Solar energy has been the subject of many conversations in different social circles. It is safe to say in fact that the world is moving forward knowing that solar energy is our main chance at a future with sustainable energy. Different devices are solar-powered, but if you truly want to generate solar power to run your home, then solar panels are your only option.
Solar panels were initially very expensive, and while they are more affordable now, they can still be a bit costly. If you are looking to build your solar panel, then you want to make sure that you understand how a solar panel works to get the overall design and building process correct. Yes, there are a few videos and a few articles online, but if you are in the process of collecting information right now, then you should read as much as you can before you make any attempt to construct your solar panel. If you are interested, we will write down a comprehensive guide of what you need to do as you build your solar panel.
Making The Frame
The first thing you need to do is to make your frame so that your panels have the support and something to stay on. There are different materials you can go here, but if you want to keep things simple, then just choose wood as your material.
To start, you will have a big piece of plywood that you will have to use as your base, and you will then trim and cut it to the size you need to accommodate the number of solar cells you want in your panel. A standard panel, especially a homemade one follows a 6×10 horizontal grid, making it a panel with 60 solar cells.
Your next move is to create a template so that you know where you need to place your solar cells. For this, you can make a fake solar cell with any material (cardboard or paper in 6×6 dimensions) and use that.
Use a ruler and make sure you mark out one inch out both horizontally and vertically from the corners of the plywood. Tile spacers can be used to then map out the four corners of the plywood, and then a staple gun can be used to place the solar cell cutouts in place. You will then use the tile spacer to map out your entire grid where your 60 solar cells will be placed in your 6×10 horizontal grid.
A tile space is required here to ensure that there is minimal space between each solar cell. Once you have complete making your entire grid, you will have to cut out any extra wood off and do this till you only have a one-inch perimeter around the entire board, and the purpose of this one-inch gap around the perimeter of the board is so that you can later make the border will hold your Plexiglas.
To create this border you will require four more different pieces of plywood that you will have to cut down to the respective width and length of your solar panel’s frame.
This requires some precise measurements and can be tricky if you are an amateur in the game. To avoid ruining the plywood pieces, it is better to go to a woodworker or hardware shop and have one of the workers there do it for you.
Once you have the pieces for your frame ready, you will then drill them into your plywood frame on the corresponding edges, and your result should like a picture with a frame that has a visible grid inside of it. Getting your base secure and ready will help later on down the line.
Gathering The Materials
Once your frame is ready, you should then proceed to gather the rest of the materials you need to construct and finish your panels.
You will need to buy solar cells, and no, we strongly advise against building your solar cells since it gets complicated and can get tricky, and at times dangerous if you do not know how to handle the materials. You can buy new and clean cells, or if you are tight on money or are not looking to make anything too big or serious, you can also buy second-hand solar cells, and you need to make sure that you buy 6×6 inch cells that are 60 in number.
Apart from the solar cells, you will also need to buy silicone, a soldering iron, bus wire, 2 (different colored) 22 gauge wire sets, a caulking gun, a flux pen, and tabbing wire. All of these items are pretty easy to acquire and should be available at your local hardware stores, and you needn’t get too involved with the different brands and types here, or else you will just overwhelm yourself.
Connecting The Wires to Your Cells
Now that you have gathered all of your materials, you will now need to start working on cutting your tabbing wires into big enough sizes to connect two solar cells at a time.
An easy way to deal with tabbing wires and getting accurate sizes every time is to stretch out your tabbing wire from the top of one solar cell till it reaches the bottom of the second solar cell. You will then cut the tabbing wire and this first wire can serve as your template to continue cutting the rest of the tabbing wire pieces you need. You will need a total of 120 pieces of tabby wire to make sure that you have two wires for all 60 of your solar cells.
The next part here will require you to wear some work gloves for both your safety and to ensure the effectiveness of your solar cells. You will now start attaching the wires to your solar cells, and for that, you have to connect your wires to the back of each solar cell.
Before you connect your wires, you will need to use your flux pen and then rub the pen onto the 6 white spots that are marked and located on the back of each solar cell. These spots are marked to let you know where you need to attach your wire.
After rubbing down all of the 6 spots with your flux pen, you will then need to use the soldering gun, and extra precaution is advised here since these can get hot.
