Homemade solar panels can be made in any size with relative ease and little expense by following some simple directions. There are several steps, but the actual work is quite simple. A solar panel is nothing more than a shallow box that holds individual solar cells linked together into an array, You can save a ton of money by building your own solar panels, but the energy is collected by the individual cells, so using the right cells is all important.
Solar cells can be purchased either new or used. Follow these tips and your homemade solar panels should provide years of reliable service.
1) The number and type of solar cells you use determines the amount of power that each panel is capable of producing. Each cell is rated to produce a certain maximum wattage. The combined total of these ratings will provide a reasonable estimate of the finished panels capacity.
2) Be aware of the type and size of the cells you are considering. Type and size indicate voltage and current, respectively. As a rule, higher current is achieved with a larger cell. Total power output is determined by amps X voltage.
3) Efficiency rating describes the amount of power that can be produced per square inch. Newer, more efficient cells can collect more energy than older, less efficient cells. Efficiency is important because it establishes the size of the completed panel, and available roof space could come into place (i.e. producing more power with smaller panels will require less roof space).
4) A panel’s maximum current capacity is limited by the smallest cell it contains, so use matching cells within each panel. Otherwise the larger cells won’t perform up to their rated capacity.
5) New retail solar cells are more expensive. You can get slightly defective new cells and even used ones. Don’t be scared off by terms like “defective” or “irregular”. These are often cosmetic flaws that haven’t passed the manufacturers standards and usually function just as well as any other new cells provided the defect is not too severe. Investigate and test before writing them off.
6) Handle with care! Solar cells are somewhat brittle and thin. Keep them in a safe place until you are ready to use them.
7) As a related item, if you buy on-line or through the mail, find out how the seller intends to ship them.
8) Make sure the cells you buy have tabs on them already. You’ll be glad you did when you realize you’ve cut your soldering time in half.
9) Each cell must be clean and free of film or wax before being installed. Cells are sometimes shipped with a wax coating and this has to be removed carefully.
10) Get a good instruction guide that will show you step-by-step what to look for and where to find the best sources for all your parts. This will save you thousands of dollars in mistakes, bad purchases and lost time. You’ll refer back to the guide again and again as you grow your system and will easily the small amount paid for the guide on your very first panel.