Is it possible to make your own solar panels? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Is it possible to construct your own solar panels? I found a web site which gave directions for a homemade solar generator, which is very helpful. However, it required you to purchase a solar panel. High quality panels can be very expensive. Is it possible to make one, or are the materials not commercially available? Anyone have any thoughts or info?

-- Lona Ann White (, June 09, 1998


I read on the Candace List that solar panels made by us don't last as long, which is true b/c we are not professionals...

I suppose you could get used stuff. We prepare for this thing based on what we think the outcome might be... if your view requires a SP, then get one, right?


-- Ken (, June 10, 1998.

If you mean solar electricity panels, I don't think home manufacture is feasible.

However, I once saw an article (have forgotten where) on DIY solar heating panels. The basic idea was a box double- (triple- ...?) glazed with a special sort of glass that has a coating that traps heat, and otherwise well insulated. A small pump circulated water through it. The water heats up and transfers heat into a water tank, just as your heating boiler does.

This might be a useful idea to persue for those of you who live in a part of the world where bright sunlight is common during winter; a commercial solar panel would be needed to get electricity for the pump, and then you'd have the luxury of hot water and a warmer household.

-- Nigel Arnot (, June 10, 1998.


Yes, you can make your own solar panels, but not the kind that generate electric power. Nigel is absolutely correct: you can make solar hot water heaters (which isn't a bad idea). At one time there was a booming industry supplying bits and pieces, as well as complete solar hot water heating panels. The idea was that the hot water could be used to heat the home. The industry got a good start right after the first oil shock of the 1970's, and then died out due to lack of government support in the form of tax breaks for people who dared to think about getting away from dependence on suppliers of energy.

Without the tax break the systems became too expensive......not that they're really expensive, but we've gotten into a mentality where 5 years in a house is the maximum we'll tolerate on our climb up the ladder of financial success. Since the payback period for a solar hot water system is about 10 to 12 years, most people weren't interested, and the suppliers went out of business.

Panels consist of a serpentine run of water pipe (can be soft copper tubing) brazed or otherwise fastened to a black painted aluminum back plate. The entire plate system is placed inside a box, glazed to keep cold out (double glazed is good, triple glazed doesn't buy much). Often plexiglass is used for the glazing. The box is highly insulated, and is south facing, usually at an angle of about 40 degrees from horizontal. Cold water is pumped in one end, hot water comes out the other (if the sun is shining).

If you live in a cold area, you need to either drain the system when the sun goes down, to prevent freezing, or you need a water to water or water to air heat exchanger so that you can run anti-freeze in the solar collector.

Electrical panels (photovoltaic panels) use silicon or other junction material (considered it a type of transistor) to produce electrical energy. These must be manufactured in a controlled garage shop operation here. Yes, the panels are expensive. They do last a long time, however, but like solar hot water collectors they will eventually pay for themselves (In about 15 years)


-- Rocky Knolls (, June 10, 1998.

I remember my Dad building an experimental solar panel. Since it was an experiment, he just drilled holes in each end instead of adding water pipe. The back panel was either copper or steel, and painted green (not black).

Anyway, one sunny winter day in Michigan, it took it outside & stood it on end for a while. He stuck a thermometer into it, and it soared to over 120 degrees F. Not bad, considering it was about 20F outside.

Anyone who wants to try this, remember that these suckers are HEAVY. Make sure your roof can stand the extra load. In northern climates, also consider the effort needed to get up on the roof & clean the snow/ice off of them.

Personally, I think a wood stove is a better investment.

-- Larry Kollar (, June 11, 1998.

Mother Earth News magazine in the past has had complete plans for all sorts of solar home built projects. They have books and booklets or all sorts of "do it yourself" projects. Their address is: Mother Earth News PO Box 10941 Des Moines Ia. 50340

-- Betty Allison (, June 13, 1998.

Working in the solar industry I can say that it is possible for one to buy silicon pieces and connect all of them together to make a solar panel. However to be able to make a panel of some quality that will produce adequate power to accomplish anything useful will require a LARGE amount of patience and time. I do not yet know af anyone who has done it yet. The manufacturing of the panels is a "clean-room" type process with some strict controls.

There are some very good panels on the market with 10 year warranties for 90% of their rated output. There are even panels that have a 25 year warranty for 80% of their rated output. Are they inexspensive? No they are not. From a budgetary standpoint the cost is about $6/watt. The number of watts required for any given application depends on the geographic location and the daily enrgy requirement.

As an aside, I would also like to point out that using photovoltaics (solar electricity) for any type of heating is extremely inefficient. The paneles frequently seen in the cities are heating panels used for either space or water heating

-- Steve Schumacher (, June 25, 1998.

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