Introduction: Solar Panels Made Easy - VERY Easy!

Picture of Solar Panels Made Easy - VERY Easy!

NOTE: the longer the panel that is exposed to the sun the hotter the air gets as it rises.

Let me explain on this page, so you understand why these panels work:

At the bottom of the panel the air will enter at room temperature and be lifted through the panel (hot air rises)... as the heated air rises, it is exponentially being heated the more it travels before exiting the panel. Additionally, the black Cinefoil is very thin which heats quickly even on days where the sun goes in and out. The longer the panel is exposed to the sun, the better it will work.

The black Cinefoil is THINNER than pop or beer cans... THAT is why these panels work so well. If you use thicker materials than the Cinefoil, by the time that material is heated enough to be beneficial, the sun may get covered again by a cloud and the panel will have to start all over again when the sun comes back out.

This panel is only 3/4 of an inch thick and weighs in at less than a couple pounds.

On a partly cloudy day the black foil collector reached about 150 degrees (during the sunny times) and on days where the sun was without a cloud in the sky, the foil reached 185 degrees. The plastic film on the front of the panel only felt warm to the touch and the aluminum flashing on the back of the panel only made it to 98 degrees.

In the video below, it was an overcast day and when I took a temperature reading... it was actually reading the plastic film which was still 143 degrees.

This type of solar panel (like most) only work if you have larger south facing windows or patio doors (which are better); and of course, a little sun helps. But the nice thing about these panels... They are VERY easy to make and hang "INSIDE" your window where you don't need to concern yourself with zoning codes or big ugly boxes hanging on the side on your house. A plus, you can take them down in the summer; also, because of their design... you can use these in apartments and condos.

The panels use no electrical or mechanical parts and they work awesome as the air is super heated through back chamber of the panel and exits out the top as if there were a blower in the panel.

To aid the distribution of the heated air that exits the panel, add a small fan (on a low setting) to circulate the heated air from the main room to other rooms in each doorway. DO NOT add a fan to blow through the panel itself... that will only serve to force cool air through the panel and not allow the air to super heat as it rises through the panels chamber.

Yet another option... turn your thermostat's fan to on so the furnace fan runs all the time; this will allow for the best circulation throughout the house... put it back to auto at night.

The only hard to find part of this panel is the Cinefoil which can be bought from my website

Additionally... by using the Cinefoil, your panels will look more professional!

Check out these videos before starting the project. I explain (AND SHOW) how functional these panels really are.

[Play Video]

Let's get started...

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Materials needed for the Window Solar Panel:

1. Screen frames and framing Corners
3. Aluminum flashing
4. Black Cinefoil
5. Heat resistant aluminum tape
6. Window treatment film (comes with double sided tape)
7. Suction cups with #10 eye screws
10. Optional two soffit vents (not shown)


Step 2: Basic Tools Needed

Picture of Basic Tools Needed

- Riveting tool

- Drill (size bit for rivets)

- Rivets

- Marking pen

- Measuring tape

- Needle nose pliers

- Hole punch

- Knife

- Snips

- Heavy duty scissors

- Light duty scissors

And of course, a hair dryer to shrink the window film... if you are one of those super-observant people watching my videos... you will see, I don't need the hair dryer :-)

Step 3: Building the Frames

Picture of Building the Frames

So that your cuts make for a square frame for you solar panel... tape together four lengths of screen frame.

NOTE ------ make sure you size the frames to fit the width and length of the aluminum flashing and Cinefoil.

Step 4: Building the Frames

Picture of Building the Frames

After cutting frame pieces to size, insert the plastic corners.

Step 5: Building the Frames

Picture of Building the Frames

Completed Frames.

Step 6: The Aluminum Back of the Panel

Picture of The Aluminum Back of the Panel

Measure and cut a piece of roof flashing from the roll to your desired length.

NOTE --- UNDERSTAND --- the longer the panel that is exposed to the sun the hotter the air gets as it rises. To explain: at the bottom of the panel the air will enter at room temperature and be lifted through the panel (hot air rises)... as the heated air rises, it is exponentially being heated the more it travels before exiting the panel. That is why these panels work so well.

