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Thread: Is it Possible to Build Solar Panel At Home?

  1. #1 Is it Possible to Build Solar Panel At Home? 
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    I recently noticed how expensive energy costs are becoming, so I am wondering if it is possible to build a solar panel at home. Is it too costly and expensive? Does the size of the house has something to do with the solar panels? I only hear this solar panels in the television and read them from the internet, but never known anyone who has it. So any advice you can give? Would really cut the high bills?


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    It would cut the high bills, yes. It allows you to reduce the amount of energy you draw from the utility company... from the grid... by a fair bit, the exact amount depending on where you live.

    However, the front end investment is somewhat high. You will wind up cutting your monthly bills, but you have to make a large payment at the install point to do that, and you'd need a few decades to pay it back based on what you save monthly.

    You do this because it's the right thing to do, not because it saves you money... not yet, anyway. Give it a few years. Efficiency of the cell will go up... the install costs will go down, and the cost of utility power will also rise. In a few years it will make much more sense... just not yet.

    Right now, it makes sense for the utility company to create power at large scales through solar, or for them to install solar on your behalf in your yard and charge a service fee. However, paying for it yourself is not yet a great option... with a heavy emphasis on the word "yet."


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  4. #3 Re: Is it Possible to Build Solar Panel At Home? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by maive99
    I recently noticed how expensive energy costs are becoming, so I am wondering if it is possible to build a solar panel at home. Is it too costly and expensive? Does the size of the house has something to do with the solar panels? I only hear this solar panels in the television and read them from the internet, but never known anyone who has it. So any advice you can give? Would really cut the high bills?
    I have an electrical solar panel to power a small cabin behind my house. It basically keeps a deep cycle battery topped off which I use a few hours a week for lights and an elliptical exercise machine and a small stereo.

    The basic components of an electrical solar panel are NOT something a home builder can make. There are some folks who purchase defective panels, figure out which cells work and which don't and reassemble the working components into a workable Frankenstein of a complete panel.
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    Ohh okay, I am not a geek on electricity matter but I am bit surprised that it can somewhat help, even just for a couple of hours, it would be a big help for those who are running out of budget , thanks for the info guys, I learned something today. Thanks!
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    Solar is a really great technology, it's just not yet as cheap as stuff like coal and natural gas. Where it has it's benefit is in it's ability to be moved to remote locations and to be green. What we could really use is a change in policy so non-polluting sources are better subsidized and the dirty fuels looked less attractive.

    For now, you do it because it's the right thing to do.
    Soon... you'll do it because it makes the most sense economically to do so.
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    I remember watching a TV programme back in the 1970s that described how a solar panel could be built at home - but this wasn't the modern sort of panel. This was a black back board with a hosepipe laying on it, covered by glass, which heated water that was pumped through it. Just about anybody with basic handyman skills could make that one.

    The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth, Wales, has a lot of useful information on that sort of thing. They set up in an abandoned quarry in a damp climate deliberately - if they could make it work there, it would work anywhere!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eigon
    I remember watching a TV programme back in the 1970s that described how a solar panel could be built at home - but this wasn't the modern sort of panel. This was a black back board with a hosepipe laying on it, covered by glass, which heated water that was pumped through it. Just about anybody with basic handyman skills could make that one.
    What you are describing is usually referred to as a solar thermal collector. Solar thermal collectors for using air or water are pretty easy to build to better than 50% efficiency. Some modern solar collector designs you can buy approach 90%. They are widely popular in some places like Israel were a good fraction of homes use to heat hot water. They never really caught on in the US for a variety of reasons including ignorance, home owner association restrictions, and lack of a critical mass of repair and installation companies. Solar collectors work, have relatively short pay-off, and should be a much larger part of the US landscape already.
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  9. #8 Re: Is it Possible to Build Solar Panel At Home? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by maive99
    I recently noticed how expensive energy costs are becoming, so I am wondering if it is possible to build a solar panel at home. Is it too costly and expensive? Does the size of the house has something to do with the solar panels? I only hear this solar panels in the television and read them from the internet, but never known anyone who has it. So any advice you can give? Would really cut the high bills?
    I don't know the process, but there is a method back from the 70's of baking a sand mix in a kiln. It's a low efficiency solar cell, but they can be made, assuming you have a kiln to fuse the sand and metal parts together. Not just any sand either. I forget the details, lost over the 30+ years to me.
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    What if, instead of building a solar panel, you just focus on building an array of mirrors to concentrate light on a solar panel you already have? Would that allow you to take a small solar panel and make it behave as though it were much bigger than it is?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    What if, instead of building a solar panel, you just focus on building an array of mirrors to concentrate light on a solar panel you already have? Would that allow you to take a small solar panel and make it behave as though it were much bigger than it is?
    Only up to a point. You have two factors working against that idea. The fine metal can only carry so much current, and then the heat would also magnify as the intensity does. Two realistic failure modes in play that way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    What if, instead of building a solar panel, you just focus on building an array of mirrors to concentrate light on a solar panel you already have? Would that allow you to take a small solar panel and make it behave as though it were much bigger than it is?
    That works to some degree, but tends to add additional complications such as having to build sun following mirrors. Also most solar panels loose efficiency with increasing temperatures so you end up with a cooling requirement with increasing magnification. Both are beyond typical back yard builders. Not sure if additional heat will shorten the lifespan--but that almost might be a concern.
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    There are two types of solar panels that are commonly used in residential areas, the solar hot water heating panel and the photovoltaic, electricity producing panel.

