All the electronics in our world were made to make our lives easier and more convenient. However, all the energy we consume keeping them charged and operated can be expensive. That's why we've compiled a DIY solar panel tutorial so you can learn how to make solar panels for your small electronics.
How to Make Solar Panels for Your Small Electronics
Follow the instructions below to make homemade solar panels suitable for small electronics.
Materials and Tools
- 36 x 36 mono-crystalline solar cells
- 2 pcs of 21 3/4 inches plywood at 3/8 inch thick plywood
- 4 pcs 21 3/4 inches pieces of wood for edges at 3/4 X 3/4 thick
- 3 pcs 20 3/4 inches pieces of wood
- Screws and power drill
- Blocking diode (Schottky diode with a 3.3 Amp current rating)
- 1 two-pin Jones plug
- Silicone caulk
- Power Consumption Meter
Step 1. Purchase solar cells
It will take about 36 mono-crystalline solar cells wired in series to make a panel. Each cell will produce about 1/2 Volt. Thus, a 36 solar cell series would produce 18 volts.
When purchasing solar cells, take note of little metal tabs on them. You want cells with tabs on them because this will cut back the amount of soldering you have to do.
Buy a couple of extra cells especially if this is your first time to make a solar cell panel. You might break or ruin a few during construction.
Step 2. Build the solar panel template and assemble the frame
Build a shallow box so that the sides won't shade the the solar cells when the sun comes at an angle from the sides. Glue and screw the pieces of wood together. Follow the image above for the the overall structure of the solar panel.
The side pieces are 3/4 by 3/4 thick and go all the way around the edges of the plywood substrate. Also, a piece goes across the center to divide the panel into two sub-panels.
Drill holes at the bottom of the panel frame to keep the air pressure inside the panel equalized with the outside, and to let moisture escape. A 1/4 inch diameter is recommended.
Step 3. Paint the frame
Pain the entire panel frame white to reduce the the temperature of the wood. Paint will also protect them from moisture and the weather. Give your panel several coats of white or light colored paint.
Step 4. Prepare the solar cells
If you're buying solar cells from someone who dips them in wax, here's one way to effectively remove the wax from the solar cells.
In a stove top, prepare three pots of water below boiling point – one with soap, the other two with just plain water. Melt the bricks apart in the hot water bath, then transfer them one at a time to he soapy water bath and finally, rinse the cell in the last pot of hot clean water.
Don't let the water boil in any of the pans or the bubbles will jostle the cells against each other. Also, change the water frequently in the soapy and rinse water baths.
Step 5. Join the solar cells together
All 18 cells on each half panel need to be soldered together in series. Use a very light touch with the soldering iron. The cells are thin and delicate and break easily. Pushing too hard will break the cells.
Start out by drawing a grid pattern on each of the two pieces of pegboard. Then, lay out the cells on that grid pattern upside-down and solder them together. Make a line of 6 cells soldered together.
Step 6. Glue down solar cells
Place a a small blob of clear silicone caulk in the center of each cell in a six cell string. Then, flip the string over and set in place on the pencil line grid you laid out earlier. Press lightly in the center of each cell to get it to stick to the pegboard panel. Don't use too much glue, and don't glue the cells anywhere but at their centers.
Step 7. Connect the strings of solar cells and perform a test on the first half of solar cell panel
Interconnect the first and second strings of cells. You can use solar cell tabbing material, a copper braid, or even regular wire. Anchor the braid with silicone caulk to prevent it from flopping around.
Lay down your first half of solar panel under the sun and test if it works.
Proceed with the second half of the panel following the same steps.
Step 8. Install the panels in the frame
Use four small screws to anchor each of the half panels in place.
Step 9. Interconnect the two half panes inside the frame
Once the two panels are completed, connect the two panels together. Slip the wires through the vent holes in the central divider. Use silicone caulk to anchor the wire in place.
Step 10. Install the blocking diode
A blocking diode is needed to prevent the panel from discharging your batteries at night or during cloudy weather. Mount the diode inside the panel since the forward voltage drop gets lower as the temperature rises. The inside of the panel will be warmer and the diode will work more efficiently
Step 11. Run the wires outside and place the Plexiglas cover
Drill a hole in the back of the panel near the top for the wires to exit. Anchor the wires with silicone caulk for stability.
Before screwing the Plexiglas covers in place, make sure that all the silicone caulk has cured well and good.
Step 12. Insert the plug
Add the two-pin Jones plug at the end of the panel wires.
Step 13. Test the completed panel
That’s all, fellow homesteaders! Did you enjoy our DIY solar panel tutorial? Let us know in the comments section below what troubles you had or what you did differently when making your homemade solar panels. Do you have a favorite alternative energy that's a staple on your homestead? Share it with us and we’ll give it a shot. We love doing DIY homesteading projects and becoming more self-reliant by learning more about how everything works around the homestead. That's why Homesteading was created. We want all folks looking to lead a self-sufficient life, either on a homestead or in an urban environment, to come together and learn from each other! Of course, we welcome your help in creating a community of homesteaders. Come and share your homesteading tips and ideas, recipes and expect the best advice on self-reliance and homesteading trials from our team of long-time homesteaders, self-reliant wilderness, and preparedness experts. Want to write for Homesteading? Shoot us an e mail and make sure to stay in touch on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!
This post is an adaptation of ‘Build a 60 Watt Solar Panel' from instructables. Read original post here.
don nall says
where do i buy solar cells and diode
Article on solar panels is good but I would like to get my hands on the fisical material. I find it easer to fallow. Where can I find it.
Ed O'Neal says
I enjoyed the article. Two items seem to be missing. No mention of the peg board in the materials list. Then no electrical schematics on how to wire everything, especially the diode. Schematics tell a lot.