After marking, position a straight edge and tape it down.
(Yep, a utility knife will cut flashing with a few passes)

Carefully cut the flashing.

Step 7: The Aluminum Back of the Panel

Picture of The Aluminum Back of the Panel

Mark the ends of your cut to size flashing for the vents you desire to use. Then use a heavy duty hole punch to make your vents.

Step 8: Preparing the Cinefoil Panels

Picture of Preparing the Cinefoil Panels

Use the aluminum flashing you already cut to size for sizing the foil by simply using it as a template.

Step 9: Preparing the Cinefoil Panels

Picture of Preparing the Cinefoil Panels

Use a utility knife to cut foil to length and width.

Step 10: Start Assembling the Panel

Picture of Start Assembling the Panel

Align the flashing to the frame and start the taping process for the back of your panel by using "SMALL" pieces of the aluminum tape about every 12" or so. Apply tape to the centers of each end and side. Tape each corner as shown.

The flashing is pretty much a super lightweight stiffener and if you cut it square... your panel will be square.

Step 11: Attach Stiffeners

Picture of Attach Stiffeners

Position stiffeners to make sure a clear channel is maintained through the heating chamber. There purpose is to keep the channel between the Cinefoil and the aluminum flashing clear to allow the air to move freely.

The stiffeners are just the cut off pieces (left over's) from the framing pieces cut to size. The plus side is... you are not wasting anything when it comes to the frame material.

Tape the stiffeners down.

Step 12: Attach Stiffeners

Picture of Attach Stiffeners

Drill two to three holes through each stiffener and the aluminum flashing.

Turn panel over and start riveting.

After all rivets have been inserted, turn panel over again to prepare for the foil.

Step 13: Applying the Cinefoil

Picture of Applying the Cinefoil

Center the Cinefoil and tape it to one end of the panel in the center... this will allow you to attach the Cinefoil to the other side keeping it square on the opposite side.

Step 14: Applying the Cinefoil

Picture of Applying the Cinefoil

After the Cinefoil is aligned, tape both corners on one of the ends, then repeat on the opposite side.

After all corners are taped... finish spot taping at every 12" or so.

Now you are ready to apply the second frame.

Step 15: Attaching the Window Frame

Picture of  Attaching the Window Frame

The aluminum flashing and the Cinefoil is what forms the heating chamber. Now attached the second frame to form the window of the panel.

The second panel MUST be attached on the same side as the Cinefoil.

Attach the second frame the same as you have the aluminum flashing and the Cinefoil to the first frame. Tape one end then the other and place tape again about every 12" or so.

The window also allows the Cinefoil to heat without losing any of that heat to the air around the panel. Without the window, your panel will NOT work efficiently, much like the little radiant energy your carpeting, furniture or anything else in the room that catches the suns rays.

Step 16: Apply Double Sided Tape

Picture of Apply Double Sided Tape

On the Cinefoil side (which is the window side as well) apply the double stick tape around the entire perimeter of the panel... overlapping is good, but keep the double sided tape "on top" of the frame as shown.

Step 17: Preparing the Window Film

Picture of Preparing the Window Film

Cut the window insulation film just a littler larger than your panel. Tape one side of the film down on a floor (I am using a cafeteria table), pull each corner of the film until the film is as flat as possible... the wrinkles will be taken care of later with the hair dryer.

Step 18: Applying the Window Film

Picture of Applying the Window Film

With the window film taped on the floor (or table) place the panel (Cinefoil side down), press around the perimeter of the frame against the window film to make sure you get a good bond on the double sided tape.

Step 19: Removing Excess Window Film

Picture of Removing Excess Window Film

Cut the film as close as possible to the frame of your panel and remove it to prepare the panel for the final taping using the aluminum tape.

Step 20: Preparing for Aluminum Tape

Picture of Preparing for Aluminum Tape

Cut two pieces of tape for each side. Over-sizing is good... you can trim the excess window film after it is applied.

