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Picture of Home Made Solar Panel
Why pay lots of money (or any money) for a program that shows you how you can make your own solar panel as you can get this for free?

Visit Home Build Solar System on http://home.kpn.nl/maas5455/and experience how also you can make not only solar panels but also how to make the whole system for half the price of panels you buy in the shop for free.
Those systems are mostly made from materials you can buy locally in your DIY shop and materials which are easy to get online.

Its time to harvest the sun and get your electricity for free.

See you at http://home.kpn.nl/maas5455/.
 
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Step 1: The Initial Intention

Picture of The Initial Intention
I could see that my electricity bill was increasing year after year, just because the modern day appliances cant be turned off any more and before I noticed I had many appliances in the house which are on standby day in day out. This all not only harm the environment but also my bank account as I am using electricity for nothing. Not to solve this problem (as this is how appliances are made and I cant change this) I started to look into renewable energy to compensate my unneeded losses and to take some pain away from my bank account. Wind energy was no option due to the area Im living in, hydro electricity is no option as I live in a flat country with next to no rivers so solar power was the best solution. Than the price of solar systems appear to be horrendous, far too much that the system ever would produce in its estimated 20 year lifespan. So I tried to get governmental grants for this project but grants for those kinds of systems where limited and did I miss out. But I still wanted a solar system but I didnt wanted to pay the high price, so I decided to build the panels myself. Yes you see this right, I wanted to build my own solar system and I can tell you now its possible and well with materials bought local in DIY shops and easy to obtain parts from the Internet. No Im not a technical wonder and I dont have lots of experience working with electricity, I just looked around and taught myself how solar panels are made, how other might have done it and made out of this a workable plan of how I could do it.

Step 2: Start Of The Challenge

Picture of Start Of The Challenge
After I did my homework I found out that there was a solar cell manufacturer just a few hours away from my house who could supply me with the needed cells (otherwise I could buy those online as theyre easy to obtain from other sites). With information I collected from various sources I made a wiring diagram and did I got ordinary glass from a local supplier. Tools I needed came from my local DIY store and I was ready to start. See the needed materials list below witch not only states all the needed materials but also the price I paid for it and the shop I bought them from. The material list is for one panel only and the list of the total system is for 2 panels, one inverter and production meter. Installation material like wire, junction boxes, screws and holding brackets I didnt had to buy as those I still had in the shed or made my self.

Step 3: Building Process

Picture of Building Process
I soldered the solar cells according to the wiring diagram in series as this added the voltage of each cell together to achieve the desired (and highest) output. I made a 28 cell panel (4 strings of 7 cells) as this is fitting the best in my garden and would give me 28x0.5V=14V (theoretically). The amperage I didnt know yet as I bought B quality cells to play around with (this saved me some expenses to mess around with).

When I finished soldering the cells, the cells where up side down (as I soldered the backside of the cells last) so could place on the back of each cell a little bid silicone and glued the cells on a 4mm glass sheet (this sheet will eventually become the back of the panel).
Now I left it all to dray and the silicone to vapor out (its really important to let the silicone vapor out real good as the vapors react with the solder on the cells).

Next I turned the glass sheet over and placed small tile crosses (they use to place tiles on a wall or on the ground to keep a standard distance between the tiles) in between the cells so that at a later stage of the building process the 2 plates of glass will form a stiffer construction. When they are in place I did put silicone sealant all around the edge of the glass plate at a distance of about 3 cm from the edge (which I left empty for filling at a later stage).

Then I placed the other plate of glass on top of it so the cells are now sandwiched between 2 glass sheets of 4mm thick (yes I just made double glassing with solar cell imbedded, how easy can a plan be).

Step 4: Vaporing Out Of The Panel

Picture of Vaporing Out Of The Panel
And left it all to dry for a minimum of 24 hours, the longer the better due to the sealant vapors. Then there is still an open space between the 2 glass plates on the outer edge and I filled this with more sealant. Now I have 2 sealant seals, so if one sealant line leaks than there is the 2nd line as a backup. I leave this to dry for another 3 days. When the sealant has dried fully, I took some aluminum profile (aluminum angle bar) to make a frame to protect the glass and to make the panel stronger.

Step 5: Junction Box At The Back

Picture of Junction Box At The Back
At the back of the panel I made a junction box with a terminal block. At one site of the block the + and from the panel is going in and at the out side will go the wire going to the inverter. In the junction box is also an diode in between the + from the panel to the + going to the inverter, this will prevent electric current to flow to the panel when the panel is not producing any electricity (like at night).

