While one short article cannot possibly tell you everything you need to know about solar panels, this simple question and answer guide to making solar panels, is designed to help you understand some of the basics, including standard terms and definitions. If you know nothing, or almost nothing, about photovoltaic energy (otherwise known as solar energy) this is the place to start.
What is a solar cell?
A solar cell is a single unit, made up of multiple layers of photovoltaic material. Solar cells which are manufactured in mass quantity are generally used to construct both commercially produced and home-made solar panels.
What is photovoltaic material?
Photovoltaic materials are those which have a natural propensity to create energy, using the sun as a natural energy source. Photovoltaic materials may make use of either natural radiation (the radiation produced by the sun) or the sun's light. The most common elements that are used to create solar cells mono or poly-crystalline silicons, cadmium telluride, and copper indium selenide. These materials are used to construct both home-made and manufactured solar modules and panels.
What is a solar module?
A solar module consists of a number of solar cells joined together.
What is a solar panel?
A solar panel consists of one or more solar modules, mounted onto a tailor built frame.
What is an Energy PV Watts Calculator?
An Energy PV Watts Calculator is a computer program which can help you determine how many watts you will need in your solar energy system, in order to run the appliances in your home. While you can do the calculations on paper or with a standard calculator, this program is designed to provide you with the correct formulas. It will also take many of the most common variables into consideration, leaving little room for error. The US Department of Energy provides a free on-line version of an Energy PV Watts Calculator.
What Should the Frame Be Made Of?
You can use wood, plastic or any other sturdy, non-conductive material to build the frame for your solar modules.
What materials do I need to build a home-made solar panel?
You will need enough solar cells to provide sufficient power to your home or business.
Since solar cells are manufactured in a variety of wattage strengths, it is important that you determine the correct number of cells, prior to beginning construction. An energy PV watts calculator is the most appropriate way to determine this.
You will also need a good supply of your chosen framing material. The exact amount you will need is dependent on the size and number of cells you will be working with.
What tools are needed to build a solar panel?
Besides you standard building and framing tools (hammer, nails, miter saw, adhesives etc... ) you will need a soldering iron, solder and a drill with at least a ¼ inch bit (for drilling holes in the framing).
What are the main reasons home-made solar energy panels don't function properly?
Even if you are a beginner, your home-made solar energy panels can function at the same capacity commercially manufactured panels do. Faults in building or installation are the main reason for difficulties in home-made solar panels. Here are some tips to help ensure your success:
- Cells and modules which are joined in a horizontal pattern function better than those joined vertically.
- Soldering should be done carefully, so as not to cause damage to the cells.
- The frame should be flush with the modules. A frame that is taller than the modules will create shading, interfering with the cells ability to capture and utilize all of the natural light.
- If you will be doing a roof-top installation of your solar panels, keep in mind that southern exposure will provide the maximum amount of sunlight to the cells.