Alternative energy sources continue to gain popularity, as the issue of preserving the environment concerns everyone, no matter where they are. Our planet’s natural resources are dwindling, highlighting the need for us to explore alternative methods of generating them.
Solar energy is one of the most widely used energy resources, with the added advantage of being used even on cloudy days. It’s remarkable that our planet captures solar energy at a rate exceeding 10,000 times the pace at which the population consumes it.
What does this mean? In reality, humanity can reduce the consumption of other resources by embracing environmentally friendly solar energy generation.
Using solar technologies wisely allows for providing the population with heating and cooling systems, lighting, electricity, and fuel used in many areas of production and life. Although not all countries are equally endowed with solar energy, making a significant contribution to the energy balance through direct solar energy extraction is entirely feasible and realistic for every state.
The primary purpose of solar system panels is to convert sunlight into electrical energy. Solar panels are now more affordable due to a decrease in cost over the past decade. In this material, we will discuss how to build your own solar system.
DIY Solar Panel: Key Stages
If you’re planning to install solar panels on your home’s roof, doing it yourself can be a great choice. To make the process smoother with fewer challenges, it’s advisable to prepare thoroughly before starting the work.
Firstly, determine which solar system panels are suitable for your home’s roof. The more thoroughly you research each type, the easier it will be to narrow down your choices.
Monocrystalline panels are considered the most popular. Their design is ideal for residential homes due to their simplicity and effectiveness. These solar batteries are made from pure silicon and come in two types:
- Passivated emitter and rear contact (PERC) panels: PERC panels are equipped with a conductive layer placed on the back of the cells, enhancing their ability to absorb solar energy. Typically, these panels are installed on building rooftops.
- Bifacial panels: Due to their structural features, bifacial solar system panels can absorb light more quickly than PERC panels. For this reason, they are ideal for ground installation.
Polycrystalline panels are a more affordable option than mono panels due to the use of older technologies. A solar system using these batteries is less efficient, requiring a greater number of elements to power an entire home.
Thin-film panels are standard components for small DIY solar systems. This is the most economical option for self-assembly and installation. The manufacturing process for these panels is less complex and takes minimal time. While they are less efficient compared to others, they are used in small projects such as small autonomous systems or installation on mobile homes.
Now that you clearly understand which solar panels best meet your electricity needs, it’s time to start developing a plan to build a solar system.
Step 1: Planning the Work
Begin by determining the most suitable location for placing the solar system panels. Ideally, this would be your home’s roof, specifically the area that receives the most sunlight throughout the year. If your home is surrounded by tall buildings or shaded by trees, the idea to install your own solar panels may not yield the expected results.
Step 2: Obtaining Permits
For making solar panels on your roof, you might need specific permits from the utility company or local building department. If you plan to install the panels permanently, it’s treated as a home upgrade, and you’ll need a construction permit. Furthermore, since solar system panels connect to the grid, approval from the utility company is needed to ensure compliance with technical safety requirements.
This step can be tough, especially for DIY solar panel installations, as homeowners need to follow specific legal requirements. However, no permits are needed when installing independent solar panels since these projects don’t connect to the local grid and aren’t considered home modifications.
Step 3: Solar Panel Design
If you decide to create a solar panel project, it’s essential to determine:
- Which panels are best suited for placement on your home’s roof
- How many batteries you will need
- What type of batteries to choose for installation
Typically, solar panels used in DIY projects have smaller sizes compared to those from professional installers. The power of photovoltaic modules, which are components of homemade solar panels, ranges from 50 to 200 watts. For comparison, the power of larger modules exceeds 350 watts.
It’s also worth noting that self-made solar panels cannot be connected to the main electrical grid. So, make sure to plan for a backup battery system ahead of time. To find out how much power your battery needs, just add the power of all the devices you want to run with solar energy.
Top tip: Lithium-ion options are more durable and safer to use compared to traditional lead-acid counterparts.
Step 4: Selection of Materials for Photovoltaic Solar Panel Construction
Here’s an approximate list of what you might need:
- Solar panels: Match the number of cells to the panels and evaluate the allowed battery sizes and quantities required to meet your home’s energy needs.
- Electrical connector or wiring: This includes diverse wires including tabbing wires, solder wires, bus wires, and gauge wires.
