Home Made Solar Panel

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Introduction: 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/.

Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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    We have a be nice policy.
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    how much did it cost in all again?

    47 Comments

    FYI very first LINK you are directing us to fails.

    hi my country have many sunny days in year while unfortuntly most electrical energy in my country come from fossil fuels that those are harmful to nature. since I am a friend of nature; i like improve my konwledg about solar plans and how it work and created i like to spreard this clean energy in my country please guide me.thanks (Iran/Khuzestan)

    I can make it myself. Just got instructions from InpliX website and I'm ready for do it :D

    Running solar panels without any sunlight is easy with the help of radium chloride. Paint both sides of a sheet of paper with radium chloride, sandwich both sides with a pair of solar panels facing inwards, and hook them up to your electrical system.

    4 replies

    HOLY COW, then you end up with a dangerous radio active nuclear PV system......LOL. I hope you have a Geiger counter to check no over exposure!

    Don't forget to factor in the lead sheeting to stop you getting radiation poisoning.

    But if somebody else's disapproval is not an "issue", then why not create a battery pack for an electric car out of alternating layers of solar panels and these replaceable painted sheets? Then this starts to sound like one of the varieties of Tesla legends involving an electric car whose non-rechargeable battery pack only required changing out its (radium?) plates once every few hundred miles (300-500 depending on whose version of this story is retold). And the process of exchanging the old plates for the newer replacements was so easy that a child could do it in a matter of minutes! Golly, gosh!

    And a whole year's supply of these plates could fit into the trunk of the car! Wow!

    I tried building a solar panel 10 years ago, I could not get the the thin connecting strips to stay attached with soldering them on. I still have cells left; just cant figure out how to connect them together.

    1 reply

    First of all use grade"A"PV cells, use solder flux pen and flux the contact strip on the cells, make sure you're using the right temperature and tip on your soldering iron to unsure a good solder weld flow, they should flow and blend which is a type of low temperature welding, once you get the hang of it, it's easy. Use the blade tip on flat tabbing wire to insure a very flat connection so the cells are flat down on the glass so they can be encapsulated in a solid manner.

    I used to have big problem finding effective ways to build my solar panels and maximizing my solar power.But I am getting better result now, after I stumbled upon this excellent guide I found HERE. It was a godsend. It gave me great Solar Panel tips and showed me what I was doing wrong before.

    For those new to solar:

    -Your battery bank is the very heart of an off-grid system. All the panels do are recharge the batteries.

    -You need a charge controller between your battery bank and the panels. If you buy a PWM controller, you MUST match the panel voltage to your battery bank voltage. If you want to pay more you can get an MPPT controller and mix/match voltages.

    -You need TRUE deep cycle batteries, NOT Marine batteries, which are a compromise and a waste of money as they will not last. Golf Cart batteries have long been the best bang for the buck.

    -For an Inverter, don't waste your money on MSW (modified sine wave) as you will encounter all kinds of problems down the line. Some TV's will have shorter lifespans, motors run hotter, digital clocks and timers won't work right, fans will make funny noises and run hotter, things like that. Bite the bullet and get a good pure sign wave inverter.

    -Don't try to use AC switches and circuit breakers with DC current. Arcing is a real problem with DC and you need switches and breakers designed for DC. Not kidding! (As AC cycles it reaches a 0 voltage point. With DC, it stays 'ON' and will arc when trying to switch it off. With high enough DC power, it may never turn off and just keep arcing until something burns/melts.)

    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.

    Although I'm all for self build, this doesn't seem to be economically viable. Your self assembled panels cost 211 euros (£160) for an 87W array, but fully finished encapsulated 100W panels cost from about 105 euros (£80) and you can get 2x100W panels for the same price as this diy version panel or a 100W panel with controller box for the same price. (all quickly sourced from Amazon).

    2 replies

    Just noting, when this instructable was published 7 years ago, the cost of commercial solar panels per Watt was MUCH higher than it is today. So yes, the economics have changed substantially and cost information is out of date. It might still be a worthwhile exercise for those who enjoy making something themselves, or want a custom size/shape, or have a supply of materials on hand.

    Apologies and thanks for your considered reply. I didn't realise how old this instructable actually was. I'll leave my reply, firstly to show I was an idiot and secondly because it does point out how quickly the market is changing. Your instructable popped up now when I wrote the comment under some other feature page, so tit must still be relevant! I can see how cheap this would have been 7 years ago! It also shows how cheap solar will eventually become once the production in China ramps up to world wide market penetration and newer and better technologies become available.

    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!!

    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.

    Have you thought of using some bypass diodes? They are pretty cheap and will increase power production when the panel is partially shaded.

    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