Home-made Solar Panels: Can You Really Make Your Own?

March 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Panels

With energy prices soaring, how ideal would it be to run your home with an energy source that is sustainable, renewable, efficient, natural and free? Solar panels can harness the energy of the sun to do just that. So if you consider yourself an adequate do-it-yourself-er who is handy with tools, read further to learn about the process.

First we need to differentiate between solar panels that deliver thermal energy to heat water and the kind used to generate electricity. The latter are the kind we are discussing here. The most common electricity-generating solar panels are called photovoltaic arrays. These simply take in sunlight and convert it into electricity.

To build solar panels yourself, there are two popular options. The easiest is to purchase a solar panel kit. These come with step by step directions and are designed simply enough that anyone who is moderately handy could build them. For the more advanced handyman, it is possible to build solar panels completely from scratch. It is a complex process but attainable for anyone with the interest, patience, and an adventurous spirit.

Solar Panel Kits:

With access to the internet, solar panel kits are easy enough to find and purchase. Simply type ‘solar cell kits,’ into any search engine to find plenty of online or local suppliers. There are also many websites that offer information and offer all of the resources and materials that you could possibly want.

The basic solar panel kit comes with all that you need, including photovoltaic cells, wiring, assembly hardware, and mounting devices. If you can put together an office desk kit from a hardware store, you can do this as well. But don’t forget to check the local building codes first to find out if you can do it without a licensed installer or if you need a permit.

Building Cells from Scratch:

The best part about this method of building solar panels is that it’s inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is costly when it comes to time and labor. You need raw copper sheeting, such as the copper flashing you might find at a hardware store, and a source of heat. When you have your materials, apply heat to the copper long enough to produce copper oxide. It should appear on the copper sheet’s surface in about half an hour due to a chemical reaction.

When the copper panel has cooled, it needs to be combined with another copper panel that is similar in size and non-oxidized. Then a salt water solution is added and all components are encased in a panel of shatterproof glass. After assembling the panel, add components for wiring and mounting. And voila: a low-voltage solar panel. After you’ve mastered that, you’ll need to replicate it many times to make up an array powerful enough to power your house.

Building solar panels yourself for home use can be an inexpensive, fun project if you have the time and interest. With less time to invest, solar panel kits are definitely the way to go. If you have the time and enjoy a challenge, you now have some information to get started from scratch. If you can persevere, prepare to reap the rewards of your labor with a clean, green home run on solar energy.

Passive Solar Lighting: Options to Brighten Your Home

March 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Panels

Solar lighting can be an environmentally friendly, low cost way to illuminate your home. Most people think this means utilizing solar panels to generate the power needed to use light bulbs, but there are multiple ways to use sunlight for your home’s lighting needs. Read further to discover four additional alternatives for making passive solar lighting work for your home.

The most common type of passive lighting is the skylight. Skylights are an excellent way to get natural light in your home, especially into small or windowless rooms. Sometimes they can be more effective at providing natural light than windows, because they are located on the roof and exposed to direct sunlight for most of the day.

Another great method of solar lighting is solar light tubes. These are perfectly suited for lighting dark closets, hallways, windowless garages, and interior bathrooms. Solar light tubes seem like cutting edge modern technology, but they’ve actually been around and in use since ancient times. They are typically smaller than skylights, around nine to twelve inches in diameter. The tubes hold reflective material to enhance how much light they emit. Because of the reflective material, they can be effective even without bright sunlight, so they can still work even when the skies are overcast. Because installation is done in the roof, it’s best to plan for and build them during the earliest stages of a home’s construction. However, it’s not too difficult to add them to most existing homes.

One of the most practical forms of solar lighting is solar exterior lighting. This system uses small solar cells to collect sunlight in the daytime and store it to use at night. If the lighting fixture is in a location that isn’t sunny enough to activate it, it can be wired to a solar cell that is mounted in a sunnier place. Solar exterior lighting has become more and more common, and is available in almost any lighting type. Solar cells can power patio lights, porch lights, spotlights, and motion-detector security lights. Security lighting is ideally suited to be run by solar cell because it will still work during power outages or blackouts.

A practical and aesthetically pleasing type of solar lighting is solar landscaping lighting. These are available in many different sizes and styles as well as for different functions. For example, solar spotlights can accentuate garden sculptures, fountains, or trees. Low-level solar lighting is useful for outlining garden borders or driveways. Some solar lighting fixtures are taller to brighten outdoor gathering spaces like gazebos or patios. Mid-level solar lighting is a great option to light footpaths or sidewalks if anti-glare screens are used. Solar party lights are great for creating atmosphere for special occasions and comfortable outdoor living.

There are many ways to make use of solar energy, and one of the simplest is passive solar lighting. From smaller, economical garden lights, to costlier skylights when you’re ready for a new home or roof, there are many options to fit any budget. Anyone can utilize solar lighting for a greener lifestyle and a brighter home with no additional cost in energy bills.

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