Step 21: Applying the Aluminum Tape

Picture of Applying the Aluminum Tape

In the first photo, you will align the tape with only a short piece of the tape having its adhesive exposed. Press the exposed tape down and grab the tape backing pulling to remove it; HOWEVER, do not allow the tape to touch yet.

Holding the tape slightly up from the frame, use your fingers to brush back as you press the tape down. This will result in a very clean application.

Step 22: Applying the Aluminum Tape

Picture of Applying the Aluminum Tape

As you apply the aluminum tape, flip the panel up to wrap the tape around the back finishing off this process.

Step 23: Shrinking the Window Film

Picture of Shrinking the Window Film

Now for some fun (at least I think so). Use your hair dryer to shrink the film finishing off the panel.

Step 24: Final Step - Suction Cup Hangers

Picture of Final Step - Suction Cup Hangers

Drill each corner with a 3/32 bit for starter holes.

Start the eye hooks by hand.

Carefully run the eye hooks down with a special driver bit. If you use any other tool
be careful to not scratch the film.

As you can see, the eye hooks accept the window suction cups well.

Step 25: Success... the Finished Panel !!!

Picture of Success... the Finished Panel !!!

Thank you for reading my Instructable... If you take on this project, I think you will be very surprised and happy with the results.

It has been a while since I first uploaded this to the Instructable website. I have more, and since I am now settled in to our new home... I hope to have more for you soon. Please consider to follow me on Facebook where I share stuff everyday.

Mike on Facebook


OhMike (author)2011-01-13

No disrespect to the very smart people out there, but in here lays the problem...

This project is not intended to be scientific or an engineering feat. It is a simple project that works.

And is for the not so mechanically inclined, it allows the average person to be able to experiment in this technology at a low cost.

MickeyD11 (author)OhMike2016-08-29

How do I vent the heat into the home

OhMike (author)2011-02-19

Those small solar panels I made work... got my gas bill today. Last months payment (during a warmer cycle - December) was $131... this month (during a colder cycle - January) was only $126.

Last year usage was 5.5ccf this year is 4.1ccf


lillianwf (author)OhMike2014-09-20

I would love to make some but can't see the photos to get the idea of how it is suppose to look and work

KevinR213 (author)2016-07-25

Every drop of sunlight which shines through your window lands on something and is turned in to heat. What you are doing is confining all of that heat to something which is attached to the window. there is no net energy gain, just a lot of wasted effort and money and darkened rooms. Don't waste your time or money on this idea

cycle ninja (author)KevinR2132017-11-10

But rather than covering the window, you could build this outside, like storm shutters. All you would have to do is connect an air channel to the top and bottom of the panel through the window. That would allow light to pass through like normal while adding the benefits of a passive solar heater, while not being totally obvious or ugly.

MichaelK489 (author)KevinR2132016-12-31

Good point, I was thinking the same thing. The room(s) that have these installed in winter, would basically become darkrooms, now you have to have all the lights on during the day, if you want to use them. Cancelling out energy savings. Maybe this idea might work on a roof or south facing wall. Props for thinking though, don't ever stop that!

allangee (author)KevinR2132016-11-01

If there are light-colored objects or surfaces in the house, wouldn't at least SOME of the light be reflected back out through the window? The greater and darker the amount of surfaces the light hits, the less that gets reflected out -- so there WOULD be a net gain. Whether that gain is worth the money and effort would have to be tested/justified.

llkoolkay (author)2017-03-23

UnclTodd (author)2016-03-04

Put it in an insulated box with the top air intake/output INSIDE the house and the rest of the rig OUTSIDE, and you will supply a measurable amount of extra heat to the INSIDE. I built a 2' X 6' panel with the in/out fitted to the bottom of a single-hung south-facing window, at a 45-degree angle, and measured the temp of the air entering the panel and the air leaving. Air temp inside the room was 65 degrees, air exiting the panel was 73 degrees. This was called "Passive" solar when I built it in... 1980. Slow-moving gravity-powered air. Ugly and impractical as an add-on to my home at the time, but proved my point that simplicity>complexity. Peace.

