Our Simple DIY Home Solar Power System
But we didn’t want to lose the feel of our simple home by bringing in a large generator and the jugs of gas needed to run it, and the prospect of setting up a wind turbine or solar array seemed expensive and a technological eyesore in a natural setting.
Editor’s Note: This article was first posted in 2012. Since then we’ve made a few upgrades to our system that are reflected in this updated version. Basically, we’ve added a couple panels and got a larger capacity charge controller, and added a battery charger to supplement the system during the darkest weeks of winter when solar power is at a minimum.
For many years we managed to get along without the conveniences which electricity can provide, but developing Eartheasy.com using a dialup internet connection on a phone line strung through the woods was challenging, and charging my laptop became a regular necessity. A few years ago, wireless broadband was introduced to our area, and the promise of high-speed internet was the stimulus we needed to build our own reliable, affordable and simple “do-it-yourself” alternative energy system.
…developing Eartheasy.com using a dialup internet connection on a phone line strung through the woods was challenging…
Today, with the help of a local expert on off grid home solar power and alternative energy systems, we have the best of both worlds. Our basic solar powered energy system provides more electricity than we expected, it has been very reliable and maintenance-free, and it is almost entirely hidden from view. A solar panel on the roof with a few wires leading to a small battery bank powers my laptop, and a radio mounted on a tree for receiving the wireless broadband signal. The system also provides enough energy to charge several small power tools, run our home sound system and, amazingly, power a full-size chest refrigerator year round.
The cost of this complete solar system, in today’s pricing for the components, was about 1200.
Our simple home solar power system is comprised of four basic components: the solar panels, a charge controller, two 6-volt golf cart batteries and a small inverter. My son and I were able to install the system in a few hours, and there have been no maintenance issues other than checking the fluid level in the batteries every few months and cleaning the panel surfaces once in a while. Also every year or two I lift up one side of each panel to sweep out any leaves or pine needles that may have collected there.
The cost of this complete solar system, in today’s pricing for the components, was about 1200. It should be noted that I bought the panels ‘used’ for 100 each. Many folks in our community have replaced their 123-watt panels with newer 250-watt ones, which cost about 250 each. So the 123’s were readily available and I was satisfied with the amount of energy they would provide.
The four components are the batteries, charge controller (bottom right), inverter (top right) and battery charger (below inverter).
The basic components of this off grid solar power system are as follows:
We have three solar panels mounted on the roof of our home: 123 watt Sharp Photovoltaic Modules, model 123UJF. The panels are equipped with permanently attached junction boxes for ease of installation of wires and conduit. For each panel, two boards are lag screwed into the roof and the solar panel is bolted to the boards using wing nuts, so it’s easy to lift if maintenance is required. The panel surfaces are about 5” above the roof surface. Two wires run from the solar panels, one is the power line and the other is a ground line. The power line runs down the roof to the charge controller, where there is a fuse. A box on the porch houses the charge controller, inverter and batteries. The ground wire runs beneath the house and is attached to a steel rod that is driven about two feet into the earth.
Panel on roof/panel specs from back of panel
It should be noted that the panel guidelines state that the installation of PV modules requires a “great degree of skill and should only be performed by qualified licensed professionals, including licensed contractors and licensed electricians.” We installed our system ourselves because our supplier, who is a licensed installer, gave us explicit directions and came by to inspect the installation after it was done. We suggest that you follow the recommendation as stated in the module instructions with regard to installation.
The cost of the solar panels in today’s pricing is about 1 per watt.
We use a Morningstar ProStar30 Charge Controller that automatically adjusts the amount of power running into the battery. The controller has a small LED light which indicates the state of charge so it’s easy to see when the batteries are fully charged or if they are becoming depleted. The light flashes green, amber or red, indicating the battery status at any given time. A digital readout shows the battery voltage level and the rate of charge coming from the panels. A quick glance at the charge controller lets us know if we have sufficient power or if we need to cut back a bit on our electricity use until the batteries are topped up again.
