Did you know you could build your own Solar Panels for next to nothing?

hi my name is Mark and today I'll be showing you how to build your own solar panel capable of producing approximately 60 watts for under $200 as you're probably aware solar panels can be quite expensive but by following the instructions in this video you'll be able to save a whole lot of money by making your own we explained in detail how you can do this at home and what you can do with the finished product first I'm going to go through the different tools that are necessary for building a solar panel at home these tools are what I like to use if you're more comfortable using something else to do specific jobs then by all means use that we're building a panel with a white acrylic backside and a clear acrylic front so you'll need a tool to cut that with for that purpose I have an acrylic cutter which is used to score the acrylic so that you can put it on an edge and break it off easily to screw down the frame we have a drill and some drill bits you'll need to have drill bits of two sizes smaller size for the pilot holes the bigger one for drilling the actual hole and a unive it for drilling the hole for the chase nipple we're using liquid silicone caulk throughout the job so we need a caulk gun and silicone gloves are very important when handling the solar cells oils from your hands can stain the cells and reduce amp output so whenever you handle cells make sure you're wearing gloves next we have the soldering iron which is used to solder the cells together you may also want to wear a mask when soldering because the fumes from the solder can be quite obnoxious and can give you a headache here we have some protective eyewear it's important to wear something to protect your eyes during the build when you're soldering sometimes the flux and solder can flick up you definitely don't want that in your eye an important item is the multimeter you want to make sure that your multimeter can measure both volts and amps a multimeter like this one only costs about $10 from any hardware store this is a must-have item as we'll use it to test the solar panel when it's finished to see if it's producing the correct wattage we'll need some screws when selecting screws make sure you use stainless steel screws as they last much longer you don't want your solar panel frame to fall apart after a few years to achieve stainless steel screws will cost a little bit more but it's a very worthwhile investment then we have a wire stripper and two screwdrivers a Philips and a flathead you might not even need to use the Flathead but it's a good idea to have one on hand just in case you'll also need fine point needle nose pliers good for crimping the tab wire also some useful tools are a pencil or a marker and exacto knife then the carpenter's square which you'll use to make sure that you get 90 and 45 degree corners a measuring tape to get the right measurements in the remainder of this video we'll go into the various materials you'll be using to construct your solar panel the most important part of a solar panel is the individual cells the cells are what turns the sun's energy into usable DC power which will then convert into AC power you can buy all different shapes and sizes for your solar cells we're using standard cells that produce about 1.75 watts each you can also purchase pre tab cells these cost a little bit more but it means you don't need to tab each of the cells yourself we're using untap cells so you can see how to join each of the cells together next we have the bus wires which we'll be using to connect the cells at the ends of the strings and which will be connected to wires that exit the panel you can use a low gage exit wires because the panel we're building won't produce much more than three amps and the voltage should not exceed much more than 18 volts 5 amp wire should be fine and you can purchase this from any hardware store next you'll need a junction box or a JBoss and a chase nipple through which the exit wires are going to come out out when you have the panel all wired up the exit wires will be live whenever the solar panel is in the Sun it's a good idea to wrap the ends of the exit wires and electric tape to prevent any chance of shorting out here we have some soldering flux this will help the solder stick to the contacts you can purchase this in bottles or as a flux pen next is the solder which is a 60-40 rosin cord leaded solder mix then we have the silicone caulk which is going to provide you with the best protection against the elements the silicone caulk is used to seal up the solar panel to prevent any moisture getting into it as this would reduce efficiency therefore it's of utmost importance to make sure that the panel is nicely sealed up and last but not least a white acrylic sheet for the back a clear acrylic sheet for the front of the panel and a CE profile aluminum frame which will ensure that the cells are protected from the elements some people use plywood for the backing of the panel however we do not recommend this if you plan on keeping the panel for a long time plywood will Bend over time Moisture will work its way into the panel and the solar cells will end up cracking the plywood panel on the roof of the house will not last more than few months so if you're after something more durable which I'm sure you are use acrylic well that's all the tools and materials you're going to need again if you prefer to use some other tools then by all means use what you're more comfortable with one of the things we're going to do in this video is a brief tutorial on how to use multimeters make sure you're using a multimeter because you want to measure the voltage and amperage by knowing these two values we can calculate the wattage remember volts times amps equals watts so to start off I'm going to show you how to measure voltage first make sure that it's in the off position and then you take the black lead and plug it into the black comm port next you take the red lead and plug it into the port that's Mark V for voltage now that you have the positive and negative leads connected turn the dial of the multimeter to vote by touching the black lead to a negative contact and the red lead to a positive contact you'll be able to see the bolts being produced when you're done take the leads out and turn the dial to off to measure the current or amps you do the exact same