Some of the coolest inventions over the last couple of decades are the ones that will save energy and even create energy using wind and sunlight. Solar panels are becoming more accessible and are being used to power devices never dreamed of from off-grid to clothing Hikers are wearing. Some creative ideas are being developed by people in need of using Solar Panels for their own needs that manufacturers haven’t thought of. How? They are making their own. What are the parts needed to build a Solar Panel?
With a Multi-meter, a few tools, nuts & bolts bought over the internet or hardware store, you can make your own Solar Panel With:
- Solder gun
- Flux Pen
- Box tape
- 2 & 5mm tabbing & Bus wire
- Silicone paste-Epoxy Resin
- Solar Cells
- Aluminum U Channel-Corner & inside Brackets
- A Sheet of Glass & Plexiglass
If you are a little handy and can understand some basic electrical principles, you don’t have to be a graduate of MIT to make a Solar Panel. The question really is, do you need to make a Solar Panel because of today’s prices- like the parts, Solar Panels are very inexpensive and easy to make these days. This article will give you the basics on how to do it and how easy it is.
DIY Solar Panel
From available parts, you can easily buy you can make your own 100 Solar Panel use with your RV or for your home. Most hobbyists or any handy type person can perform the task but the question is would it be worth your time. The parts needed to make a 100-watt Solar Panel are:
- Pre-soldered coated tabbing Wire 2mm sized
- Buss tabbing wire or Buss Wire that is 5 mm
- Solder Wire used to tin Solder Iron
- Flux Pen to apply before you solder which helps the solder adhere cleanly
- Clear strapping tape (Box Tape)
- Regular scotch tape that holds the cells in place
- 60-80 Watt Solder Iron
- A multimeter that measures Volts and Amps
- Silicone paste -UV Crystalline
- A container of Epoxy Resin that will encase the back of the Panel
- The Hardener that will mix with the Epoxy Resin
- Untabbed Polycrystalline Solar Cells
- Pre-tabbed Solar Cells that already have the tabbing wire attached
- A sheet of tempered Glass 62″ by 23 inches at 3mm thick (if using 6″x 6″ Solar Cells)
One Solar Cell with dimensions of 6″x6″ has an average power is 4.3 Watts, average current in amps of 8.6 and average volts is 0.5
You’ll need 36 Solar Cells or 4 rows of 9 Solar Cells in each row for a total of 36 Solar Cells
- Measure the 2mm tabbing wire for Cells at a time leaving excess that will be long enough for another
- Use Flux pen to apply to the grooves in the Cell and then add 2mm tabbing to all 3 lines keeping the tabbing wire flush in all the white lines (with the excess tabbing wire hanging off)
- Solder the Tabbing Wire in all 3 lines keeping the wire tight and flush
- Lay the Glass sheet flat to a table and clean dirt and fingerprints from the surface
- Lay 18 Solar Cells lined up on one side of the glass sheet-Face down-Blue side down in 2 rows
- Patch any Cell that is broken or cracked with regular scotch tape
- Take the excess tabbing wire and add it to the back lines like you did the front grooves-use the flux then-then the Soldering Iron
- Do the same with 2 more rows for a total of 4 rows 9 in each row for a total of 36 Solar Cells on the glass sheet. Handle the cells carefully so as not to damage them and clean the glass surface as you move through. Once they are all done and soldered, even out the Solar Cells by centering them from the edge of the glass sheet using a tape measure top and bottom and on both sides.
Once the Cells are centered and in place use the clear strapping tape(Box Tape)and tape down the outer edges and inner edges of each row to the glass sheet. This will hold down the 36 Solar Cells in a group onto the sheet of glass.
Once the Cells are taped together to the glass table lay a length of 5 mm Buss Wire across the bottom of each row. Take the excess 2mm tabbing wire on the last row of the Solar Cells and solder the 2mm tabbing wire to the 5 mm Buss Tabbing Wire just as in the diagram in the 36 modules connected in Series up above.
Clip any excess wiring after you solder. When you’re done take the Panel outside and test it with a Multimeter connecting the positive and negative sides. If you have the negative and positive sides mixed up it will read a negative number.
In strong sunlight, you should get around 18 to 19 volts during peak sunlight which is from 11 am to 4 pm. Once you know that the panel is working you will need to solder a Junction box or Controller that is used for protection against reverse polarity, overcharging, short-circuit, and reverse current.
If you want you can use copper wiring with alligator clips. The Controller these days are inexpensive and come Integrated with USB ports to charge USB devices.
Solar Cell Encapsulation
To protect the Panel from moisture and the elements that it will have to endure from life the outdoors, you will need to encapsulate the entire module. Start by calking the edge of the Solar Panel with the Silicone Paste tight against the edge of the Solar Cells that will enclose the panel and keep the whole module from moving and protecting it from moisture.
Mix the Epoxy and Hardener together and when you do mix the two mix it slowly so that you don’t add air to the mixture. Mix the Epoxy Resin 2 to 1 which means double Epoxy Resin to the amount of the Hardener. If you need to mix more always use a different container to keep it as clean as possible.
Simply pour the Expoxy onto the back of the Panel and using a paintbrush paint it onto the backside as you would add it to a tabletop. Cover every inch concentrating on the edges of the module so it is completely covered and encapsulated by the Epoxy.
Hold a light up to the surface to find any cracks in the tape or misses between the individual Cells or rows on the module where moisture can get in. Between the silicone calk and the Epoxy Resin, the Solar Panel after allowing it to dry at about 12 hours should now be totally enclosed inside.
Solar Panel Frames Aluminum
To finish your Solar Panel System you can frame the panel using lengths of Aluminum U Channel which come in square corners and unfinished which will be cheaper. Take your measurements and using a miter saw cut the angles to make the corners.
- Take your measurements of the length first and leave 2 inches extra cut at a 90-degree angle
- Do the same with the width lengths
- You can clean the rough edges by filing them down
- Lay the brachets over the corners and mark them to pre-drill the mounting holes
- Use a screw washer and nut to tighten the whole frame together
- Cover the back with a sheet of protective plexiglass use an adhesive in the U Channel and lay the pre-fitted sheet overtop inside the frame.
- You can add a few inside 90-degree brackets to add support
- Finally, drill holes in the bottom of the frame big enough for a size 6aug wire to fish through that will connect to a junction box or controller however you decode to power your device.
There are numerous ways to frame your Solar Panels this way is popular for a single 100 Watt Panel but if you are building more than one Solar Panel System, there are more creative ways to give the Panels a Home. This is a cool new video that uses pressure-treated lumber & aluminum to hold multiple Panels. Check it out!
There are plenty of reasons to want to build your own Solar Power System for special circumstances when you are in need of a special design but if can’t or not up to the task, no worries, there are also are great prices on Solar Panels out there with the top of the line high efficiencies like this one on Amazon Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Eclipse Monocrystalline Solar Panel High-Efficiency Module Off Grid PV Power for Battery Charging, Boat, Caravan, RV and Any Other Off-Grid Applications