The cost of the Morningstar ProStar30 Charge Controller was about 250. You can get it for around 200 today.
Two 6-volt golf cart batteries are wired in series for a 12 volt system. Each battery is rated at 232 amp hours. The batteries are enclosed in a wooden chest with hinged lid, and the top panel of the chest is removed to provide plenty of ventilation. The battery posts and connections are kept clean, and periodically checked to ensure good connections.
The two batteries/closeup of label
The four components are installed in this cedar box with ventilation slot. This box doubles a bench to sit on while removing shoes.
The cost for the two batteries was about 400.
The final piece of the system is a small inverter which converts the 12 volt DC power into 120 volt AC power. This enables us to use standard electric devices without the need for adaptors. Inverters are available in a wide range of wattages for different size systems. Ours is a small inverter made by Nexxtech, rated at 300 watts, with a 500 watt surge capacity. It comes with two cables, red and black, with alligator clip ends for gripping to the battery posts. In choosing which size inverter to buy, we calculated how much power was available to our system and what devices we wanted to run. In calculating power needs, it is important to add the power requirements when two or more devices are running simultaneously.
This is our small Nexxtech inverter.
Our Nexxtech 300 watt inverter cost about 30.
This past year we added a battery charger to the system that serves as supplemental power. Running the battery charger when the batteries get low enables us to have more light and power in the darkest days of winter. The charger is in the same box with the batteries and other components. You may see in the pictures there are two extension cords coming up through the floor – these lead to our woodshed where we have a small Honda 2000 generator. To run the charger, we start the generator, plug the charger into one of the extension cords, and also plug the inverter power line into the other extension cord. The generator only needs to run for about 30 minutes to bring the batteries back up to 12.8 or higher. Then the generator is shut off, the battery charger unplugged, and the inverter power line plugged back in. This process takes only a minute or two, and the restored batteries have sufficient power till the rooftop panels start to get light the next day.
left: Battery charger is on floor beneath inverter. right. Close-up of battery charger.
What this system provides:
An alternative energy system can be used to provide electric power to any number of electric devices, such as appliances, tools and computers. The bigger the system, obviously, the more power it will provide. To give you an idea of the capacity of a small system like ours, here is what we use our solar energy system to power:
Refrigeration: This is a DC powered refrigerator, the same size as a conventional chest freezer (4’ wide). The refrigerator draws 40 watts of power and can be converted to a freezer by replacing the thermostat. Since the refrigerator is a DC model, it is wired directly to the battery, bypassing the inverter. So the refrigerator keeps running even if the inverter is turned off. Our refrigerator has been running continuously for over 8 years without any problems. Even during the dark days of winter, the solar panels provide adequate power to keep it running.
Music: Our home has a Vers sound system which lets us use an iPod or direct cable from an iPhone or computer to deliver a rich sound while drawing relatively little power. We can run this sound system about 3 hours a day in winter, and as much as we want in summer.
Light: The big change for our home is electric lights. We have replaced our kerosene lights with a few of these LED lights, which are only 7 watts each.
Internet: Our solar system also provides adequate power to run a laptop computer, a tablet and to recharge cell phones. It also powers a router from so that multiple computers can be operated ‘Wi-Fi’ at the same time. In addition to the router, a small radio is installed on a tree about 300’ from our house which receives the wireless broadband and transmits the signal to the house.
Small tools and appliances: The system also recharges small tools, such as a battery-powered driver-drill. Our system recharges the battery for this tool in about 30 minutes.
These are the principle applications we use which are provided by the solar power system described above. However, you can use a wide variety of electric devices as needed. Today, we enjoy the benefits of our system without feeling a technological intrusion into our off-grid homestead and lifestyle. The refrigerator especially has made a big improvement in our day to day living, since storing food is so much easier. And we don’t miss the kerosene lamps.
