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Step by step guide to building your own solar panels

Step by step guide to building your own solar panels

Step by step guide to building your own solar panels
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The old excuse of not being able to build your own solar panel because it is too expensive is no longer valid: We will show you can you can easily build your own quality solar panels (photovoltaic and solar thermal) that will look good and cost very little.

A photovoltaic energy panel

energía eléctricaPhotovoltaic panels that generate electricity are among the most sought-after solar panels. Although you can find some very simple ones from 200 euros in large stores selling construction and household materials, building your own is even cheaper and you will have the added satisfaction of understanding how they work and knowing you have made it all by yourself. However they will always be used for home uses, such as charging the car battery or powering some lights in your home, etc. How to make them:

Materials

  • A square base made from any non-conductive material. Some people prefer wood, but wood is heavier than other materials such as acrylic. These are sold in large stores selling construction materials or in stores specialising in plastics.
  • Solar cells. These are sold especially via online stores such as e-bay or the like. They are normally cells with some tare, given that new ones are very expensive (although you can buy them). They are easy to find and economical and they are sold loose or as a kit ready to prepare a panel (between 2.50 euros for a 2.36 W cell and around 30 euros for a kit of 36 cells, 93 W in total). For a panel of around 18 W, which can be used to charge a car battery for example, we will need between 32 and 36 cells.
  • Low power welding machine.
  • Hot-melt adhesive or silicone and a blocking diode. The glue and the diode are normally included in the kits.
  • Plexiglas the size of the panel (two, one for each side).
  • Paint to protect the wood.

Step by step:

After protecting the base of our panel with the paint (if it is a wooden base) to protect it against harsh weather conditions (since our panel can last for years), the first thing we must do is place our solar cells on top of the base. If you mark the base beforehand, it will be much easier. It is important to buy cells without wax (wax is used to protect them during transportation, since they are so delicate); otherwise we will have to spend time removing the wax, which is a tedious task.

The cells must cover the front and the rear of the panel, i.e. if we have 36 cells, you will place 18 on one side and 18 on the other. It is advisable to have a few spare cells as they are fragile and we will probably break more than one.

You should join them together by their negative and positive terminals respectively. The cells normally come with wires or tabs for the connection, which will make our work easier (look for this when buying them). We also need to weld them together firmly (you can use a low power welding machine taking care not to damage the cell or, if you do not want to weld, you can use hot-melt glue). This will be done with the cells face-down. Then, very carefully, turn them over and glue them to the panel with silicone, following the marks we have made as a guide.

We will then need to protect our panel from adverse weather conditions and a good way of doing so is with a Plexiglas or any plastic sheet that we will place and screw to the top of our circuit.

The system also needs a blocking diode to prevent it from discharging at night or on cloudy days. Lastly, we will connect the cables to the socket and the panel will be ready to be used.

A solar thermal energy panel

Other very popular panels are solar thermal energy panels: These are used to heat up water. We suggest a very simple model that you can make yourself, or even your children (it is a good exercise for teaching them about solar thermal energy). It is simple and very cheap.

Materials

  • A strong cardboard box (with room for 1.5 or 2 litre bottles)
  • One or more plastic bottles (1.5 or 2 litres).
  • Aluminium paper
  • Cellophane paper
  • Black paint and a paint brush
  • Adhesive tape

Step by step:

Clean the bottles and paint them with the black paint. Then disassemble the cardboard box and line the inside with aluminium paper, which you can adhere to the cardboard with glue. The size of the box must not allow the bottle or bottles to move around inside.

Fill the bottles with water ¾ of the way and press them so the water rises to the top. Firmly cover them with cellophane paper and place them inside the box. Glue them with any adhesive tape so they cannot fall over and close the box.

Place it in a part of the house facing south, where it will get the sun, inclined approximately 45 degrees from the floor to benefit from the rays of sun. Between two and five hours later (depending on the sun), you will have water to prepare a tea, wash the dishes or for whatever you wish.

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