Step 6: The Inverter

Picture of The Inverter
I contacted the local solar panel shop for a suitable inverter as this one needs to be small (remember that I only make a small amount of electricity with this panel). In the shop was a small inverter laying around which could not be sold, and I could have this for free as it would otherwise be in the shop for a few more year. The inverter is an OK-4 one, starting at 24V to 50V and a max of 100W. So this learned me that just one panel would not be enough as this would give me only 14V, so I needed a 2nd one and also hooked up in series so I would get 28V which is enough to get the inverter going. The 14V appeared to be enough but you could see that this was not a strong current so guess what, I made a 3rd panel and now the production is nice and steady. I know that this inverter can go to a max of 100W and my 3 panels give more (135Wp) but this maximum my panels give will be chocked back by the inverter. What ever the inverter gets more than he can handle is burned off as heat. Yes I know what youre thinking; Im wasting electricity right at the course. Thats true, but only at the middle of the day for a few hours when the sun is at its strongest and optimum angle to the panels and most of the day (actually most days) this is not the case. Now I start producing right a way when the sun comes up till its going down, just thanks to the fact that this inverter is able to work at a low voltage. I gain more by producing in total at the lower range (every day) than a few hours (at some days) at the top range.

Step 7: Figure Facts

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As that the OK-4 inverter hasnt got a build-in display to see how much output it gives I needed a separate production meter.
A guess what, I was also not prepared to pay the full solar panel world price for this neither.
I went to a local DIY store and bought an ELRO M12 Power Calculator, which is actually mend for calculating the usage of electrical appliances but works also fine to calculate any solar production (this calculator is working both ways it can give and take electricity from the net).
And this calculator plugs straight into the mains power supply with no difficult wiring (thats what we need).

Factory figures gave me that each cell gives 0.5V x 6A = 3Wp, but this in the perfect circumstances. For a whole panel this would mean 28 cells x 3Wp = 84Wp.
But from previous gained knowledge I know that this is always given as an to optimistic figure and that around 20% less production will be achieved in real live.
In this case this would mean a true expected production figure of 67Wp.

My panels are certainly not facing the optimum way, but this is for now also not the meaning (as silly as it sounds).
The panels are placed at a 10 degree angle (instead 35) and not exactly facing South.
But where they are placed is a temporary installation with the reason that I want to see how theyre behaving in real weather with cold temperatures, lots of rain and a blasting sun.
A real setup will come in the near future.

Taking all of this in account the panels are producing 15V x 3A = 45Wp each.
Concluding that the voltage of the cells are used to the maximum.
The amperage can go higher, this can be done by changing the angle of the panels more into the sun, but is currently not possible due to their placing location.

Step 8: In Production

Picture of In Production
If I see that voltage wise the maximum output has been reached, I can say that the panels are working fine and do the give so far an average of 500Wh per week. Now the critics among us will say that this is nothing, but given that the panels have the potential to produce more as if I only change the facing/angle, the panels are smaller than a standard panel plus it are only 3 panels they do fine. Plus my aim was to overcome the standby appliances in the house so you can say that I succeeded. Apart from the durability (this test is currently on going), I can say that a home made panel is working just as good as a panel bought in a shop.

Step 9: Future Thoughts

Picture of Future Thoughts
My future plan is first testing the panels for their durability as so far I mainly focused on making the panels and do I not really know what they will do after being exposed to the weather for a long period of time.
After this its time to make a sun tracker and make more panels but than bigger ones.
Than the panels will give more output due to the size and will always be facing under the right angle to the sun for maximum output.
And it speaks for it self that all gained knowledge will be published on the site for everyone to access.

And for the critic, yes youre right this is not free electricity as I had to pay for the parts but when I reached the breakeven point the costs are paid back and then the system will give me free energy by harvesting the sun.

To share my experiences Ive made a website where you can see for yourself how I did it, my production records to show how the system is behaving, and how you can do this yourself by means of text, photos and films.
See this all at my site on http://home.kpn.nl/maas5455/

Why wait till tomorrow if you can start saving money today?