Bringing electricity to rural locations is something of a balancing act since we don’t want our simple lifestyle changed by too many electrical gadgets. It does require some restraint to keep things simple, but the few electric amenities we now have are most appreciated!
About the Author
Greg SeamanOriginally from Long Island, NY, Greg Seaman founded Eartheasy in 2000 out of concern for the environment and a desire to help others live more sustainably. As Editor, Greg combines his upbringing in the cities of New York, Boston and San Francisco with the contrast of 31 years of living ‘off-grid’ to give us a balanced perspective on sustainable living. Greg spends his free time gardening, working on his home and building a wooden sailboat with hand tools.
From Our Shop
Greenhouse Solar Powered Ventilation System
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Jora JK270 Composter. 9.5 Cubic Feet
Premium Drinking Water Safe Garden
Excalibur 9-Tray Food Dehydrator with Timer
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All-American Pressure Canner/Cooker. 15.5 quart
All-American Pressure Canner/Cooker. 30 Quarts
DIY Solar Panels: Understanding the Pros and Cons
It’s easy to think that a do-it-yourself (DIY) solar installation is a simple job that just involves bolting a bunch of solar panels to your roof. Some companies even sell DIY solar kits, with the sales pitch that you’ll start enjoying clean energy as soon as you finish the project.
It’s true that for certain types of installations, you can enjoy some cost savings by installing solar panels yourself. DIY solar panels also allow you to create smaller off-grid systems for buildings that don’t have full-scale electricity needs.
However, the details of a DIY solar installation can get complicated if you’re not a professional. You could jeopardize your safety, or spend more money in the long run. Before you begin your project, you should understand the pros and cons of DIY solar panels.
What are the Pros of DIY Solar Panels?
Choosing the DIY route for your solar power project offers you benefits such as lower costs, increased control, and convenience. If you’re already a home improvement expert who regularly completes large, complex projects on your own, you understand the appeal of DIY kits for homes.
DIY Solar Can Save You Money
Installing a solar power system yourself saves you the cost of hiring a third-party solar installer’s services. If you can design a solar panel system that takes care of your home’s electricity demands, you can lower your upfront installation expenses.
According to a 2021 Study by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, labor accounts for about 10% of the total price tag for installing solar panels. These potential savings vary depending on local variables like the solar system size and your qualification for the solar tax credit. It also assumes that the DIY installers do everything themselves and don’t have to hire any additional outside assistance.
Solar panel options span a wide range of cost, output, and efficiency. However, most solar companies work with a limited number of equipment manufacturers and solar panel options to keep costs down. By going the DIY route, you can buy the panels that match your budget and electricity needs.
DIY Solar Can Give You Control
If you have substantial DIY experience and you want to take complete control of your home improvement projects, a DIY solar power installation might be perfect for you.
- Choose any component: You can purchase the panels and equipment you want since you aren’t tied to what a third-party company offers.
- Tailor your project: You can tailor various stages of your solar installation to meet your specific needs, desires, or timeline. Want to build your own ground mount? Go for it! Just be sure you’re comfortable negotiating with municipal officers, financial planners, electricians, and tax accountants.
DIY Solar Can Be Convenient
Do you have the perfect design in mind? Installing solar panels as a DIY project allows you to design a unique setup for your panels. Furthermore, you aren’t stuck waiting for the work schedules of a third-party installer.
Do you need a little power in a toolshed or old barn? Thinking of buying a solar-powered toilet, trailer, cabin, or tiny home for a secluded getaway spot? A DIY solar installation is also convenient when installing power in smaller off-grid structures that just need a starter kit.
What are the Cons of DIY Solar Panels?
Even if you’re an experienced DIY’er, you can run into serious issues with installing your own solar panels:
DIY Solar Requires Specific Knowledge
A DIY solar system installation requires more knowledge and skills than your average weekend home improvement project. It isn’t something you can easily do by yourself, such as putting up some shelves or digging up a tree stump.