- Epoxy resin: This non-conductive material ensures reliable adhesion when connecting wires to solar elements. It is also necessary to protect the solar system components from moisture and weather conditions.
- Busbars: Busbars serve as a tool for collecting, interconnecting, and efficiently distributing the electrical current generated by individual solar cells.
- Soldering iron: It securely fixes the position of the wire leading from the solar panel to the battery.
To create the template and base, gather:
- Tile spacers
Arrange the components within your field of view to expedite assembly.
Creating the Template and Base
The template and base are elements of the system onto which photovoltaic solar panels will be installed. Here are the main steps to follow to make your own solar system:
- To create the template, measure the plywood sheet and cut it according to the number of planned installation panels.
- Also, acquire a piece of wood that will serve as the external frame for the plywood.
- Next, measure the pegboard and cut it to the internal dimensions of the template.
- Then, drill two holes in both the pegboard and the template. This will make it easy for you to connect the distribution box later.
- Apply the first layer of paint to the resulting structure of the frame, plywood, and pegboard. Once it’s dry, cover the solar system elements with a second layer.
- After the template has dried, measure and cut the shield for the solar components. To do this, determine the exact dimensions of the element on a piece of cardboard and use tile spacers to align the markings. Repeat this process for each of your solar elements.
Connecting All Elements to Form Do-It-Yourself Solar Panels
To do this, follow the next steps:
|Prepare the backboard and place the solar components in the marked area. It’s advisable to position the cells upside down on the board or panel for easier connection with wires.
|Next, connect the buses to the solar components. Measure the required length of solder or insulating wire for the elements and cut the necessary size.
|Solder wires to the buses, remembering to apply epoxy resin on the back of the cells. Secure the position of the elements on the board or panel, apply resin to the buses, and solder the wire from one cell to another.
|Connect the cells to the template by transferring them to the template with a frame and gluing them. At the ends of the connected cells, you’ll notice excess wire length — connect them by soldering a rod wire in the middle. Trim off any excess and repeat the same process with other components to create a sequential chain.
|The main ends of the cell rows with bus wires will connect to the black and white wires inserted through the two holes you drilled earlier and integrate into the battery charge controller. It, in turn, connects to the inverter and electrical battery to power various devices.
|Then, you should cover the solar panel with acrylic glass, place wooden blocks in the internal corners of the frame, and secure them with the carpenter’s glue. Seal the structure with silicone sealant.
|Now, you need to connect the wires to the distribution box. Attach it to the back of the solar panel directly above the holes drilled earlier. Connect the wire from the solar element to the connection point, screw it in, and seal it with the same silicone sealant.
|The last step is to seal the edges of the solar system panels with epoxy resin to prevent moisture from entering the gaps. Silicone sealant can also be suitable for this purpose.
Step 5: Installation of the Solar Panel System
Position solar system panels to get the most sunlight. For instance, in the northern U.S., residents should tilt them southward because that’s where the majority of sunlight comes from. If you’re unsure how to determine the optimal tilt angle for solar panels, visit the Global Solar Atlas website and click on your location on the map.
When it comes to DIY solar panels, they are commonly installed on house roofs using an adjustable stand for support. If you are considering the permanent placement of a solar panel system, you may need various roof mounts or a suitable rack system.
Here are a few factors to consider:
- If your roof is metal with standing seams, it’s easiest to attach the solar rack installation with clamp mounts. This eliminates the need to drill holes in the roof.
- If you have a different type of roof and drilling holes is unavoidable, use penetrating mounts for secure installation of the solar panel system.
- An alternative placement option for solar system panels is ground installation. This is relevant if the scale of your property allows it and working at heights does not appeal to you.
By adequately assessing the placement possibilities for solar installations, you can ensure a proper and well-organized installation process.
How To Maintain Solar System Panels
Unlike other electricity generation systems, solar panels are easy to maintain. The absence of moving parts susceptible to mechanical wear and tear is a key factor. This characteristic allows high-quality solar panels to operate efficiently for two or even three decades.
To ensure solar panels last longer and work well, it’s essential to keep them clean. Dust and particles on the surface can build up, blocking sunlight from reaching the photovoltaic elements. This buildup lowers the efficiency of the solar panel system, reducing the amount of electricity generated.
Here are some useful tips for caring for solar system panels:
- A scraper and a soft brush are the best tools for cleaning panels.