shark88 (author)2016-01-08

This panel does nothing. The heat is already coming through the window and is being disbursed through the room. The panel only captures the heat and then releases it.

doodasi (author)2015-12-05

Interesting contraption. Tell you one thing for sure, if you made a gizmo 5 or 10 times the size of your window on a pedistal unattatched from the house that bends light before it goes into the window, you may really be on to something... Or just start a fire. Kind of like the solar cookers you make out of an old t.v.... I'm not an engineer, but logic would tell me that would probably make some heat.

The more you bend in, the more you fry right???

Yes yes, i do take engineers ideas, and make them better, or actually work the way they should.... Sometimes... College, and all those numbers and fancy hyphens make my brain shut down, and sleep.

To each his own :)

Brian.Meier.9900 (author)2014-08-31

Ok .. consider this - if the sun gives away aprox - 1kw pr/ m2 .. ok

Thats the most you can harvest with the perfect set up.

Ok consider this then - the sun shines on your windows,depending on the type of glass in them they will let in only some of the 1000w/m2 ... lets say they let in 800watts ... and the window is exactly 1m2 ...

How will you explain that buy putting up an absorber behind the window will raise this effect ?? the 800watts will enter the room and be absorbed by the floor, furnitures ect ect ... - so I dont understand why you think u harvest more energy this way - its impossible :-)...

Only think is the energy is condensed in the absorber/panel you use...

I agree. The only way to gather more energy is if the panel is on the outside of the house and venting to and from the inside, then we would have the surface area of the window plus the surface area of the panel to collect heat.

Adamv13 (author)2015-11-24

Would the following cinefoil work for this project:

ntense99 (author)2014-12-28

Nice setup! I also made solar air heaters that press into my existing interior windows. Here is my setup if you are interested in seeing how I did mine:

DornbackCustom (author)ntense992014-12-29

Awesome, great idea with the attic thermostat! I've been thinking about this and wondering how well it would work inside a window, since most implementations I've seen are intended to go outside. Thanks for posting the idea and results.

ntense99 (author)DornbackCustom2014-12-30

Works great man, for sure. For the attic fan thermostat - wow, i see people that have built AND SELL complex mini-computer controlled logic fans! HAHA, all that expense and feature overload when in reality all you need is a simple device that turns the fan on when it gets hot, turns off when it cools! LOL Cheap thermostat, cheap 12VDC fan and DONE! 20 - 30 dollars at most!

cg.zens (author)ntense992015-11-08

I am building one and am using a small solar panel to power the fan, so when the sun is not providing electricity the fan doesn't run.

BetsyH4 (author)2015-10-30

I have lots of south facing windows, but they are all vertical sliders. Do these panels need to hang directly on the glass to work, or could the hang from my window frame?

pshaver36 (author)2015-10-06

can this technique be used to heat a cottage that is 16 x 20 cottage in upstate NY?

pshaver36 (author)pshaver362015-10-14

I have 6 double hung windows in the cottage. Would panels in each window be enough to heat the cottage?

katabillups (author)2015-09-06

Thank\ YOUUUU!

Dustin Rogers made it! (author)2015-01-29

I made one of these a couple years ago after watching one of your videos on YouTube. I recently published an Instructable about it, but I just stumbled upon your 'ible.

ButterflyNate (author)2014-12-23

I enjoyed looking over this project. Thank you Mike for the work you put into the videos and pictures. I am wondering what you think about using this application for camping. Could one of these types of panels be set up outside of a tent, with a hose coming off the top and vented into a window of a tent? or Do you have any other solutions for camping that would help naturally heat a tent? It might help get more Boy Scouts out camping during the cold months.