See you all at http://home.kpn.nl/maas5455/
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tp.pa.123 months ago

One note about the glass one uses, you have to make sure that it is just plain clear glass, most window glass is low E made to block allot of the ultra violet rays, etc., the panels need to produce power. A NON yellowing acrylic sheet would also be better, because it is not low E, and it will take things like Hail better without shattering.

But as far as your build goes, great job at saving money twice!!

bradr2 tp.pa.121 month ago

Learn how to make your own solar panels and save tons of money
http://cheap-solarenergy.blogspot.com

MattA43 months ago

how did u solder the panels together? i cant see any tabs in the picture

gorustal5 months ago

You can visit http://gogreen.inplix.com website for more information and a extremely relyable guide to building solar panels.

This URL is largely a gateway to selling (supposedly) the information that this person is giving away for free on Instructables.

There's also some malware Javascript hosted on that site, so as always, be careful out there.

AnnF1 gorustal4 months ago

You can visit http://inplix.com website for more information and a extremely relyable guide to building solar panels.

EveC1 gorustal4 months ago

Try http://inplix.com .Why pay a huge amount like $1000's for utilization of solar or wind power when you can have the opportunity to build your own home made solar system for less than $200. You can Learn more on http://inplix.com

You may have made a vital mistake in your construction . You have sandwiched the cells between two sheets of glass but you made no reference to creating a vacuum. The air left behind between the glass will heat up during the day and turn into moisture when the panel cools down this will damage the panel in the end. The encapsulating with using EVA film costs less and you can suck all the air out with a hoover.

MoobL9 months ago

Sadly, your link is broken.

ppereira141 year ago

I was looking for a higher capacity Solar System (400W or more). I found a really nice instructable. Heres a linkhttp://www.instructables.com/id/Apartment-Solar-System/

Williamjl1 year ago
Have you thought of using some bypass diodes? They are pretty cheap and will increase power production when the panel is partially shaded.
sneakyarnie2 years ago
I do agree that solar energy is a great alternative energy source that not only will create a dent in your electric bill, but also it is environmentally friendly. Being someone that knows every little on this subject, I was extremely intrigued on how it would be possible on building a home made solar panel. I feel like a lot of the details were left out of the building process. I do believe that building your own solar panels could potentially be extremely risky if you don't know exactly what you are doing. I recently ran into this website in where you can purchase solar panels around the same price that you spent in purchasing the materials to build your home made solar panels. I do believe that purchasing a solar panel could be a better route to take if you don't have any experience in building mechanics. Here is the website if you are interested in checking it out. Siliconsolar.com
All4FunOC2 years ago
Solar is almost always a good idea. Within certain logical constraints. The investment here for a trial and error configuration is considerable. From what I am seeing the possibility for a total loss is high. You need much more detail on this panels wiring configuration, mounting, etc. This is reads like an overview of your entire project. You seem to have put a lot of time into this but 90% focus on the panel itself would have been nice brother.

One day you might want to get back into a panel for a repair. If it we're my panel I'd want to be able to get back into it. Might I suggest 1" foam weather stripping between the glass instead of silicone. It's waterproof, flexible, easily sandwiched, and possibly reusable.

For safety's sake if you are mounting a DIY solar panel look at the hardware used on a real installers work. These panels can literally fly away in a very strong wind if not securely mounted. Imagine your cash spinning through the air heading towards who knows what.

I had ten panels installed about 6 years ago. I am on the grid. And yes, Edison pays "Me" for the juice as my meter runs backwards often. I get one bill a year and it is about half of what my neighbor pays in just one month. The installation has paid for itself. Now I'm changing out CFLs for LEDs and checking out making a small inconspicuous wind addition to the panels. But yeah without batteries...

Turnpike7a2 years ago
it's hard to "be nice" on a page that is uninformative and seems to be a ad then a DIY. aside from the "shopping list, there are no instructions, no step by steps, no websites. I am all for going off the grid, but instructables like this seem to do more harm then good
riwi14032 years ago
wow it's a nice idea
You don't need a payback period for solar panels. That is a myth.

What is the payback period of a $20,000 automobile?
What is the payback period of your hot water heater?
What is the payback period of your home furnace?

When he has a power outage, he can hook the panels to some batteries and run a laptop. He can charge power tool batteries and flashlight batteries.

You can run a single super efficient fridge off these three panels easily. FOREVER (or until the fridge breaks) This will work even a cloudy climate.
What price can you put on that?

Why not invest in solar panels. They last 20+ years...and counting.

