Learn How To Build Your Own Solar Panel

Solar energy is increasingly in the news these days, and many may wonder how (or if) solar power can directly benefit their homes and families.

What are the real advantages of solar energy for the average homeowner? How much does it cost? Can I afford it? Can I really use solar power for my home?

By the time you’ve watched the Getting Started DIY Solar Panel Video and read this article, you’ll have answers to these questions and much, much more.

Let’s get started…

Can You Build Your Own Solar Panel?

Yes. With basic tools and a step-by-step guide, homeowners can build a solar panel system using readily available parts and materials. Tens of thousands have already done it. Many thousands more have installed residential solar energy systems with the help of local solar installers to realize the cost savings and peace of mind that come with having a home solar energy system.

Advantages of DIY Solar?

Making and installing your own panel will reduce your energy costs and provide increased independence from your utility company. You can get the advantage of producing power from the sun at a fraction of the cost of going full retail for a solar system.

Residential solar power puts you at the cutting edge of the new energy economy, lowers your energy costs, and contributes to a sustainable future. It can be a rewarding and empowering experience as you gain confidence in providing security and independence for you and your family.

Do You Need Special Skills?

You should be confident using basic construction tools and performing simple wiring and soldering tasks. It’s been said that “If you can build a birdhouse, you can build a solar panel.” If the birdhouse you built in junior high woodshop, you can always enlist the help of a friend or spouse. With proper guidance, almost anyone can build a solar panel. With the aid of step-by-step tutorials, building a homemade solar power system is easily within reach of the average homeowner.

Why Solar?

Let’s face it: making ends meet is an ever greater challenge for most of us, with few options available to cut back on expenses. We all have the necessities in life: food, shelter, education, health care, electricity, and more. It’s tough to know where to cut corners.

On top of all this, we all hear more and more of the looming energy crisis and the prospect of rising energy costs. It seems as if we are beholden to energy companies and foreign countries for our most basic energy needs. But that doesn’t need to be the case with electricity. As you’ll see when you watch the video, almost anyone can reduce dependence on foreign oil and large, faceless utility companies.

Do-it-yourself solar panels can lower your electricity bills by 65 percent in as little as 60 days. And it isn’t just hype—people are doing it every day.

But there is another great thing about solar energy, one that helps pave a sustainable future for your children and their children: a healthier environment.

Coal is essentially solar energy stored over eons of time and released in a messy, dangerous, toxic, climate-altering sort of way. According to the most recent (January 2011) report from the Energy Information Administration, coal-fired power plants contributed about 45 percent of the electricity generated in the United States.

But pollution from those coal plants produces 93 percent of the sulfur dioxide and 80 percent of the nitrogen oxide emissions generated by the electric utility industry. Some 10,000 tons and 10,200 tons, respectively, are spewed into the atmosphere every year from coal-fired powered plants, along with more than 3.7 million tons of CO2, 125,000 tons of toxic ash, arsenic, and a host of other dangerous pollutants you’ll find listed in the video – and this is for just one typical 500-megawatt coal plant!

And there is something you can do about it—a way to economically harvest energy from the sun – directly, cleanly, and reliably. Otherwise, the abundant energy streaming down from the sun onto your house is simply wasted.

Retail vs. Do-It-Yourself Solar Panels

If you’ve already looked into solar power, you’ve probably looked at a retail option – and you’ve probably thought that you just couldn’t afford it. With the cost of a full retail solar system for an “average” house costing $20,000 or more, you probably can’t. Even so, and a good thing for the environment, demand for residential solar energy is growing – but that makes the economics and practicality of installing a retail solar system even more of a challenge.

With a home-built solar panels, you can cut that cost to a fraction of the expense a full retail solution. One reason is the cost of the solar panels themselves.

In the video two solar panels are compared, each using the same quality solar cells and producing the same power output of 123 watts. The panels are functionally identical except that one is a typical retail panel, and the other is homebuilt. The only real difference between the two panels is the cost. The retail panel will cost you up to $969 or more. The homebuilt version costs about $120 or less, depending on how “fancy” you choose to make your solar panels.

Even if you decide to hire professional help installing your panels and (as we recommend) using a certified electrician for the final wiring into your home’s electrical system, watt-for-watt you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars building your own solar panels over a retail option. Your return on investment will be months instead of years or decades, and you’ll be in charge of your family’s energy future, not some faceless utility company or expensive solar retailer.