thing with the black lead you put it back into the black comport when you put the red one into the amp port then turn the dial on to the amps which here are marked by the capital a now you do the same thing as before connect the black lead to a negative contact and the red lead to a positive contact the multimeter will then show you the amps or current being produced so let's go outside and test a solar cell as you can see the solar cell has a front blue side and the back or the gray side the front of the cell is negative and the back of the cell is positive to get a reading on a cell you need to attach the negative lead to the front of the cell and the positive lead needs to contact one of the contact points on the back of the cell what I have here is a testing block which is you to help me test the cells it's simply just a copper plate attached to a piece of wood when the cell is on the testing block all I have to do is touch the negative wire to the front of the cell and the positive wire to anywhere on the copper so now with the wires attached you can see the cell is producing 0.5 volts I'll switch the multimeter over to read the amps the cell is producing about 3.5 amps remember the amps will fluctuate as the intensity of the Sun and the clouds varies from this information we can determine that the cell is producing 1.75 watts with 36 of these cells in the panel we're looking at about 63 watts and full Sun the panel will produce around 70 watts you can manage to test yourselves without a testing block however this makes it much easier and you're less likely to break a cell we're back in the workshop where we're going to determine the size of the panel box we'll need for the construction of the panel the size of the panel will depend on the size and quantity of solar cells use these cells are 0.5 volts each so this panel will need 36 cells to produce 18 volts whatever sighs so you get you have to measure out the length and the width of the cells and then calculate the size of panel you're going to need keep in mind that you need to have a bit of space between the rows and the columns of the cells also allow for the width of the seat profile aluminum frame we want to get ourselves up to 18 bolts so we have to put 36 of them in a series to do this we're going to join the cells in four rows with nine cells in each row another option would be to join the cells in three rows with 12 cells per row either way will work just fine so it's up to you what size panel will suit your application best here we have a schematic so you can see how we calculated the size of the panel needed to accommodate the cells the cells that I'm going to be using are three and a quarter by six inches so we have four cells in a row and that equals to 24 inches however you want to allow for a little space between them and on both sides so add a quarter of an inch and depending on the width of your C profile aluminum frame add that in as well so for cells times six inches is 24 plus five times a quarter of an inch plus two times the width of the frame which in our case is an inch therefore the width of our white acrylic and clear acrylic sheets needs to be no less than twenty seven and a quarter inches to calculate the height of the panel you need to do the exact same thing except you need to allow for a little bit more space at the top and the bottom of the acrylic because you need the space to put in the bus wires so three and a quarter inches times nine plus a quarter inch times eight four in between the cells plus one inch on the bottom plus two inches on the top for the two rows of bus wires and the J box to come in place plus two times one inch for the frame the total or height of our acrylic needs to be no less than thirty six and a quarter inches so the size of our acrylic pieces needs to be no less than twenty seven and a quarter by thirty-six and a quarter inches later on I'll show you how to attach the completed stringers onto the acrylic by using the silicon as for the front cover of the panel box for which we'll use clear acrylic you should leave the protective plastic on to keep it from being scratched while you're making the panel the C profile aluminum alloy frame will cover the edges of both the front and back acrylic sheets this will be aesthetically pleasing and will also seal up the panel box protecting the cells from moisture some people use strips of wood around the panel we don't recommend this at all as it will Bend an alloy frame will last forever I will also give the panel strength that pretty much takes care of the box sizing and construction now we're going to start soldering the cells together the equipment I have here is a soldering iron solder flux and this little pin to help keep the tabs down as I'm soldering I'll use the pin to hold down the cells rather than my fingers because the tabbing wire will heat up as I solder make sure to wear I'm protective goggles and respiratory protection I'm also going to wear gloves to protect the cells from the oils on my hands remember as you're working with the solar cells be extremely careful with them because they're paper thin and can easily break as I said earlier there are two types of solar cells tabbed and untapped to speed up the process we've opted to use the tampons however in case you choose to use the untapped ones we're going to show you how to solder the tab wires to the cells lay the cell face-up take the flux pan and apply it to the contacts in order to clean them you should have your tab wire pre-cut to about the width of two cells take a piece of tab wire and line it up with the contact gently press the solder iron down right away along the tab wire because tabbing wire is pre coded and solder it should stick as you press the iron down if it doesn't seem to stick you can simply add a bit of solder now let's do the other contact and that's how you need to solder the tab wire to the contacts of the untapped cells you'll need to repeat this process until you've tabbed all of your cells we're moving on to the next step however as I said we're going to use pre tab cells so let's actually start soldering the cells together we're going to start with the first cell and lay the cell face down because we're tying together the positive contacts after cleaning the contacts with the flux pen line up the tab wire with the contacts and as before dip the soldering iron into the flux be careful