- You can wash the panels, but not when they are heated by sunlight – sudden cooling can cause cracking.
- The use of chemical substances for cleaning panels is not permissible, as it can damage the solar elements.
- If your solar system generates low power or insufficient voltage, inspect the battery, inverter, and charge controller, and replace the problematic section if necessary.
Regularly cleaning solar panels makes them more efficient over time. The logic behind this is simple – cleaner panels allow more sunlight to reach the photovoltaic elements.
And here’s another surprising fact: maintaining good performance of solar panels isn’t just about regular cleaning. You should also check the proper placement of solar panels and use a monitoring system to track their productivity.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Building a Solar System by Yourself
Arguably, the main advantage of DIY solar panels is the significant cost savings on their installation. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) report, owners of solar panels can claim compensation for $3.27 per watt of solar power.
As a result, a solar panel system with a capacity of 6 kW will cost $19,620. Overhead costs plus qualified labor are approximately 10% of the total project cost. If you do it yourself, you will get more affordable solar panels, at least by reducing installation expenses.
However, setting up solar panels on your own has its downsides. Both professional and homemade solar panels use photovoltaic (PV) modules to turn sunlight into energy. But even though they work the same way, there are operational differences. Professionally installed solar panels are connected to the grid and considered energy sources. On the other hand, homemade panels, mostly, work independently.
Energy companies may only allow professionally installed solar panels to connect to the grid, limiting your access to energy-saving programs like net metering. Yet, autonomous batteries are portable and can be used anywhere, unlike grid-connected panels confined to their installation location.
Here’s a brief overview of other pros and cons that will likely be informative for you to make your own solar panels:
|Full-fledged kits are available from various suppliers to build a solar system independently.
|Utility companies may not allow your solar panel system to connect to the grid.
|You can make your own solar system as a portable power station, perfect for camping or RV use.
|If you are an absolute novice in electrical work, the process of installing a solar panel system can be hazardous for you.
|For most DIY solar panels, no building permits are required as long as it is not a permanent installation on the roof of your home.
|Warranties for durability and reliability of operation may be entirely absent or significantly reduced for most homemade solar panels.
What About the Cost?
Unlike their professionally manufactured counterparts, DIY panels are an inexpensive solar energy source. However, comparing these systems directly can be confusing for homeowners as each type serves different purposes.
- DIY solar panels typically have relatively low power and voltage, which, in turn, is safer for the user. Although these batteries can power small to medium-sized devices, they are unable to cover all the energy needs of an average household.
- Professional solar batteries have high voltage and power, allowing them to power an entire household fully.
As for the cost, you can purchase a kit for making small-sized solar panels yourself for approximately $1000. A kit for making a medium-sized solar system will cost you more, ranging from $2000 to $5000. For reference, the cost of a professionally installed 6 kW solar panel system is $17,095.
The table below presents factors that make up the total cost of installing solar system panels and their percentage breakdown.
Empowering Change: Build Your Own Solar System for a Sustainable Future
An increasing number of homeowners are switching to solar power for cost savings and environmental benefits.
Making solar panels might sound complex, but the technology is relatively simple. DIY assembly and installation of such systems can save hundreds on electricity bills, which is why many homeowners opt for DIY solar panels.
However, before making a final decision, it’s essential to thoroughly study how solar panels are made and, specifically, understand whether your skills are sufficient to do it independently. If there are any doubts or difficulties, it’s advisable to seek assistance from professionals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to build a solar panel using recycled materials?
Yes, you can craft a photovoltaic panel system from recycled materials, provided they have been inspected for issues and approved by professionals.
Will cheap solar panels made by myself help save money on electricity?
Certainly! However, the savings will depend directly on the power of the solar panels themselves. Moreover, DIY panels will save you at least 10% on installation services.
Are DIY solar panels worth the time and money investment?
Yes, if you are genuinely interested in environmental preservation and conscientious use of natural resources.
Do I need electrician skills if I want to create solar system panels on my own?
It is desirable. Otherwise, if you have absolutely no knowledge in this area, you might risk injury and incur financial losses.
How to build a solar panel
Acquire the necessary components (solar elements, wires, battery, inverter, etc.). Then, create a template and substrate, connect the solar elements to the wires, place the structure on the substrate, and connect it to the battery and charge controller. The final step is sealing the system and installing it.