RogerJ3 (author)2014-11-30

OhMike I can^t wait to start making one. I have one like this I made two years ago, still working great,yours looks easy to make,no painting,cool.

incidentals (author)2011-11-20

I noticed you are trying for a PATENT.. You Cannot tell anyone about an idea and expect to gain such a thing! If anyone else can say they know about it the patent falls...

Anyway nice vids and the quantative reasearch was great... There have been a lot of solar/air based systems on the web, a lot of them are based on "black" causing the heat to fall out of the air. The use of black netting in a window will warm up a room on its own and allow you to see through it to the garden/view..

Might I suggest you build your box using a mesh with both sides see through,that way you can see through and force the convection process.

Just a thought

mikewinfrey (author)incidentals2014-11-21

What kind of black netting are you talking about? I assume that because you didn't specify anything that black screen door net will work or maybe even landscape net. Is my assumption correct?

incidentals (author)mikewinfrey2014-11-22

any dark material will absorb the energy from the sunlight... a simple dark netting will cause the energy to be dropped out of the light passing through... the thicker the better, but a black door screen would be fine! you want to be able to see out of the window and the holes in the mesh lets the air push the heat out into the room.

Galonii (author)2014-11-21

the photos on your page the link must be broken, and your video says it's private and only shows static. have you taken this down?

phall0106 (author)2014-11-21

SHTF Preparedness linked to this, but I'm really disappointed that the instructional video is not longer available and the pics aren't there. I'd love to know more about it.

gsavage1 (author)2014-11-21

I would love to make this project but none of the pictures are showing so It may be a bit tough to follow the instructions.

LyeG (author)2014-10-29

I dont see any images. Would love to make this tho!!

Isaiahs3 (author)2014-10-10

so what you have is two window screens put together with the foil in between and the flashing on the back!

Truehart (author)2012-11-13

I just wanted to give a friendly bump to say that your pictures were no longer working.

OhMike (author)Truehart2012-11-14

Thank you!!!! I fixed it ~ MikeM

dreamweaver454 (author)OhMike2014-10-01

OhMike, still no pics, I REALLY need this. Ohio is very cold (as you would know, and I'm in northeast Ohio, so we get all the lake effect snow, too!), and my windows are terrible, house is always chilly, and ALLLLLLL my windows face the south! I have been searching for weeks, and this is my best choice, but with no pics, I have nothing to go on except what I imagine. Please post pics?

whitewolf1316 (author)OhMike2013-05-03

I don't see any images......

Truehart (author)OhMike2012-11-29

You're very welcome and thanks. Now I can attempt making one of these.

dreamweaver454 (author)2014-10-01

I think I can make this myself but would REALLY appreciate the pictures being available so I can get a better idea of how this all goes together!

ivan_s (author)2011-01-12

excellent idea¡¡¡¡

Steven Michael (author)ivan_s2014-03-03

I have been looking for a thin solar panel design. Why no pictures? Legal issues with sharing them? I think I can make this panel with the typed instructions. However, not all instructions are complete as they are intended to have the pictures as a visual aide. Can you please post the pictures?

OhMike (author)ivan_s2011-01-13

Thank you!

mgharri50 (author)2014-01-29

Can you get the pictures fixed...please!

dondi2 (author)2014-01-27

what are flutes?

mgharri50 (author)2013-11-26

I still do not see any pictures. I would love to build this for this winter, but would like to see the pictures to help with the build.

ict4ngo (author)2013-09-30

We can't see the images because they are linked

and probably disapeared from there

astral_mage (author)2013-09-21

pics of all the steps being done would be very helpful as well. there are lots an lots off pple learn by seeing some thing done in a picture vs steps typed out.

astral_mage (author)2013-09-21

i hate to type this but it not a pv solar panel at all. its a heat siphon panel. please correct this!

jon_chalk (author)2013-04-17

Most of the pictures are missing. I refreshed my browser a few times. Only the top images and the two videos are visible. The others show as broken links.

About This Instructable




Bio: I MUST APOLOGIZE TO EVERYONE... My wife retired from the state of Ohio a few years ago. I have been without a finished shop because ... More »
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