not to breathe in the smoke that's coming out once you put the flux on take a little bit of solder here's a little tip on how to keep your soldering iron lasting longer after you've finished using it you should coat the tip with a little bit of solder because that'll keep it from oxidizing so take the tab wire gently press it down against the contact strip and then use the soldering iron to apply the solder the solder will come off the iron and will go onto the tab connecting it with the contact you only need a little bit of solder to hold the tab wire to the contact if the solder doesn't come off the iron is put more flux on the item sometimes the flux will discolor the backside but don't be discouraged if not on a show through or affect the performance your first few cells might look like a bit of a mess but don't worry after a bit of practice you'll get the hang of it it's a good idea to use some space cells to practice as you may end up cracking them after you've made the first contact proceed on to the second one and just do the exact same thing as the first time now we have the first two cells joined together seven more cells and this will be the first of four completed stringers so let's add another cell once again you need to align them and do the exact same things before take the wire from the previous cell and solder it to the back of the next cell just use a little bit of solder and the tab wire will stick down you don't want big clumps of solder on the back of the cells otherwise they won't lay flat on the backing sheet of the panel and there you go that's the third cell joined as you can see before putting it away I take a little flux and apply some solder so that the iron doesn't oxidize continue this process until you have nine cells in your stringer when you get to the very top you're going to be left with this extra wire of which you're going to need only an inch or two of it this is what will collect the first stringer and the next one therefore you can actually take that cut it and use it to connect the three contacts that are on the first cell on the string if you break a cell during the process when you realize that you soldered the cells crooked don't worry you can just hold the solder iron to the connecting point to heat up the solder and you'll be able to disconnect the tabbing wire I'm going to demonstrate how you can do this just heat it up and the connection will come undone like this you can then straighten up the cell or replace it cracked it okay now I'm going to finish connecting all of my cells to join for Springer's with nine cells each then I'll fix the stringers to the panel backing with some silicon you okay all of the stringers are not complete and I can begin the next step each string will produce about four and a half volts at three and a half amps that means that each string is producing just under 16 watts each I'm going to check at the stringers at producing the expected power output if they don't I'll need to check the cells for cracks and make sure all of the tabbing wire is properly connected I'll turn my multimeter on to the volt setting to test the stringer put the positive connector on the wire coming from the back of the first cell and put the negative connector on the wire coming from the top of the last cell as you can see the voltage output from these nine cells in series is fifteen point five volts now I'll test the amps change the multimeter over two amps and make the same connections as before try not to put any shadows over the cells when testing the amps as this will affect your results so we're looking at about 3.2 amps which is right where it should be I'll repeat this testing process with the other three stringers to make sure everything is working properly then the stringers can be connected together well back in the workshop with all of our stringers and are now ready to begin gluing them down to the acrylic package this silicone I'm using is permanently flexible which is good because it'll allow a little bit of movement and we'll stop the cells from cracking I'm going to start at the top and work my way down however before you put the silicone on the cells and lay down the stringers you might want to make markers or even draw out where the cells are going to be placed as to make sure that you've lined the stringers up nicely I made the marker so that I would know where to put the first cell which is important to do because the rest will fall into place you only need a very small bit of silicone on the key cell the cells are very light so a tiny dab is all you need in the center of each cell now I'll grab at the top pull it up and flip it over carefully match the cells up with your markings and lay them down your panel will look much neater if this is done properly and nice straight lines when the stringer is in place you can gently press down on the middle of the cells to spread out the silicone try to get all of the cells as flat as possible with the acrylic but don't apply too much pressure as the cells may crack remember to use gloves when you're doing this as you don't want to mark the cells once the stringer is down you can continue the process with the other stringers now this is important lay your first string down positive to negative then the next string should be lay down the opposite way negative to positive this is so when the stringers are wired together it will go positive negative positive negative this will increase the voltage if each string produces four and a half volts then four strings in series will produce 18 volts after the first stringer is laid down you can do the next ones okay here we are with all of the cells glued down to the acrylic backing and it's starting to look like a panel now the stringers can be joined together with the bus ribbon the bus ribbon is just the same as the tabbing ribbon however it's a little thicker you connect the positive of the first string with a negative of the string next to it to do this cut the bus ribbon to length and use the solder iron to make the connection connect both of the positive wires of this cell to both of the negative wires of this cell you may need to use some extra solder here to ensure a solid connection then go to the other end of this string er and connect the positive wires of this cell to the negative wires of this cell continue this process until all four stringers are connected together