What is a $20,000 car going to look like in 20 years?
Like a trash heap. You will barely be able to get scrap value for that car.
Oh yeah, what about all the repair parts you bought all those years.

I encourage everyone to get 1-3 panels, a great charge controller and two golf cart batteries. Enjoy running any one item you choose off the sun.

It's called progress!


Forget the payback, the simple fact that if the grid goes down he will still have usable power makes it worth it. If chit hits the fan try cooking some food with your cd. Keep trucking, i hope to start making my first panel soon.
Due to the cost of instatllation going with a Battery Based Grid-tied system is the best way to go.  However, for the long term benefit of solar power you really should have a Direct Grid-tied system.  Installation is the biggest issue when you build your own solar panels.  Go Solar


Another thing to consider is that when the sun isn't shining, the wind is probably blowing. The opposite is also usually true. (hot sunny days with no wind anybody,..). My point being that a good use of your investment dollars would include solar and wind integrated direct grid tie.
I think that might be a bit of whimsy asking about the payback on a car. There is, in fact a pay back on a car. You balance the cost of the car, insurance and gas against the cost of taxis or buses or trains, the cost of shoe soles, wear and tear on knee and ankle and hip joints, lost work do to being late and sweaty all the time and just plain convenience (it has a value, too). The payback on a water heater is balanced against burning cords of wood under big metal tubs to have clean drinking and bathing water and the medical cost to you and your family for not having such a system and the cost to the environment of burning all that wood (or coal) to heat the water. (Yes I know that the electric company burns coal to make electricity and the plumes of smoke are horrible, but the efficiency factor for one large centralized place burning it as economically as possible to make a profit as compared to everybody in every neighborhood of every city in every state burning a bucket or twelve of coal a day is an enormous difference and part of the payback computation. So, solar panels cost X and not using solar panels cost Y. X and Y are not equal and how much of a difference between X and Y is acceptable is a calculation that everybody makes. There is an economic argument to every green project. There is also the argument about how does this change my life and am I willing to do that. Lastly, there is the SPECS argument (South Park Electric Car Smugness) in which some people will choose to do a thing just so that they can enjoy the smell of their own farts. Bottom line is that there are lots of alternatives. Solar is one and it comes with a cost (including the environmental cost of producing solar cells). There are lower tech ways to spend less and save more and they don't require changing lifestyles (which we are never going to do anyway). Cost is a factor,... ALWAYS. Payback is balanced between cost and benefit and it is an empty argument to say it doesn't exist as a factor.
What an awesome comment ! I never thought of it that way before, :) You Sir or madam, are a genius. I still can't afford the panels yet, but I definitely will remember what you said, when I'm ready to plunk down the lettuce, Thanks, Joe
goaler292 years ago
Neither Link works anymore!
breunor3 years ago
Definitely per day, as he was saying about 65w per panel times 3 panels is 195w, times X hours of sun per day on average. Where I live it's 14 cents per KWh, so he saves 7 cents a day (optimally set up maybe 10 cents), and $25.55 a year, so about a 25 year payback on the $600+ cost to set up, not including the interest which could be earned if you invested that $600 up front. Add the fact that cell performance degrades over time (warranties on commercial ones allow for performance loss over time) and it'll more likely be 30-35 years, or never if you allow 2-3% interest earned on say a $600 CD investment.

I'd love to use such a system if it were viable, but that's only true if you start off the grid and would have to pay up front to get tied to the grid, matching the cost of a PV install. If you're already on the grid, conserving power and being more efficient is the best money saving option.

Attach those phantom load appliances to power strips that you can switch off, or to outlets which are controlled by a wall switch, to eliminate that load.
tcase43 years ago
the site given dont work, broken link...
jimbo-g3 years ago
CAn you give any specifics about the requirements for the cells, voltage etc and the dimensions. Or if you have any brand suggestions, that'd be great. Im from the UK
WildfireSOS3 years ago
I think this is the site
http://www.kpn.com/
Koolraap3 years ago
The website is still unavailable at 10 april 2012.

404 error
kyriaap3 years ago
unfortunately the site is still unavailable today 30th of january...
404 page not found on the KPN website..
any plans or progress to fix it?
numenius3 years ago
Interesting post, and neat looking panel for a home build, but your link to: http://home.kpn.nl/maas5455/ still is not working. No such page I'm afraid (at 26th December 2011).
mikesnyd3 years ago
Ok so i know Solar panels are not very cost effective but can you use them in conjunction with a hydrogen dry cell. The combo of a wind turbine with solar panels (one with mirrors on side) to make enough hydrogen to power a small generator is feasible isn't it?
sarain5 years ago
Your panels are clean and professional looking.  Nicely done.

