How to make your own DIY solar panels
Renewable energy sources like solar power are a good option to cut the soaring energy bills. Solar power helps in both cutting the utility bills and reducing your carbon footprint. Solar power is generated through solar panels, which form part of the photovoltaic system. A solar panel is nothing, but a connected package of photovoltaic cells. The prices of solar energy applications are becoming more and more affordable. DIY solar panels save more money to consumers than the pre built panels available in the market. All you need are some basic tools and right knowledge. Below are steps that will help you make your own DIY solar panels.
Select the Location and Gather the Necessary Tools
The first step in installing your DIY solar panel is finding a place where it can get sunlight all through the day. Solar panels can work effectively only when they have direct exposure to sunlight for most of the day time. Make sure that there are no obstructions like tree branches and windows, which will affect the solar panel’s performance. If it is not possible to remove some obstructions, the other option is to tilt the solar panels using mounts. The next step after deciding the location for a DIY solar panel is gathering tools for making the DIY solar panels. The basic tools that are necessary in the process are: saw, drill, screw driver, silicone caulk, and wood glue. Some other tools that will be required for wiring the solar panel are: wire cutters, wire strippers, a soldering iron and solder. Most of these tools are available in the neighborhood hardware store.
Procuring Solar Cells and Building a Container
Solar cells can be obtained easily on the internet, which offer good bargains. Solar cells are generally sold in bunches of 36, 100 or 108. Don’t buy ‘grade B’ or lower quality cells as they will produce lower energy than high quality cells. Solar cells in a DIY solar panel are held together by a container. The material most preferred for making a solar panel container is wood. A rectangular wooden frame should be made using hardwood like teak or cedar. It should be painted with a wood preservative to increase its longevity. Glass fiber insulation, which is cut to size should be placed in the wooden frame to stop any heat from escaping. An aluminum foil placed on the top of insulate with its shiny side up will reflect the heat back to the solar cells. Once the solar cells are fixed to the wooden frame using a drill and screw driver, the box should be covered using plexiglass or lexan.
Wiring and Attaching the Solar Cells
Once the wooden frames are ready with the solar cells properly fixed to them, the next step is wiring and attaching the solar cells. As a standard 3 by 6 inch solar cell generates 0.5 volt of electric power, most people prefer 36 solar cells per solar panel with an output of 18 volts. Before the cells are glued the tabs should be soldered. It is preferable to buy cells which are already tabbed even it means paying extra bucks as it will make wiring easier. The panel should be soldered on a diode, which will the power generated to flow only in one direction. If a diode is not installed, power may flow back from the batteries into the solar panel when there is no sunlight. Another option that can be considered in place of a diode is a charge controller, which performs functions similar to that of the former. After the completion of wiring, the solar cells should be attached using some silicone caulk. Excess caulk should not be used when attaching the cells. As the wood used to make the frame expands and contracts due to heat, excess caulk will damage the bond between the wood and the solar cells.
Final Construction and Testing of DIY Solar Panels
During the final construction of DIY solar panels, a hole should be drilled through the bottom of the container, so that the wires come out. The holes should be later filled using the caulk to keep out the moisture. The plexiglass should be screwed firmly to the container. Testing the solar panel before it is connected to the electric wiring of the house will prevent any trouble later. Testing is done by connecting the solar panel to the voltmeter. If the reading of voltmeter shows between 18 and 20 volts, expected output based on the number of solar cells in your solar panel, then your solar panel will work well.