Installing solar power requires a lot of organization and planning. DIY solar projects are also time-intensive.
From design and installation to permitting and final connection to the grid, you could easily spend two months or more doing your own work. Depending upon permitting requirements in your area, which can be tricky for solar installations, the process could take even longer.
You will need a team of people you can depend upon to do a thorough job of the actual installation. This applies to basic work such as lifting the panels onto the roof and complicated tasks such as connecting the solar arrays to your home’s electrical system.
To install rooftop solar panels, you’ll obviously have to climb onto and work on the roof of your home. That means you’ll need to understand and follow enhanced safety protocols to avoid hazards like falling off the roof.
For most installations, you’ll have to drill into it your roof. Drilling into the wrong place can lead to structural damage, while incorrect flashing and sealing can lead to roof leakage and mold issues.
No two homes are ever the same, and every roof’s layout relative to the available sunlight rays may vary. Calculating the proper angles and orientation for your rooftop solar panels makes all the difference in maximizing their efficiency.
You must navigate various government and utility company offices to get permits and approval for your project. This is stressful work that requires persistence and patience.
Professional solar installers have people on staff who specifically handle this permitting work, and have established relationships with the people who review and approve those permits.
DIY Solar Involves Advanced Electrical Work
A DIY solar project isn’t like changing a light switch in a bathroom. It’s a heavy-duty task that literally involves powering your entire home. Not only do you need to install the solar panels, but you need to take care of inverters, meters, electrical panel connections, batteries, and other technical components.
You must be very aware of the intricate details of wiring your DIY solar energy system safely and correctly. Even with in-depth tutorials, the jumble of technical components and wiring can easily confuse you. Mistakes such as loose connections, crossed wires, and exposure to elements can lead to electrocution or destructive fire. Yes, it’s that serious.
While you can have your dream panel design through DIY solar kits, reinventing the wheel can be dangerous or impractical sometimes. A trustworthy contractor can plan out a tailored strategy that fits your home’s electricity needs.
If something goes amiss in your DIY solar installation, it’s possible that you can void the warranty on your solar equipment.
While you can still reach out to your manufacturer directly, proving a warranty claim can be challenging. You must ensure that your DIY solar panel installation was done according to their requirements, and was connected correctly to the utility grid.
If an issue is not covered by the warranty, you may have to pay for the repairs, which will eat into your total savings.
DIY Solar Requires Specific Equipment
Completing a DIY installation of a solar panel system requires experience, tools, and materials to install racking, solar panels, electrical boxes, inverters, wires, meters, and other equipment correctly.
For grid-tied solar systems, you’ll first need to assemble the right components, including:
- Solar panels: To capture the sun’s rays and convert them into DC energy
- Mounting system: To mount and secure the solar panel arrays.
- Inverter: To convert DC energy from your panels into AC electricity for home use, and channel additional AC back to the utility grid
- Power or DC optimizer: To maximize the power from your PV panels
- DC disconnect: To shut off your system for maintenance
- Grid disconnect: To automatically switch off your system when a grid outage occurs.
- Combiner box: To organize all components
When it comes to off-grid DIY solar panel kits, you might also need some additional components:
- Charge controller: To channel DC energy from your panels to your storage battery backup, and then stop sending energy to avoid overcharging.
- Backup power battery bank: To power and supply your building when sunshine isn’t enough.
- Balance of system (BoS): This includes all of the other equipment like a breaker box, wires, fuses, etc.
Don’t forget the safety gear! You don’t want to get injured when installing a roof-mount solar kit for your home. To stay safe, it’s important to invest in the proper safety equipment when working on your roof.
Before you can install your solar components, you’ll need to buy the necessary equipment and materials. Unlike professional installers, you’re not buying in bulk, meaning you won’t benefit from the economy of scale. These costs can quickly eat up a massive chunk of the DIY solar installation savings we discussed earlier.
