Solar panels are a great way to get some electricity, but they can be very expensive to purchase and have installed. These DIY solar panel plans are just the thing for taking solar panels out of your “eventually I can afford it” list to “let’s do it this weekend!” plans. They range from easy and small to large and some can even be combined to create large ones. It makes it easy to slowly get more solar panels at your own pace, rather than buying a large quantity at once. Let’s start building!
1. DIY Cheap Solar Panels
This DIY solar panel video tutorial shows how to create a solar panel for $15. Although this tutorial takes a little soldering skill, it’s an easy and cheap way to build a DIY solar panel using:
• Solar panel cells. These cost a little more than the tutorial paid, but has more cells for the price.
• Shadow box frame. The creator of this tutorial was lucky enough to find a free shadow box frame, but they are easy to find for a good price.
• Loctite Stik n’Seal Outdoor Conditions. This is for weather proofing the housing for your solar cells.
• 20-gauge wire. This tutorial used wires from an old power supply, but a spool of 20-gauge wire is inexpensive.
• Zip ties. Use these to attach the solar panels to the frame, making them easy to take off the frame if needed.
2. DIY Off-the-Grid Solar Panels
This DIY solar panel tutorial is the first video of a complete step-by-step walk-through of how they went completely off the grid with solar panels. It costs quite a bit more, but also gives your house a lot more wattage to use. To get started you need:
• 4 Solar panels. The tutorial used 220W solar panels, but these are for 250 watt solar panels.
• 2 500W solar charge controller. These can range from $20 to $200, depending on brand and features.
• 12 6v Golf cart battery.
• 24 volt pure sine wave inverter.
• 24 volt power tender. This one is also a battery charger.
• Battery life saver.
• 13 24″ Switch-to-start battery cable.
• 2-3 Battery copper cable. The tutorial used 60′ of this 6 AWG copper wire.
• Plywood sheet. Use this to build a housing unit for the battery.
• 4 Wheels. Attachable swivel wheels for easier movement.
• Electricity usage monitor.
• 35 amp and 200 amp fuses.
3. DIY Solar Panels
This tutorial from TinHatRanch for DIY solar panels discusses how to decide the size needed for your home, how to pick a battery, and more. You can find step-by-step video instructions in this guide, too. To build it, you need:
• Electricity usage monitor.
• 400 watt solar panels. The tutorial used a solar panel kit that helps provide a few of the smaller items needed that would otherwise have to be purchased separately.
• 1000 watt Pure sine wave inverter.
• Golf cart battery. The tutorial talks about how many, size and other details for choosing a battery.
• Disconnect box.
• Outdoor load center. This is used to cut power in the box.
• Battery volt meter.
• Circuit breaker.
• 30 amp and 200 amp Inline fuse holder.
• 375 amp disconnect switch.
4. DIY 18-Volt Solar Panels
This tutorial is for smaller DIY solar panels that give about 18 volts each. Each system requires:
• 36 3×6 Solar cells. These are factory short tabbed, which the tutorial explains uses much less soldering.
• Plywood boards. Make a shadow box large enough to hold 2 subpanels of 18 cells with a divider in the middle of the subpanels.
• Pegboard sheet. Cut to fit inside the shadow box and use zip ties to attach the panels to the shadow box.
• Plexiglass sheet. Cut to the size of the shadow box to protect the solar panel cells from the weather.
• Jones plug. Use to end the wires.
• Diode. These keep the panel from discharging the battery at night or on cloudy days.
• 20 gauge wire. Using solar cells with tabs reduces how much of this wire is needed.
5. Easy DIY Solar Panels
If you are looking for a simpler array that uses photovoltaic cells, this DIY solar panel systems tutorial is a great place to begin. You need:
• Solar panels. This tutorial highly suggests using crystalline solar panels because they are more durable and cheaper than thin-film solar panels.
• 6kW Power inverter. Use to turn DC into AC power.
• PV disconnect. Use to turn off the power whenever you need to work on the panels.
• Circuit breaker. It can be connected to the house’s breaker box.
• Power meter. One that spins backwards measures the power you give back to the grid.
6. Lightweight DIY Solar Panels
This DIY solar panels tutorial teaches you to make lightweight, movable solar panels since the solar cells are placed between plexiglass sheets. It requires:
• 28 Solar cells.
• 2 Plexiglass sheets. Use two of the same size to create the housing for the sub-panels.
• 6 amp blocking diode.
• 2mm Soldering tabbing wire.
• 5mm Soldering bus wire.
• Junction box.
• Silicone sealant. To seal the two plexiglass sheets to protect the subpanels from the weather.
• Tile cross spacers. Use these to space out the solar cells.
• Power inverter.
• Aluminum angle bar. This was used to frame the plexiglass.
7. DIY RV Solar Panels
If you’re looking to charge your RV with some solar power, this tutorial is perfect for you. You need:
8. DIY Portable Solar Generator
This last DIY solar panel also doubles as a small portable solar generator. It was built for under $150 and works great for camping trips or emergencies. To make it, you need:
• Carrying case. The tutorial uses a pistol case for its housing unit.
• Solar panel. This panel fits inside the pistol case to protect it when not in use.
• On/off switch.
• Socket panel. These can vary in type and style. The one suggested has a USB charger, 12V socket and a voltmeter in it.
• 12V battery.
• Power inverter. This can be used with the 12V socket to be able to use outlets instead.
• Velcro. Attach to the top of the carrying case and the bottom of the solar panel to stabilize the panel when in use.
The sun is a great renewable energy and with solar panels that range from portable to powering an entire house, these DIY solar panels are a great start for everyone. With a little soldering and time, you can enjoy these energy-saving panels in no time. Don’t forget to let us know how your project went and what it’s powering in the comments section below!