Build Your Own Solar Panel – Part 1


Build Your Own & Slash Your Electricity Bill!


Putting together a solar panel array for your home and cutting your electricity bills to peanuts or even eliminating electricity bills altogether is tremendously rewarding – both financially and in terms of the achievement and satisfaction involved. Of course you can pay a great deal and get a contractor to do all or part of the work, but putting together your own panels is simpler than you might think – if you have the right guidance. This series of articles will outline the basics involved in assembling a solar panel, with an overview of the steps, from start to finish.



This first article of the series will deal with the materials and tools you need to build your solar panel at home (don’t worry – anyone could do this).



Materials

  • A number of smaller solar cells
  • Substrate to mount the cells on
  • Tools
  • Wire

First, consider the solar cells you are going to assemble into an array. How much you spend on these is up to you, but you can often get chipped or blemished solar cells from a contractor or eBay for very little or even no money in some cases as these are often considered waste. Unblemished and brand new cells are also available in bulk packs, complete with interconnections in some cases. Even brand new cells can be had for much less than the cost of a ready assembled panel.



You’ll also need a good substrate material to mount the cells on – this is also up to you but masonite or plywood can be good introductory and readily available material you can purchase from the local hardware store. The substrate makes it easier to handle a set of cells, and lets you place the whole lot into the solar panel housing without having to mount each cell individually into the bulky housing. If masonite is used as a substrate, be sure to paint the panel to ensure moisture doesn’t seep into the masonite. The housing itself we will make out of plywood with a three quarter inch square timber frame around the outside. To cover the array, plexiglass (Perspex) can be used. Other materials you will require include Jones Plugs (one of the few specialty items needed – but don’t worry, they are easy to get), Silicone caulk, super glue, some exterior paint for sealing wood surfaces, and some aluminium section or wood to form the surrounds of our solar panel box (ideally about 3/4 inch square, but this is not critical).



Tools you will need are a hand saw, some screwdrivers, and a soldering iron is preferred, but not absolutely necessary.



In Part 2 we will assemble the shallow box to hold the cells, and move towards mounting and wiring up our panel.


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Chad Decker