    The easiest way to experience how to build solar panels is to buy a kit which will have all of the materials you need and tools to assemble the panel(s). The usual set-up for photovoltaic includes solar cells, tabs to connect them, solder and flux to adhere the tabs and a soldering iron to melt the solder and hold it all together.

    First, choose a site for the panel with a good exposure to as much of the sun’s arc in the sky as you can without any interference from branches or wires and away from or above trees and buildings in your yard. If you can’t use your rooftop, consider placing the panels on a mount, either a pole or a frame that will lift the panels about six feet or so off the ground. At this height, they will be less likely to be damaged by children, pets or other accidents like a small rock thrown from a lawn mower.

    Build the solar panel by connecting a number of solar cells to one another (the amount varies by the size of your panel) in series by using the solder, flux and tabs. The amount of electricity you wish to generate will dictate the size and number of panels you need to put together.


    Place the panel(s) in position and hook the whole thing up to your battery system, if your using one. Your batteries will collect any excess energy that you are not using for future, whether it is later in the day or even weeks from now.

    Why is a battery system optional? There are many programs available where you tie directly into the grid and sell any excess power back to the utility as it is generated. This varies by locality. The positive aspect to this type of system is eliminating the need, expense and hassle of a bank of batteries but the negative is that you have no store of energy should the power go out.

    Check with your local energy provider and state energy department because you should be able to sell all your excess energy back to the utility company. Some states have excellent rebates and programs set up just for this. This varies by locality.




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  14. #13 Home Solar Panel Installation 
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    First off you will want to get the screws and mounts to attach to the roof to make sure it is safe, because safety should always be number one priority. Once you have your supplies, which can be found online or at any hardware store, find the rafters in your roof using a stud finder and drill holes. You can use a laser or chalk line to make sure they are all in a straight line. Place the mounts over the holes. In here will go the rails the panels sit on. Once the rails are in place it would be smart to hot mop them to make sure they are mounted securely. Steel bolts will secure the rails to the posts you secure. Now the hard part is done!

    The panels themselves must be installed flat and in a straight line. Once they are set you can connect them into an array. Finally you must run the conduit so it connects to the inverter on top of the roof. Congratulations, your solar panel energy system is now installed and along with the free energy bill you will enjoy a tax break from the federal government for converting to the more environmentally friendly alternative.
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    The last two post are probably spam but I'll leave them up because they actually provide a bit of useful information.

    Some of it is not good advise though. The most obvious is the recommendation for roof installation of solar panels. I've followed this subject pretty close since working on research of a solar home in the early 80's and hundred of articles and know five families in Maine with solar active systems. Almost no one who actually lives with solar power recommends roof installations unless it's the only alternative--the installation often damages the roof, it's hard to inspect for problems and makes cleaning the panels difficult and often dangerous. Ground mounting is almost always a much better option unless there's simply no place to get solar exposure. I built a solar powered cabin about six months ago. I mounted the panels about eye level to clear some rose and other bushes--I can reach them for cleaning or anything else I need to do from standing level or with one of those three step kitchen ladders.
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    Good advice Lynx_Fox.

    I'm looking at installing a few panels to provide backup heat for our observatory. ( http://www.njaa.org/ ) In the event of an ice storm (or heavy wet snowstorm) we have lost power for weeks; restoring power to the state park is not as high a priority as getting it back to homes (as it should be). In winter, that can lead to frozen pipes, which ain't good. The "back wall" of the building faces south, so would be a good location, and I don't want to mess with the roof. As it is, this winter I had to go up and shovel snow off the flat roof due to the amount of snow and a potential big rainstorm falling on to the "sponge". If I could gat a few panels high enough off the ground so that they wouldn't be buried by snow, that would be a good thing.

