If you want to save money on your home solar power system is to make your own homemade solar panels rather than buying panels. If you don’t know how to make homemade solar panels, don’t worry. It’s not as difficult as it may seem.
The process of building homemade solar panels consists of the following steps:
- Finding cheap solar cells to power your solar panel
- Building a weatherproof box for mounting the solar cells.
- Wiring and soldering the solar cells and mounting them in the box.
One of the best places to find cheap solar cells is on eBay.com. You can start by searching the auction listings for “damaged solar cells”, “broken solar cells”, or “solar panel for parts”. This is a good way to get solar cells that may have minor cosmetic damage or are not producing 100% of the power that they used to. These “broken” cells actually still produce power and will work great for building a solar panel.
Another way to find used or damaged solar panels that will still work great for your home solar power setup is to keep an eye out for construction signs. Today, most of the big orange road work signs have flashing lights on them that run on power from a small solar panel. After all, there’s no power outlets in the middle of the highway!
When you see one of these solar powered construction signs, pull over and look at the back of them. They will have a label with the company’s name and 1-800 phone number on the back. Write this number down or put it into your phone and hold on to it. Call them up and ask if they have any broken or old solar panels that they want to get rid of. These kind of solar power companies deal with 1000’s of these solar panels every day, and if a panel is not working 100% or is damaged, then they consider it to be trash. They’ll be happy to sell it to you for a fraction of what you would pay otherwise.
The next step is to build the box where you will mount the solar cells. This box will be only a couple inches deep, and should be as wide and long as needed to accommodate the rows of solar cells, plus a couple of inches around the perimeter for the frame of the box. Drill a series of small holes on the left and right sides of the frame of the box to allow ventilation and prevent moisture from gathering inside the box.
The box should be build with 3/4″ plywood, and should be coated inside and out with several coats of either UV Guard paint or a deck sealer. This will help protect the wood from the damaging effects of the sun’s UV light, and make it last for many years.
The top side of the box should be made with plexiglass or lexan rather than actual glass. This will be lighter and safer to handle than regular glass.
After you have built the box, you will need to wire your solar cells together. The solar cells should be wired in series, with each row starting and ending in a cell of the same polarity. You will need to use acid-core solder and a pen-type soldering iron to connect your solar cells. Make sure that in each panel you use the same type of cells, that is, they should have the same power output specified.
Before placing your solar cells inside the solar panel box, you should connect them to a backer board made of tileboard or pegboard. This will allow you to easily remove the entire set of solar cells in case you need to work on them in the future. You can connect the solar cells to the backer board by placing them face down on your workbench, then applying a small blob of adhesive caulk to the center of each individual cell. Then place the backer board on top of the cells and pressing down gently across the surface of the backer board. Place a couple of books evenly spaced on the backer board to hold it down while the caulk dries.
Then place the solar cell / backer board assembly into your solar panel box and attach the lid.
Congratulations, your new homemade solar panel is ready to start generating power from the sun.