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.