If you’re tired of having “the man” in your financials at every turn, learning the basics of how to build your own solar panels is one of the smarter steps toward gaining more independence and contributing to a greener environment. You can buy a solar panels pre-made for a fairly reasonable price, but learning how to build them from cells provides a more satisfying self-made cushioning from “the machine”.
You will need:
- 36 Polycrystalline cells (for making a solar panel with approximately 18 volts-factor in extras in case you break a few)
- Thin tabbing wire (to solder to the cells)
- Thick bus wire (for tying cell strings together to the larger solar panel grid of cells)
- Silver solder (to connect joints)
- A Soldering iron
- A Rosin flux pen (to help cells accept soldering)
- A MultiMeter (for measuring the voltage and amperage coming from the cells)
- Optional resins, glass, or waxes to additionally protect your cells
- Plug the soldering iron into an electrical outlet to get it warm enough. If your soldering iron isn’t hot enough, it will make it difficult to attach wires to the cells.
- Have the flux pen ready and lay the cell flat. Run the tip of your flux pen over the tab lines on the front of the cell to prepare it for soldering.
- Cut tab wires to twice the length of the cell. Lay the wire onto the first tab strip of the front of the cell. Solder the tip of the wire to the strip to hold it securely in place. Work you way down the tab strip, soldering the wire into place. Repeat this process for each cell you will be using.
- Flip two soldered cells over. Prep one of the cell’s back tabs with your flux pen, as you did for the front of both cells. Solder the wire leading from the front of the other cell of the pair over the back of the cell you’ve just prepped. This will create a chain of front-facing cells for your panel with every pair of cells connected in this fashion. Cells give negative charge on the front and positive charge on the back.
- To test cell pairs before connecting them into long strips with your bus wire, lay them in direct sunlight. With the multimeter off, attach its negative lead to the front metal of the cell, and touch the positive lead to the back metal of the cell strip. To see how many volts you’re getting from your strips, turn the meter on, and be sure its position is set the read voltage. Each cell should show at least .5 volts. Larger cells will yield more voltage.
- When you’ve completed one panel strip, twine the ends of its wires to clamps. he clamps will enable you to connect the panel’s negative wire to the negative port of a deep cycle battery, (a battery that matches the voltage of the combined cells making up your panel) followed by the panel’s positive wire to the positive terminal of the battery typically marked with a plus sign. You will also require a charge controller, DC meter and DC inlet to use your panel with a small DC battery. If you need to connect electronics requiring AC power, purchase an AC inverter matching the total amount of volts you’ll need based on the sum volts of the electronics you’ll use.
- Repeat steps one through six for each panel. The process can get tedious, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
Use large panes of glass and resins to protect the fragile cells making up your panel. Approach this project patiently. Building a solar panel is trial and error, even with instructions. Reminding yourself how fragile the cells are helps avoid breaking them. You’ll require more than one solar panel (and separate components with a battery for each panel) to be totally independent of traditional electricity.