The six spots on the back of each solar cell are arranged in two columns, with each column having three spots. You will now take one end of a wire, place it on one of any of the three spots in a column (preferably the top one) and then use the soldering gun to heat the wire and connect it to the solar cell properly. Once you have finished this step, you will then repeat it on the second column with the other wire. You will then continue repeating this process for each solar cell until all 60 of your cells have been wired.
Connecting The Solar Cells
After attaching your tabbing wires onto the back of each solar cell, you then need to connect them. For this, you will have to place your cells out on your entire frame in their correct spots. You will then notice the two white lines that seem to travel down from the front of your cell. You will now make sure that these lines are vertically aligned onto each other throughout the grid. These lines are very important since they technically correspond to the exact location of the two columns on the back of the solar cell, and you are connecting these wires from the front to the back.
You will once again use your flux gun to rub along the white lines with the solder, and then use our soldering iron to make sure to fuse the two tabbing wires to their respective while lining on the front. You will continue this process vertically for the entire grid.
Placing The Cells Into The Frame
Once you are done dealing with the tabbing wiring, you will need to glue down your solar cells onto the frame. For this step, you will need a caulking gun and silicone. You will pipe out small bits of silicone, about the size of a small coin onto the center of each template across the grid, and then place each cell on top of the glued ends and then pushing the cell down firmly (but not too much) into place to make sure that they are properly secured in place.
Now that your entire frame has been glued down with the solar cells, you will have to take out the bus wire and process it to the needed step. You will need to cut pieces of bus wire that is long enough to connect the tabbing wire of one cell onto the tabbing wire of the other cell, helping you create a connection between the two tabbing wires. To connect the bus wire with the tabbing wire, you will once again take out a flux pen and dab it onto the bus wire in the spot where you plan on connecting the bus wire, and then use your soldering iron to fuse the bus wire with the tabbing wire.
You will continue repeating this step with the tabbing wire in the bottom left corner of the solar panel’s frame. You will do this in two-panel gaps from the top to the bottom of the solar cell grid. Once you are done fusing the bus wire to the tabbing wire, you will need to use the caulking gun to attach and properly secure the bus wire to the frame of the solar panel.
Putting in Positive And Negative Connections
Now that you placed your solar cells onto your frame and established the basic wiring connections for your solar panel, you will now need to insert the correct positive and negative connection on your solar panel. This is where the different colored 22-gauge wires come in. The purpose of two different colors is so you do not get confused or lose track of what was used in which connection. One of the wires will provide a positive connection and the other colored wire will serve as the negative connection for your solar panel.
You will start by drilling two holes in one end of your frame so that the gauge wires can go through them and reach the bus wires.
Filling the holes with rubber or other similar materials can help to create a safer pathway and will allow your connection to staying stable and safe during certain weather conditions like snow and rain.
To establish the negative wire connection, you will have to run the wire around your frame, to the opposite corner end of where the drilled holes are located inside the perimeter. You will then connect the negative wire to the bus wire there with the help of your soldering iron as we have explained many times before. You can secure the position of the negative wire onto the perimeter of the frame with help of a wire cover or staple gun.
To establish a positive connection, you will use the soldering gun to connect the wires to the bus wire at the corner of the panel where the holes have been drilled. This ends up creating your energy circuit since you have placed the positive and negative wires on opposite ends of the frame.
Covering With Plexiglas
Now that you have created your frame, placed your solar cells, and attached wires onto them to create a functioning electrical system, the last thing you now have to do to finish your solar cell is to cover the frame with Plexiglas, more specifically the transparent kind. The purpose of using Plexiglas here is to cover the entire frame to keep your solar cells protected from dust, debris, snow, rain, and other disruptions.
You will need to measure and then cut your Plexiglas so that it meets the size requirements of your frame (border included) so be careful with the measuring tape here.
You can either cut your Plexiglas yourself or have someone from the hardware store do it for you. Once this is done, you will need to drill the Plexiglas onto your frame, more specifically the border, and using screws to secure the Plexiglas onto the border can provide a good connection here, and voila! You are done making your solar panel.
Now that your solar panel is constructed and functional, you will need to convert the solar energy, and for this, you will need to buy a good battery. Investing in an expensive battery can prove to be beneficial since batteries will do the converting and storing of energy for you, and if you want a good panel experience, you will need a good battery as well.
We have talked about how you can build your solar panels at home and while the steps can be complicated here, it can still prove to be a rewarding experience, of course, if you are very serious about going completely solar and off the grid, we would recommend buying solar panels made by proper companies that specialize in it.