If you don’t have enough experience to know the difference, you can easily fall for low-grade items and cheap solar cells that have flooded the market recently. Yes, the complete DIY solar panel kits that come with all required components and instructions may seem like a great deal, but you shouldn’t assume they’re using high-quality equipment.
If you do end up using less expensive equipment, you may have to contend with a shorter lifespan, reduced power efficiency, or a more complicated installation in the long run. On the other hand, professional installers know where to source high-quality materials and how to get the job done right the first time.
DIY Solar Limits Your Options
If you’re powering devices like televisions, washing machines, and refrigerators, your energy needs can be high. In this case, a simple electrical system from a DIY solar kit may not match your needs.
A professional installer can help you design the right sized system for your needs, complete with solar battery storage if that’s the right solution for the power needs of your home.
While many states and utilities provide rebates and incentives that significantly lower the cost of switching to solar, some of them are only available if a certified solar company installs your system.
You also don’t have as many finance options with DIY solar system kits, which limits your ability to split the cost across monthly payments that align with your solar savings. When buying your solar panels, you may have to buy the system outright when going the do-it-yourself route, vs financing through a third party.
Can I Install DIY Solar Panels Myself?
Having looked at some of the pros and cons that come with a DIY solar project, it’s time to decide if DIY solar panels are right for you:
Short Answer: Probably.
A DIY home solar kit can serve your needs, especially if your required energy demands are minimal. These out-of-the-box systems are typically not as complex as multi-panel systems that power a large house and connect to the utility grid.
If you’re still prepared to take this route for a complex solar project, we recommend you first research your local zoning regulations. Some states and countries prohibit the installation of a DIY solar system without professional certification because of the challenges we listed above.
Long Answer: Probably not.
Unless your current day job and prior DIY experience include electrical work, engineering acumen, roofing, and government permitting, you should probably leave the heavy lifting to the solar professionals. This is especially true for larger homes with significant electricity needs that require an elaborate solar power plan.
A residential solar power installation is a significant investment that should serve you for more than 25 years. Setting up everything properly from the very beginning ensures your system functions at its maximum capacity, and helps prevent headaches down the road.
Our recommendation is to rely on certified experts who install solar systems every day. Before you run out and buy your solar panels, let a solar professional investigate your energy needs and recommend the most suitable option for your home. They can also pinpoint the optimum solar panel placement to maximize your system’s output.
Overall, are potential DIY home solar savings really worth the risks and headaches of the elaborate process we’ve described? If you derive satisfaction from improving your home on your own and have time to do everything from beginning to end, then a DIY solar panel system might be right for you.
For most people though, turning to professionals gives them peace of mind. Yes, the upfront costs might be a little higher, but the long-term benefits are worth the expense.
Palmetto, Your Go-To Solar Installation Experts
Are you looking to reduce your electricity bill by switching to solar? By working with Palmetto, you can start enjoying the benefits of this green energy source without any of the DIY hassles.
At Palmetto, we simplify your migration to clean energy. It’s our business to take the risk and guesswork out of clean energy savings and provide end-to-end solutions that save you money and time. We also specialize in financing through solar loans if needed, with a variety of options to match your budget.
To learn how our professionals can work with you to design and install the perfect solar power system for your home, get started with a Free Solar Design. From there, we can pair you with a solar expert who’s trained to help you get the solar panel system you need, and help you save money by going solar.
Why DIY Home Solar Is a Bad Idea
Putting together your own home solar power system may seem like a good idea and you’ll certainly see a ton of tempting advertising pushing DIY home energy systems. Building and installing you own photovoltaic home energy system, however, is not a good idea at all. The only reason that could justify a DIY installation, that we can think of, would be if you had a very remote home or cabin that is completely off the grid and DIY is your only option. Do it yourself installation of a home solar system is full of problems including; it is very dangerous, DIY doesn’t really save money, getting the proper permits and inspections is a “bear” as well as warranties and solar system follow-up.
