which adds to the level of voltage obtained from the panel.
The above process is one that needs to be repeated for as many cells as you are looking to bring together into one string of cells. For the scale of solar panel we have discussed so far, a string of 6 cells is about right, and you will find that you do this three times to get a total of 18 cells for this section of the panel. Solar panel kits sometimes have the soldering equipment.
Wiring And Securing The Cells:
The next step is to wire the three separate strings of a cell into a series. This is a simple process where you have to connect the positive terminal from one cell to the negative terminal in the following cell.
Once your cells have been connected together, the next step is to secure the cells into place in the panel. Even though gluing the cells into place is not the most difficult part of the process, it can be awkward. So again, caution is advised. We say glue but clear silicone caulk is advised and a relatively small dab should be placed into the centre of each cell that’s involved in the six cell string.
From here, turn the string over, and using your markings from earlier, put it into place in your panel. Learning how to build solar panels and knowing how to secure your cells, both have equal importance.
Flipping Pancakes Can Be Tricky:
This can be a difficult process; after all, flipping pancakes is difficult enough, so why should flipping a string of solar cells be any easier? If you’re able to rope someone in to give you a hand for this part of the process, it can make life a lot easier.
Again, you will need to apply some pressure to ensure that each cell becomes attached to the panel of peg board but exerting too much pressure can damage the cells. So use pressure… but not too much!
It’s also important not to use too much glue in this process. And when you apply glue to the cells, make sure to apply the glue at the centre. This is because the panel and cells will contract and expand over the seasons as temperature and humidity come into play. Applying glue to just the centre of the cells allows for an element of expansion and flexing that will ensure the cells don’t crack.
This is one process, but some experts find that gluing the cells into place ad then attaching the tabs is a more sensible approach while learning how to build solar panels. Honestly, there isn’t a lot great difference with respect to result. Some people will prefer one style of approach, whereas other people will find the other to be more convenient.
Again, if you have time and spare cells, you may wish to carry out a trial run beforehand to see if there is a style that comes easier to you.
The next step is to ensure that the separate strings are connected together. The first and second strings of the cells have to be connected together here as will the second and third strings at the opposite end of the panel. You can do this with a number of materials including regular wire, copper braiding and solar cell tabbing material.
If you have any of these materials at hand, use them. But if you have to buy them in, just buy whatever is convenient or suitable for your budget. As long as the connection is securely made, there will be no issue with material. The glue or caulk that you used to attach the cells to the peg board earlier can be used to anchor the braid down and ensure it remains in position without flopping around.
Test The First Half:
While learning how to build solar panels, the first thing you need to test your panel is a voltmeter. In order to do the testing, your voltmeter should be set at DC (direct current) volts and then the measurement should be across the + and – (positive and negative) terminals of the panel. The testing rods of your voltmeter should touch the positive and negative wires that are running from your solar panel.
This is known as the open circuit voltage. A reading of around 9 would be considered a good return for the outlined panel but again, a lot will depend on the size of the panel and number of cells you are using in your solar panel.
Once you have your current, be sure to multiply it by 17 in order to determine the wattage. If all is well and you are happy with the volts supplied by the first half of the panel. If the first half worked perfectly, there is no need to change a thing. Simply go back through these steps and work your magic on the second half of the panel.
If you’re getting no volts or falling short of the volts level you’re looking for, read through these steps once more to find where you may have gone wrong or if a connection has come loose.
Taking a break and then coming back to the project refreshed is often sensible and it can help you see any problems that you may have been too close to see the first time around. All being well, any problems will be ironed out and you can set about completing the second half of the panel.
Once the second half has been placed and tested, it’s time to install them into the main frame and wire the two separate sections together.
The Home Straight:
With both halves of the panel in place, it’s time to screw them permanently into position. Small screws will be more than sufficient to anchor each side of the panel into place.
Ensuring both sides of the panel are wired together is an important process and this is where the vent holes placed into the central divider will start to be of benefit. The wire can be run through these holes completing the connection and then more caulk should be used to ensure that the wires are anchored down.
You Need A Blocker In Your Panel:
Once the wires have been connected, the next step should come with placing a blocking diode in the series. This is an important step because without it, the effectiveness of your panel will be greatly diminished. The blocking diode prevents the solar panel from discharging the batteries in the evening or when there is no sun.
There are a number of diodes you can use for this task but the Schottky diode (with a 3.3 amp current rating) is a good one to use. This brand has been found to waste less power and with every watt counting, it makes sense to opt for this option.
If you have trouble sourcing this locally, once again eBay will likely be the best place to find what you need. Given that the diode is designed to allow the flow of electricity in one direction, it’s important to connect it in series in the correct direction.
The diode will have a marking on it, indicating the direction of the current flow and the marking will look similar to this >|- This indicates that the flow was running left to right and this is the manner in which it would be connected to the wiring inside your panel.
Connect the wire from the panel into the correct end of the diode and then run another wire from the opposite end of the diode, continuing the series. The diode should be securely fastened to your solar panel.
The best place to mount the diode is inside the panel as the forward voltage drop decreases as the temperature increases. The inside of the panel will be warmer than the outside of the panel and this means that the diode work more efficiently. Once again, use the caulk to attach the diode and the wires to the board.
Drill Holes And Relieve Stress:
From here, the next step is to drill a hole into the rear of the panel, close to the top of the panel, in order for the wires to leave through. It’s sensible to place a knot in the wire to provide an element of stress relief and yet again, caulk should be used to anchor the wire in place.
The next step is to properly secure the plexiglass but it should not be carried out immediately after applying caulk. Fumes from the caulk have been known to leave residue or film on the inner layer of plexiglass. This may not have a major impact on the results you can achieve, but why take the risk?
Again, if this gives you the opportunity to take another break before heading for the final touches, it’s no bad thing. While you’re using the caulk, you should apply it to any holes which have wires poking through them to add an extra layer of support.
With this task completed, the next step is to run a number of tests to ensure you are happy with the solar panel before you securely seal the plexiglass into place. It’s obviously going to be easier to make adjustments with the plexiglass not in place but once you have tested the panel and are happy with what you find, it’s best to seal it all up. The same procedure of using the voltmeter as before will be more than adequate.
To Repeat That Step:
Your voltmeter should be set at DC volts and then the measurement should be across the + and – (positive and negative) terminals of the panel. The testing rods of your voltmeter should touch the positive and negative wires that are running from your solar panel.
For the panel outlined in this article, a reading of around 18 volts is to be expected, but remember to keep your expected reading in line with the size of your solar panel. Once you’re happy with your readings, you can screw the plexiglass into place and then seal it up with caulk or duct tape.
The last step now is to take the protruding negative and positive wires and plug them into a charge controller. The charge controller is a vital component of any solar panel because it prevents the battery from overcharging and it prevents reverse flow.
Some users will say that the diode prevents this but if you’re a “safety first” type of person, using a charge controller makes perfect sense. Charge controllers come in a variety of different makes for different voltages, so bear in mind what sort of voltage you are hoping to generate with your solar panel and buy accordingly.
Once this task has been completed, your solar panel is for all intents and purposes complete. To get the full benefit from it, the charge controller will need to be connected to an inverter.
The inverter will transform the direct current from the battery into an alternating current that will be able to power your appliances. Once these connections have been completed in the standard fashion, your solar panel will be good to go. At the same time you have also learnt how to build your solar panels at home.
Relax and take in the beauty that is your new solar panel, ready to bring you energy, save money and help save the environment.
I hope my information on how to build solar panels has proved helpful to you, and that you can create your very own fully operational home solar system. Good luck and enjoy.