In this modern world, alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent to help preserve our environment. One of these sources is a photovoltaic solar panel.
Photovoltaic solar panels convert heat energy into electrical current to power your homes, preventing pollutants and fostering a healthier environment.
What if we told you that you could build a photovoltaic solar panel yourself? Here is our guide to help you complete the process of building solar panels at home. Read on!
How Do I Build a Photovoltaic Solar Panel?
Before anything else, there’s a need to distinguish how photovoltaic solar panels work from standard solar panels.
The critical difference between solar PV and solar panels is that a photovoltaic solar panel converts heat energy to generate electricity. In contrast, standard ones focus on converting solar radiation to produce heat.
PRO TIP: For an in-depth support discussion of what solar PV is, visit this article.
Step 1. Gather the Materials Needed for Your Photovoltaic Solar Panel
The first thing you need to do when building your own solar panels is to gather all the materials you need for the photovoltaic solar panel, and these are:
- Solar cells
- Electrical wiring/Electrical connector
- Soldering iron
For the template or backing board:
- Tile spacers
Make sure you arrange the necessary components to easily see and reach them for a faster building time.
Step 2. Create a Template and Backing Board
After laying down each required material, create a template and backing board where you will install the photovoltaic solar panels.
In creating a template, you must first measure and cut the plywood based on the number of solar cells you embed. You’ll also need another piece of wood that will serve as the outer frame of the initial plywood.
Then, the outer frame will be screwed into the initial piece of plywood.
After that, measure and trim the pegboard based on the inner dimension of the template, and drill holes (two) in the template and pegboard. These will help connect your junction box later.
Next, paint the plywood, frame, and pegboard twice. Before applying the second coat, ensure the first one has dried up.
While letting the template completely dry up, proceed with measuring and cutting the backboard for the solar cells. To do it, follow these steps:
- Measure the exact dimensions of the solar cell on a piece of cardboard.
- To align the measurements, you can use tile spacers.
- Repeat this step depending on the number of solar cells you have.
Step 3. Connect the Solar Cells to Form a Panel
Once you have created your template or backing board for the solar panel and the solar cells, the next thing you need to do is connect the cells by doing this:
- Prepare you backboard
- Place the solar cells along their marked area
Since you still need to connect the cells through wires, place them upside down on the panel or backboard.
Step 4. Connect the Busbars to the Solar Cells
Now for the next step, connect the busbars of all your cells by performing these actions:
- Measure the length of the solder wire needed for the solar cells.
- Cut the solder or tabbing wire to the required lengths.
Step 5. Solder the Wires to the Busbars
To fully connect the solar cells to form a solar panel, you must solder the wire to the busbars.
In doing this, you must apply epoxy on top of the busbars at the back of the cells. Then, using a soldering iron, solder the wire on top of the busbar.
After that, fix their positions on the panel or backboard, apply epoxy on the busbars, and attach the bus wire from one cell to another through soldering.
Step 6. Connect the Cells to the Template
After the cells are connected, transfer them to the template with the frame you created in the second step, and use glue or adhesive to seal the cells.
At the end of the connected cells, there will be the excess length from the wires. You will need to bind them by soldering on a bar wire midway. The excess to that needs to be cut. Do this step to every bit of excess to create a series circuit.
The main ends of the different rows of your cells in a solar panel system with bus wires will be connected to black and white wires, inserted through the two holes you drilled earlier, and embedded into the solar panel charge controller.
The charge controller will attach to the electrical battery and an inverter to power the lights and other appliances.
Step 7: Cover the Solar Panel with Plexiglass
Since your solar panels are all connected, it’s time to cover them with plexiglass. But before that, make sure you place small blocks on the corner of the frames (inside) using wood glue. Then, install the plexiglass above the blocks, and seal them with silicon sealant.
Step 8: Connect the Wires to the Junction Box
Once you have correctly placed the cells on the template and made the necessary connections, connect the wires to the junction box. Here’s how you must do it:
- Attach the junction box at the back of the solar panel above the holes you drilled in step two.
- Connect the wire from the solar cell to the junction.
- Screw the junction in place.
- Seal the sides of the junction, for example, with silicone sealant.
Step 9: Seal the Panel with Epoxy
Last but not least is sealing the edges of the solar panels with silicon sealant or epoxy. Make sure you seal every gap with silicon to ensure water will not come inside the solar panels.
Is It Possible to Make DIY Solar Panels?
Yes, it’s possible to make DIY solar panels if you have all the equipment on hand, and it’s much easier if you follow the steps we provided above.
Also, it’s better to know the basic how-tos before performing the installation proper. If you’re committed to solar energy, you may even want to take up a solar PV installation course.
Materials Needed for Building a Photovoltaic Solar Panel
Of course, you can only build your own solar panel system with the appropriate equipment. Don’t worry. Everything you need is listed in this section.
The show’s star is solar cells, so you must prioritize buying them before you build a solar panel system.
