Going green has many benefits. The obvious one is that it reduces one’s carbon footprint, in turn saving the environment. Another reason to unplug from the grid is to reduce electricity bills. By using solar panels or wind turbines, one could run one’s home using nature's resources. However, these systems come at a price.
What do you need to build your own solar power system?
A solar powered setup requires costly solar panels (enough to run one’s home). First of all, it requires an inverter to convert the power from DC to AC in order to run the appliances. Secondly, a battery pack is needed to store the collected energy. More sophisticated systems can include solar tracking and Maximum Power Point trackers (MPPT’s).
A complete residential solar power system, sized between 3 – 8 kW, can cost between $15,000 and $40,000. So until the price of this technology plummets in the future (hopefully), what we can do to cut the costs of a solar system is to build our own.
[Image Source: Pixabay]
Some DIY enthusiasts suggest sourcing materials that suit your requirements and fitting it all together yourself. This does not only save money on materials used, as there is no markup from the contractor, but also cuts down on wiring and installation costs.
There are many step-by-step guides on how to built your own solar panels in every way possible. But they all follow a general trend.
Where to find cheap solar cells?
Firstly, for any solar arrangement, solar cells in one form or another are required. Solar cells can be purchased from stores, such as ebay, for less than $1 per Watt. Second hand or damaged cells can be found at reduced prices from second-hand stores or electronic recycling dumps. Some of the cells may be damaged but some might be salvageable.
If you want to go even cheaper, you can even built a solar thermal system with an array of soda cans instead of solar cells.
The cells will require a large board on which to be mounted. This can be pegboard or a piece of wood. It's best to cover the cells with a sheet of glass or Plexiglas in order to shield them from the elements and to extend their lifespan.
After deciding on how to arrange the cells, the next step is to solder the cells in series. This is done by connecting the positive wire of the first cell to the negative wire of the next and so on. While doing that continually measure the voltage over the first and last cell. With enough cells in direct sunlight, the voltmeter should read either 12 V or 24 V. Do not exceed this voltage as this is required for most inverters.
[Image Source: Pixabay]
Once the cells are connected, they can be mounted on to the board and covered with the protective glass.
That is all it takes to build your own solar panel. Once you have the basic requirement for the system, you can charge batteries up to 12 V or 24 V and run some LED’s or any DC appliance that fits your voltage source.
For further steps on building and solar power system, see this article.
Written by Terry Berman