DIY Home Solar Power is Dangerous
Working on a roof is dangerous business. The biggest cause of deaths in the construction industry is falls from a roof, most of those falls are by roofers and they are professionals. Solar panel installation should only be done by qualified professionals using proper safety equipment. A roof installation of home solar panels is not a job for the weekend handyman.
Falls aren’t the only danger when it comes to a do-it-yourself home solar power installation. Electrocution is a legitimate concern as well. As soon as a photovoltaic array is exposed to sunlight it starts to produce electricity. Solar arrays need to be hooked together, wired into an inverter and then hooked into the utility energy grid. Anyone attempting to install home solar panels needs to be very knowledgeable about electrical safety so they don’t get zapped.
Fire is also a consideration. Faulty electrical work always creates a fire hazard, while your roof might not burst into flames immediately, over time through exposure and age, electrical connections that are not properly made might fail causing a real fire danger.
Does A Do-It-Yourself Home Solar Installation Save Money?
The answer is; very rarely. In the beginning of the home solar power movement solar panels were very expensive and supply was limited. Most all home solar systems were paid for totally out of and net metering and power purchase agreements were a thing of the future. The future is here now, technological advances in the production of solar panels for home systems has dropped the price and raised quality, improving overall performance. Rebates and incentives combined with the low cost of solar hardware make it possible for many people to get solar power installed for Zero or very little out of costs. Even with an outright purchase most professionally installed home solar energy systems will pay for themselves in a little as 10 years through monthly savings on your energy bill. Why would you risk life and limb, when you don’t have to?
Permitting and inspections
There is a labyrinth of permits to negotiate in the process of setting up home solar power systems. Often time a single home solar power installation will require state, local, municipal. Required permits may include construction permits, building permits, electrical permits and even permits from your electric company. Permits usually also include inspection for final approval of the permit requiring knowledge of the inspection process. Our Solar experts work with permitting every day. They are very familiar with every permit required for your specific installation you will never be surprised with unexpected costs or inspection problems.
Most permits also require that any work done must be by a certified professional. Electrical, building and solar installations usually require very specific licenses. Not worth the investment that would be required of the home do-it-yourselfer. All of our solar installation experts are fully licensed and certified to perform their work in your area.
Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork
Permits, Licensing and inspections are just a part of the paperwork that puts an extra burden on the do-it-yourselfer. Federal, state, local and utility rebates and incentives are often combined to offset the cost of a home solar power system. Some are tax rebates, some are straight up cash rebates and some are tied to energy usage. Knowing what rebates are available and how to apply for them properly is something a solar power company specializes in saving money. Money the DIY person quite probably would leave laying on the table.
Resist the Urge
We respect the pleasure a successful DIY home improvement project can bring. Gazing at your completed project, hands on hips, chest slightly puffed up while proudly exclaiming (to anyone who might hear) “I DID THAT!” Save that feeling for replacing the transmission in your car or building a fence, installing Home Solar Power is just one of those projects best left to a professional. The best way to satisfy your DIY home solar urge is by understanding all of the solar options available to you. Contact one of our solar advisors, we will help guide you while saving you money and keeping you safe.
Yes, You Can Make Your Own Solar Panels
Dream of powering devices around your home with solar power? You can build those panels yourself, if you’re up to the challenge.
Stephen J. Bronner is a New York-based freelance writer, editor and reporter. Over his more than a decade in journalism, he has written about energy, local politics and schools, startup success tips, the packaged food industry, the science of work, personal finance and blockchain. His bylined work has appeared in Inverse, Kotaku, Entrepreneur, NextAdvisor and CNET, and op-eds written on behalf of his clients were published in Forbes, HR Dive, Fast Company, NASDAQ and MarketWatch. Stephen previously served as contributors editor and news editor for Entrepreneur.com, and was the VP, Content and Strategy, at Ditto PR. He enjoys video games and punk rock. See some of his work at stephenjbronner.com.