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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    What if, instead of building a solar panel, you just focus on building an array of mirrors to concentrate light on a solar panel you already have? Would that allow you to take a small solar panel and make it behave as though it were much bigger than it is?
    That works to some degree, but tends to add additional complications such as having to build sun following mirrors. Also most solar panels loose efficiency with increasing temperatures so you end up with a cooling requirement with increasing magnification. Both are beyond typical back yard builders. Not sure if additional heat will shorten the lifespan--but that almost might be a concern.
    I wonder how much energy it would cost to connect a hose to it, and slowly let water trickle over it. That should probably be enough to keep the temperature within a reasonable range. Unless it gets really really hot. I don't know how hot we're talking here...

    For the mirrors, I think a person would just have to pick an angle that catches the most sun at noon day, and live with the fact they're going to be missing a lot of good sunlight the rest of the time. Sun-following mirrors definitely would be quite a lot of work.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevemartin4563 View Post
    I think anyone can make a solar panel with the help of some tools and expert advice, it’s totally technical and if something goes wrong, you may be bursting your solar mirror in the air. I broke my solar panels mirror which cost me around 3k$ in whole and the money for expert is apart from my expenses.
    Oh dear. My whole system cost less than $2500 all up - including inverter and professional installation. (But that's in South Australia.)

    I rather think this person is trying a sideways approach to selling professional installation services? In New Jersey?

    This contribution lacks the useful information in those earlier spam items.
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    Yes, Steve was one of those sneaky signature line spammers.
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    This thread was already close to solar home builder projects.

    For $300 he built a rotating mirror to focus the sun on his home's windows. I doubt I could repeat his project and wonder how well it would stand up in high winds, but as least shows it's possible to do some neat projects with not a lot of money.

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    One thing that struck me re-reading this thread. Faint echoes of stuff I've seen elsewhere about installing solar panels flat - mostly on roofs, sometimes freestanding separate structures.

    The basic rules for solar PV installation is that the panels should be at an angle the same number of degrees as your latitude. For most of us in conventional houses this poses no problem. Houses with steep roofs to slough off snow probably have a good enough slope for their latitude anyway. For people in latitudes less than 30, there's probably so much insolation the angle won't make a lot of difference.

    For everyone, aspect is key. More so for higher latitudes - they've got less to play with.
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    Just a small point.

    Safety first.
    Domestic solar panels have been the cause of quite a few people dying. This is because home handymen try to install the things themselves, and fall off ladders. The fatality rate per terawatt year of electricity produced is several thousand. To put that into perspective, the so-called dangerous nuclear power has a fatality rate of just over 50 per terawatt year.

    So if you are planning to install domestic solar cells, please, please take extraordinary precautions with that damn ladder!
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    So if you are planning to install domestic solar cells, please, please take extraordinary precautions with that damn ladder!
    What you really, really need is to have a price and rebate system that makes it cheap to get the professionals to do it. Ours cost very little and it was all done in a couple of hours - by professionals. Paid for in the morning. Earned us a few cents by dinner time.

    I'm a bit mystified about all these people proposing to DIY the whole thing. Do they all violate regulations on using licensed electricians? Or do they live in places that don't regulate such things very closely.

    Maybe they're a bit like too many older Aussies, fixing up equipment with a bit of chewing gum and string.
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    I'm a bit mystified about all these people proposing to DIY the whole thing. Do they all violate regulations on using licensed electricians? Or do they live in places that don't regulate such things very closely.
    It varies a lot by location in the US, it being almost entirely up the county or state. In Kentucky there were places you could probably build a house without a permit. I did my entire wiring for garage by myself. The county asked me to have it inspected which took all of five minutes by an electrician. In the liberal parts of the country though it's completely the opposite--you'd probably need a permit to scratch your nads while just thinking about where to put a collector in your back yard.

    I know about half a dozen people with solar power and all are in agreement--put your panels on the ground where you can get to them for maintenance, cleaning and it's less vulnerable to the wind etc. I have a shed that's solar powered and the panel is about five feet up--no damn ladders for me either. I've got 30 years of solar project magazines and it is one of the most common pieced of advise--keep it on the ground.

    I completely understand the DIY attraction. For one thing most parts of the US there isn't anybody to call who's local. If you get a team from across the state who's going to charge an arm and a leg for labor and will probably be out of business (or set up another to rid himself of the libability) if you need him again. Reaching that critical mass of people to install and maintain solar systems (same for wind) is one of the stumbling blocks for wider adoption.
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    Oh, we're well ahead here then.

    Saw an ad on teev for a solar system tonight - almost made me wish we'd waited. They're offering 60 cents per kwh as a feed-in tariff. That's not the government rebate, that's gone down to 16c (we got in on the last week of the 44cent deals). It's some deal they've cooked up with the power supplier/government rebate system. Though I suspect I might not be so thrilled with the small print on the whole deal.

    There are solar systems and installers practically everywhere you look. And I've never seen one installed anywhere except on a roof. I'll admit most houses here are single storey, but even the 2 and 3 storey places have their panels on the roof.
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