Since you mentioned reaching a break-even point, where you would have saved enough to pay for the panels, I couldn't help but do the math to see how long this would take to reach.

Given your measurement of about 500 Wh per week and given an average cost of 11.63 cents per kWh for grid power in the US (2009) (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html) you are saving 5.815 cents per week.

For 3 panels I came up with a total cost of $653.08 using your bill of materials.
It will take 11,230.95 weeks to save $653.08 This translates to about 215 years.
If the price of electricity goes up then these numbers would become more favorable.  Also perhaps you could improve these numbers by repossitioning your cells as you mentioned.

I understand that there is more to a project like this than saving money and I am not telling you that the project is a bad idea.  In fact I have thought it would be cool to do something like this as well.  I just want to make sure that the reality of a break-even point is understood before people jump into this expecting to save money.

Hopefully in a couple of years there will be cheaper high efficiency cells.

Happy building.
MaXoR sarain4 years ago
Sorry, I just have to add this in here as a useless piece of info.... In Manitoba, Canada, our hydro (Electricity) costs 6.3 cents per kW\h. I do however believe this is largely due to the fact we produce a LARGE chunk of Canada's electricity, and we even sell a portion to the US, guess your government has to make their money off it too in the process....

Either way, I think that price is outrageous, but I live up here were a lot of things tend to be less expensive, however not necessarily "cheap".
lucky person you are
I am living in Belgium, next to the German border, and we pay about 21Euro-Cent(about 28 Cent) per kWh. Also fuel prices are much higher here. One gallon gas is about 7,80 US Dollar. Mind that if you say they aren't cheap;-)
Yeah, our gas is 1.18 per liter, so times that by 3.85 I think for a US gallon... it's not the almost 8 dollars you spend, but for us Canadians, it's still a jump at the pump.

I'm sure if we had to generate our power like a majority of the USA does, our fuel charge would be as astronomical as yours...lol, exaggerating a bit, but you get it.

Is the german government doing anything with wind energy yet? With prices that high, I don't see why it isn't actually economical to invest in that technology for their people, for you.
well, as far as I know thez are building some giant 5++MW windmills in the East Sea, because there is a constant high stream of wind. The problem right know is just, that the main mower consumers are living in the west and south, so there are 2500 new km of electrical power lines required. They are not a beauty and many people complain that they are going to spoil their view. One thing I personally like is the power company grean peace energy, which are going to produce methane out of windpower(h2o to H2 and H2+ Co2=CH4) which is transported through pipelines and can easily be stored in former caves in the ground. If electricity is needed, it can be used in a gas power plant.
pembo210 sarain4 years ago
dont forget to ad the $.10 - $.20 per Kwh fuel surcharge that gets added to every bill. Also I think his math is wrong. (sorry HBSS)

My homemade panel is 65w @ 6hours a day = 390 watt hours a day (not a week)

390 x 20 (days of good sun a month) = 7,000 = 7.8Kwh @ .12 = $0.94 a month

I got 20 of them. Usually average $20-30 off my bill each month because of fuel surcharges. I have about $1600 in my system including grid tie inverters and wire.

Pal sarain5 years ago
Where solar panels really become cost effective is when your house isn't already tied into the power grid, and you are faced with either building up a solar panel system with deep cycle batteries, or paying the utility to trench their cables to your home. I've seen estimates of $10-15 per foot to bring their lines in, so if your home is back a bit you could spend thousands to get a grid connection, then pay monthly. This is where solar comes in and makes you some major savings. After tax incentives it tends to take little time to break even, and you also aren't relying on the grid for your power.

Little projects like this are fun too, especially if the utility has net metering and pays you back for excess power.
Darrone sarain5 years ago
I think it was supposed to by 500 Wh per day.  The chart shows about 3.5 kWh per week (500x 7days).  Roughly, that would make the break even point 31 years.  A FAR more reasonable conclusion.  Not cost effective, by any means, but still interesting.
rrepass jr.3 years ago
please fix your site, if this is where you list purchase of items used.
pcheyni3 years ago
You site isn't working
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