A fan to keep you cool in the summer, powered by the sun. A solar-powered cooler to keep drinks cold for a camping trip. Or a simple charger that uses the sun’s rays to top off your smartphone’s battery.
What do these devices have in common, besides that they’re powered by the sun? You can build the solar panels that power them yourself, with some relatively inexpensive components and basic soldering skills.
It’s amazing that we have devices with no moving parts that create electricity, just by sticking them outside, Joshua Pearce, a professor at Western University in Ontario and co-author of To Catch the Sun, a free ebook on DIY solar systems. But while turning sunlight directly into electricity seems like magic, really anyone with even modest technical skills can get involved, whether they’re building their own modules from individual cells or building their own photovoltaic systems from commercially available modules.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
If you’ve got some technical chops and the patience to learn, the (solar) power is in your hands. Here’s what you need to know to get started building your own solar panels.
Can you make your own solar panels?
People can absolutely make their own panels, said Pearce, whose ebook describes the steps to make solar systems and shares stories of people around the world who powered their communities with the sun’s energy.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
The basic components of a solar panel are the photovoltaic cells, tab wires and a material to encapsulate them, typically glass. All of these materials can be ordered online or purchased at hardware stores, and they’re available in varying sizes.
It’s best to start small, not only because it’ll be simpler, but because buying larger panels is actually cheaper than making them. Pearce recommends a good starting project would be a smaller panel, enough to power, say, a water pump for your yard. This way, you can practice your soldering skills and familiarize yourself with the materials.
Be careful when undertaking such a project, as you’re working with electrical components and tools that can burn. There’s a minor risk of wiring it up wrong, creating a short somewhere or burning yourself with the soldering iron, but it’s not terribly dangerous one way or the other, Pearce said.
Can you put together a solar panel system yourself?
When you’re ready to take on a bigger project, it’s entirely possible to put together a solar panel system to provide most of your home’s energy needs. And good news, DIYers: The economics are in your favor, Pearce said. It’s about half the cost to install solar panel systems if you do most of the work yourself and just have an electrician attach them to the grid than to call a solar installer to power up your home.
First, buy premade solar panels.- it’ll be pricier to assemble ones from scratch yourself.- then fit them into racks (you can build your own) and angle them toward the sun. This kind of system can power direct current, or DC, devices. Or, if you’re more handy, you can connect it to an inverter to convert the electricity to alternating current, or AC, the standard for American electrical devices.
Be sure to test the system with a multimeter. However, it’s recommended to hire a licensed electrician to make sure the system functions properly. In either case, hiring a licensed electrician will be required to connect your system to the electrical grid.
Can you buy solar panel kits?
A variety of kits are available for purchase online or in stores, ranging from DIY solar-powered toys to more extensive kits with multiple panels that cost thousands of dollars. Pearce recommends getting started with an educational kit, like this 20 solar-powered robot kit we found on Amazon.
How to make your own solar panels
If you want to learn how to make your own PV panel and feel confident enough in your soldering skills, here’s a broad step-by-step guide to assembling a solar panel, based in part on this guide created by DIY solar panel project Biosphere Solar. Please exercise caution when working with a soldering iron, and avoid contact with live wires.
Purchase solar panel components, including PV cells, tab wires and encapsulation material (like glass).
Put on gloves and safety goggles.
Measure, stretch and cut the tab wires.
Solder tab wires to the front and back of the solar cells.
Test the connections with a multimeter.
Pull wires away from the cells so they’re not sealed inside.
Either laminate the cells for a short-lived panel or encapsulate in glass. Clean the glass, place the cells on the bottom sheet and carefully place the other piece of glass on top.
Seal the panel with caulk or glue.
Connect your DIY panel to a DC-powered device, then give yourself a high five for powering a device with the sun!