In buying the cells for the solar panels, take note of the following details:
- The number of cells based on the number of panels
- The dimensions where you will install solar panels
- The number of panels to cover the electricity of your home
Of course, you will not have an electrical current without the connections given by electrical wires. Here are the wires you need:
- Solder wires
- Gauge wires
- Bus wire
- Tabbing wires
A soldering iron and solder wires are also needed to create your own solar panel system, as both help connect one solar cell to another.
It does not just connect, but it secures the position of the wire to generate electricity from the solar cell to the battery.
FACT: The battery stores excess energy to power your electricity even when the sun is not out.
In providing solar electricity through an accessible medium (wire and bar), your own solar panel system needs to have busbars.
Busbars are the ones you use to connect one excess wire from a row to the other and, in turn, link it with the other parts of the circuit.
Epoxy, a non-conductive material, provides adhesion when you connect the solar cells to the wire. It’s also applied to seal the parameters of your own solar system from water and other external factors (e.g. harsh weather conditions).
The plywood, cardboard, and pegboard are essential to the whole process of installation as they make up the template and backboard of your own solar panels.
Paint and Paintbrush
The paint is vital in keeping the appropriate temperature (preferably cool) of your panels’ template, backboard, and frame. It also helps preserve the wood elements on your own solar system.
The tile spacers are optional solar kit pieces but provide better spacing for most solar panels and cells when installed.
Another indispensable material in your own solar panel project is a screw, which secures the template’s position and frame for a more protected flow of electricity (circuit or alternating current) from your own solar system to the battery.
How Much Does Building Solar Panels Cost?
Drawing from our experience, to build a solar panel means having to pay (money) for equipment with a cost of approximately £300 to £500.
This cost consists of buying all the abovementioned solar kit equipment, but it can vary depending on the number of solar cells and the voltage you need to complete your own solar panels.
Benefits of Building Your Own Photovoltaic Solar Panel
After doing the build-a-solar-panel project, we’ve concluded that it comes with serious perks for a better quality of life. Some of the advantages of a solar system are:
- Installing a solar panel system to convert the sun’s energy into solar power gives you control over your preferences in design and specifications throughout the installation process.
- Working on your own solar panels as a project can boost your financial savings as the cost is cheaper than hiring a solar company.
- Doing your own solar panels provides renewable energy, creating a clean, green, fresh air and atmosphere.
- The DIY solar PV system project will work to generate lower-cost electricity bills by giving you solar power instead of grid-generated power.
Risks of DIY Photovoltaic Solar Panels
Every do-it-yourself project comes with a risk, and doing DIY photovoltaic solar panels is not an exception. Here are the risks that come with installing your grid:
- You must know how to create a photovoltaic solar grid system using different tools and equipment.
- When you install a DIY photovoltaic solar grid system, you need to remember that it doesn’t come with a warranty compared to a solar manufacturer or professional solar grid system installer.
However, if the risks don’t outweigh the benefits, and after consulting local solar power experts, government rules, and other essentials, then you can create your own photovoltaic solar grid system by following the steps above.
Maintenance and Troubleshooting of the Photovoltaic Solar Panel
A responsibility you need to be aware of when building a DIY photovoltaic solar grid system is having enough information on maintaining and troubleshooting common issues.
Don’t worry because we have the maintenance tips and how to troubleshoot common issues based on our practical findings. Check it out!
In ensuring that your photovoltaic solar panels are in tiptop shape to generate enough solar power, here are the tips for maintaining them:
- Use a soft rag when cleaning the glass of your solar energy-producing grid system.
- Put the photovoltaic solar grid system in the part of the roof where the sun or sunlight can hit it directly to produce solar energy.
- Always ensure that your solar grids made of glass are clean from dust, as the latter can affect the conversion of solar energy to power your electricity.
PRO TIP: To get the proper angle of the sun, a solar tracker can help. Check this article on how photovoltaic panels use solar trackers!
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Your job continues in troubleshooting common problems during and after the building and installing process. Here are some tips:
- If the system doesn’t produce power or enough voltage, check the battery, inverter and charge controller by (a) visual inspection and (b) replacing the problem area.
- If you need help installing the panels on your roof because of the latter’s design and components, ask for a professional’s help assessing your roof or installing the panels.
Consider a Professional Solar Panel Installer
Always consider hiring a professional when building or installing your solar PV system for the following reasons:
- to prevent electricity issues;
- for proper survey, analysis, and installation; and
- to avail of a service and product warranty
Here are some of the answers to your FAQs!
Can I Make My Own Solar Panel System Using Recycled Materials?
Yes, you can make your own solar PV panel system using recycled components, provided that the latter has been checked for issues and cleared for use by professionals.
What’s the Cheapest Way to Make a DIY Solar Panel?
The cheapest way to make a DIY solar PV panel is to use reusable equipment in your home and buy durable components for less money at reliable stores.
The key to building solar PV panels is to follow the steps in this article, consult your local regulations, build and install with caution, and learn from your local experts!