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Build Your Own Solar Panels

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How Hard Can It Be?

Your utility bills are getting higher every month, so you’ve been thinking about installing solar panels on your home.  You know how to use a screwdriver and drill, and you’re wondering...how hard could it be to build your own solar panels?  This article will give you an overview of the process so you can make a good decision.

To clarify, we're talking here about building solar panels that will deliver electricity to your home.  (These are not the same as "solar energy" devices that will heat water, but won’t deliver electricity).  The most widely used solar panel designs for generating electricity are photovoltaic arrays.  They convert sunlight directly into electricity. 

There are at least two popular ways to build do-it-yourself solar panels.  First, there are solar panel kits.  These are straightforward designs and can be built by anyone who has moderate handy-man skills.  Second, there are built-from scratch-solar panels.  These are a bit more complex, and are better projects for more adventurous people who don’t mind experimenting.

Solar Panel Kits:
You can buy these from various local or online suppliers. Use the search engines to look for "solar cell kits".  You’ll find hundreds of websites that offer books, online videos or DVDs of plans and instructions, along with the materials you’ll need. 

The kits basically supply you with the photovoltaic cells, the wiring, the assembly hardware and the mounting devices.  They're somewhat like putting together a computer desk kit from the hardware store.  But you'll need to check your local building codes to determine whether or not you need permits and a licensed installer.

Build Your Cells From Scratch:
This is an inexpensive, but labor-intensive  way to build your solar cells from scratch.  It uses raw copper sheeting, like the copper flashing available at hardware stores, and a heat source.  You need to heat the copper for about a half hour, or long to cause the chemical reaction that produces copper oxide on the surface of the copper sheet.

After the copper panel is cooled properly,  combine it with other similar-sized non-oxidized copper panel, add salt water solution and encase all of the components in a shatterproof glass panel.  Add wiring and mounting components  after the panel is assembled.  This produces a low-voltage panel.  You'll need to make a lot of them in  order to have an array that produces enough electricity to power household devices.

Building your solar panels from scratch is relatively cheap, but takes a lot of time and space. Solar kits are a good solution if you like to work on projects around the house, but don't have the time for building solar panels from scratch.  Either way, be sure to check your local building codes for installation requirements.  And be sure you really have enough time to complete the project.  You don't want to leave it half finished and leave yourself with no electricity during a hot summer or a cold winter.

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