Making your own solar panel is a time-consuming process and requires some electrical skills. It is possible to build your own solar system – and even the solar panels – from scratch. Although, it can be risky since faulty workmanship will lead to breaks and system failure. However, it can also be very rewarding – learning to build your own PV panel is a great way to understand how solar electricity is generated. Learn how to build your own solar panel system.
Building an entire system yourself will take a lot of research and planning, including sourcing the right materials and getting the proper permitting from your town. Before you can build your own solar panels, you first need to understand how solar cells generate electricity. The vast majority of solar panels in use today are made of crystalline silicon wafers, which typically measure six inches square. When the sun shines on those wafers, the electrons in them start to move. This flow of electrons is an electric current.
Solar panels are made by soldering together solar cells into strings, joining these strings together, and connecting them to a junction box. Once joined, the components must be sealed so that the active parts of the solar panel are waterproof. Then the front is sealed with a transparent waterproof product for protection. Silicon is then used to seal the panel around the edges, so that moisture does not get in.
The biggest issue is finding quality material to build the panels. Normally, the materials are purchased in a makeshift fashion from many distributors, so quality is hard to track. Building solar panels from non-quality equipment can lead to damaged panels or risk of fire from faulty craftsmanship.
How to Build a Single Solar Panel
A single full-sized solar panel, like the kind used in rooftop solar power systems, will have 60 silicon wafers. You can also make smaller panels if your electricity needs are low. Once you’ve bought individual solar cells (they can be purchased online), the basic process for building your own solar panel goes like this:
– Prepare the backing for your panel. Many DIY solar panel builders use a wooden board as the base for their solar cells. You’ll need to drill holes in the board so that the wires for each cell can pass through.
– Wire your solar cells together. This requires some experience with electrical work. Use a soldering iron to attach the wire to the solar cells and then link each of the cells together.
– Attach cells to your backing. If possible, affix each solar cell to the backing individually. This makes it easier to replace a single cell if it becomes damaged or is not operating properly.
At this point, you have a functional solar panel that can produce electricity when the sun shines. However, a solar panel by itself is not useful. If you are trying to generate electricity to power devices in your home, you need to pair your panel with an inverter that will turn direct current (DC) power from the sun into the alternating current (AC) power used in most modern electronic devices.
How to Build a Solar Panel System
The process of building a solar panel system that will power your home is significantly more complicated. A standard grid-connected solar PV system that can power your home will have around 20 solar panels, each of which will need to be wired together and mounted to your roof (or in an unshaded ground location on your property). Most importantly, a qualified electrician has to confirm your system has been built correctly before your utility will allow you to connect your panels to the electric grid.
Design and Determine the Size of Your System
Design and determine the size of your system based on your energy needs. To determine how many solar panels you will need, you need to know how much energy you plan to use on average per month, and how much sun exposure you can expect throughout the year. Once you know that, you can pick out which brand and model of solar panel will make sense for you.
To determine how many solar panels you will need, you need to know how much energy you plan to use on average per month, and how much sun exposure you can expect throughout the year. Once you know that, you can pick out which brand and model of solar panel will make sense for you.
Components from Solar Panel
You will need to purchase the components that make up a solar panel:
– Solar Cells: are what convert the sun’s energy into electricity, each solar panel consists of about 36 solar cells.
– Pre-soldered wiring: Buying pre-soldered tabbing wire will cut some steps out of the process, but you will still need a soldering iron to solder the wiring to the back of the solar cells and string the wire correctly to connect the solar cells.
– Non-conductive material: Non-conductive material to attach the cells to, like wood, glass, or plastic. For DIY solar panels, wood usually works best as backing because it is easy to drill holes for the wiring. Once you have your solar cells wired together, you can glue these to the wood backing and then attach all the wires and solder each solar cell together.
After wiring, you then connect these wires to a charge controller, which regulates the volts of energy. Wood can also be used to build a box to protect the solar cells and then to lay the plexiglass on top for moisture protection.
Seal the Solar Panel
Once your solar cells are wired and glued to the wood backing, you need to seal them with plexiglass for protection from heat, debris, and moisture.
Purchase Additional Solar Equipment
Purchase additional solar equipment like inverters and racking. If you do not trust yourself to build solar panels from scratch, you can purchase a solar panel kit that will come with more specific instructions (and usually racking) to help secure your panels. Purchasing a solar kit might be more useful since it will include racking already.
Racking is tricky, you will need to determine which racking equipment works for your specific roof type or ground mount. There is almost an overwhelming number of options of clamping and mounting equipment available if you look at wholesale distributor sites.
Install the Racking
When purchasing racking, choosing which option to buy depends on where your panels will go. For instance, will they be ground-mounted, or on your RV? This will determine the type of racking you need to buy. Once you pick your racking, you need to map out where you will drill the holes to secure the racking to your structure.
Connect the Solar Panels
Connect the solar panels to the racking equipment. To secure solar panels to the racking equipment, you will need clamps, or connectors, that are made for the racking you choose. Buying them together and from the same distributor is a good way to make sure they are built for each other. Solar panel kits generally come with racking but if you buy everything separately, make sure you do the research to build a fully functioning solar power system.
Install the proper solar inverter
Installing a solar inverter takes expertise because it will need to be hooked up to the electrical grid. For this, we recommend utilizing the help of a professional installer, as they will do this safely and effectively with the right permits.
When it comes to installing a full-scale solar power system on your property, working with a solar installer with significant experience can save you both time and money eventually. Some top solar companies have been installing solar energy systems for decades – an experience that no amount of online research or DIY guides can replicate. Your solar installer can also help you find the financial incentives available in your area and complete the permits and applications necessary to get your solar energy system up and running.