in series this will leave you with ending positive and negative wires there are a couple of ways you can do this if you simply connect the strings in a snake format you'll end up with ending wires on either side of the panel here's another way you can join the cells so that the ending wires will finish next to each other now we can solder the exit wires to the last cells in the series connection first I'll drill a small hole in the backing for the wires to feed through into the J box in the middle of the panel on the side with the last cells in the series connection drill a hole for the exit wires then drill the exact size hole in the J box as well because the chase nipple is going to go through both of them flip the panel over and silicone the J box in place apply silicon right around the J box and apply pressure until the silicon is dried you some sort of weight to hold it down when the J box is secured we can move on to the next step now that the silicone is settled and while the panel is in this position I'm going to place a double terminal strip put the terminal strip into the J box for you feel its center take out the terminal strip apply the silicone and set it down on the silicone again okay so we're ready to proceed with the Assembly of our solar panel carefully flip over the panel apply silicone on the rim of the hole you've drilled take the chase nipple and set it into the hole while that's settling we're going to work on the wires pull both the red positive and the black negative wire through the chaste nipple skin off the insulation at the end of the negative wire apply some flux and solder to your soldering iron and solder the negative exit wire to the negative bus wire when you're finished with a negative wire then you can proceed to the positive or red wire same as before skin off the insulation and solder the exit wire and the bus tab once you feel confident that you've made a good connection pull up the soldered wires and apply some silicone beneath them in order to secure them in place now we're going back to the back side of the panel to the J box and we're going to connect the wires to the terminal strip again skin some insulation off the end unfasten the screws a little bit and push the wire into the holes underneath the screws after we put together the entire panel box we're going to pull two more wires that will be connected to our charge controller through the bottom holes of the terminal strip so let's take out the clear acrylic and put it over the panel now we're going to cut out a frame out of the alloy see profile that'll fit our panels perfectly slide the frame onto the panel and by using your carpenter's square mark a 45 degree angle on one side of the frame then go to the other end of the panel and Mark another 45-degree angle and cut the frame in those two places repeat the process for all four sides to speed up the process I've already cut out the frame that I'll need you can cut the alloy frame with a hacksaw an angle grinder or drop saw just make sure you're using the correct blade or disc on whatever you decide to use now that we have the frame in place we're going to drill holes three on each side into it so that we can put screws which will secure it into place measure out and mark off where your screws are coming into place and keep in mind that they should be spread out evenly along the frame in order to ensure that we don't break the acrylic we're going to drill holes into the frame first and then into the panel so slide out the frame take the smaller drill bit for the pilot holes as to ensure that the grille stays in place for when we actually drill the holes once you drill out the pilot holes change the drill bits and use the bit that corresponds to the bolt that we're going to put in to speed up the process I've drilled out all the rest of the holes while I was on camera so now I'm going to drill the holes into the panel itself as before when you were measuring out the angles and the length of the frame slide the aluminum seed profile onto the panel that at this point consists of the acrylic sheet to which the cells are attached and a clear acrylic front cover you should drill the holes with precision because you don't want the drill to slip and damage your entire work so far because we already have drilled the holes in our frame we don't need to drill pilot holes you just want to make sure that you're drilling at the right angle so that the holding the acrylic will align with the bottom hole in the frame so now that the hole is drilled take the bolt and slide it through put the washer and nut and make sure that it's screwed on tight enough so just complete the process for all the holes all around the panel and then we can go to the next step which is testing our solar panel you so here is the completed 63 watt solar panel I'm now going to test this with a multimeter to see what voltage and amperage it's producing today I'll switch the multimeter on to the voltage setting and connect the wires to the connection points in the junction box as you can see here the solar panel is producing 17 point 6 volts which is just what we were after now I'll test the amperage each cell produces a max of just over 3 amps so this is what the panel should produce remember when the cells are connected in series the amperage will stay the same so you can see the solar panel is producing 3.30 2 amps perfect so multiply 17 point 6 volts by 3.30 2 amps and our solar panel is producing 58 point 43 watts right now the solar panel can now feed this energy into a deep cycle battery for storage and this energy can be used later on now if you want to run AC appliances all you need is to connect an inverter to the battery which will turn the DC power into AC power which can be used by TV's radios laptops etc if you want to charge batteries faster you can make another of these panels and join them together in parallel this will increase the total amperage output from 3.5 amps to about 7 amps you'll still have 18 volts so it'll be okay to charge 12 volt batteries if you want to charge a 24 volt battery bank you'll need 2 of these panels connected in series this will raise the voltage output to 36 volts so there you have it that's how you can build a professional solar panel from your home I hope you've enjoyed this build and this video thanks for watching you you

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