Nine Tips and Considerations for Building Your Solar Power System

The anatomy of a solar cell

Answering a few basic questions is the first and most fundamental step in knowing how to build your own solar power system. We’ll go over those questions here, but be sure to watch the video for a more in-depth discussion:

  • What will you use the solar panels for? Your home? A workshop or RV?  If for your home, will the panels offset a portion or all of your current utility-fed power?
  • Determine your needs and size your panels – After you’ve decided what the panels will be used for, you’ll need to determine how much power you’ll need to generate and how big to build your solar panels.
  • Buy the right solar cells – This is where it all starts.
  • Pre-test your cells – this is important! You want to week out any bad cells before they’re installed._
  • Use proper covering to protect your cells
  • Use a flexible adhesive for attaching your cells to the panel
  • Use quality backer material – As with your solar cells, you don’t want to skimp on your panel backer board. The backer is the hardest part to replace, and you’ll save money in the long run by constructing a solid backer board in the beginning.
  • Take your time – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will be your solar panels. (It might take a weekend)
  • Let a qualified electrician do the final wiring – As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll need an approved electrician to do the final tie-in of your solar panel system to your home. Of course, the cost is well worth it. Another upfront cost that will lead to ongoing savings in your energy bill.


Many of the tools required for do-it-yourself solar panels you probably already have. If you’re building your panel frame out of wood, you’ll need a hammer, saw, drill, stainless steel screws (are best), screwdrivers, sandpaper, pliers, and scissors – your basic homeowner tool kit goes a long way for building solar panels.

You’ll also need:

  • Soldering iron and solder – a low-wattage iron is best for our purposes here. A high-power iron can get too hot when working with relatively fragile solar cells.
  • Multimeter – this doesn’t need to be a very fancy or expensive device, but you do need to make sure you can measure both volts and amps.
  • Caulk gun and caulk – Caulk makes a great flexible adhesive for attaching your solar panels.
  • Eye protection – Every good carpenter knows to use eye protection when working with power tools. It’s also a good idea to wear eye protection when soldering. What the heck, just wear protection at all times while working on your solar panels.

Build your own solar panelThe Future Is Now With Solar Power

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that do-it-yourself solar panels is the right solution for everybody. Obviously that isn’t the case. Our point here is that it may be real option for many people that have never considered it before, or are serious about getting into solar power but have been scared away by the high cost of retail.

One thing is certain: we are well on our way into a new century that will dawn a new energy economy. Though the road ahead is still long, we are well on our way, and the sooner we get there, the better off the world will be for future generations.

Home solar power can really be a win-win-win. With solar panels that you build yourself you can gain an economic advantage now, gain greater energy independence now, and help pave the way for an environmentally sustainable future.


Featured image credit: Erik Gregg, courtesy Flickr

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schuenemanhttps://tdsenvironmentalmedia.com
Tom is the founder and managing editor of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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  1. Interesting. I knew panels were fairly basic, but didn’t realise you could simply by the cells yourself so cheaply. When I buy a place I’ll probably get a smart meter installed that allows for me to continue to increase panels as my own pace and work from there.
    My only question would be, what would suit as a good covering?

  2. I just heard about a very cool corporate social responsibility new company called Invested Interests that does socially responsible investing and gives individuals the ability to screen their investments. So if you own any mutual fund you can see what percentage of your money is supporting BP and its subsidiaries. They have an ad-based model so it’s all free. It’s awesome

  3. I don’t think a lot of people know how easy and inexpensive it is to build your own solar panels. It’s a great way to get into the solar energy game. And the ultimate goal being someday hooking up to the grid, using less power than you contribute and getting a check each month from the electric company!

  4. Solar power energy has a lot to offer to man than any person can imagine. This solar power energy is realized courtesy of the sun that rises every day oblivious of the niceties that falls in its wake. This solar power energy when well harnessed fills the inadequacies of virtually every human being on the planet Earth.

  5. Build your own solar panel power system with grid tie inverter a battery bank, components you need and a full description on this website www dashony com

  6. I think this is great and maybe at some point of time I am going to try to build one, too. At the same time, I think reducing the power usage is also going to help when one is on solar panel. The most saving I can think of is the lighting energy. Choosing LED lights along with solar panel will be a real win win. I don’t have a solar panel yet but I have started replacing some bulbs with LEDs and they are great in saving energy. The quality of LED lights have improved a lot. Big company like Philips, GE, Sylvania are having new LED lights every 6 months, and small company like Tuwago, Nexxus are also putting out wonderful lights that often outperform the name brands.

  7. Very interesting site and information. I had installed just a year ago a commercial 5.2 KW solar system on the roof of my house in North Georgia. This information is very worthwhile, as I’m interested to extend the size of the installation, if finance will work out.

  8. Great article, solar power is brilliant and it is good that so many people are starting to use it. With there being such a greater interest in ‘going green’ alternative energy sources are becoming more and more popular, from heat pumps to biomass boilers.

  9. Your organization is doing a good job.I am working on how to build a local solar panel using:sand,cement,black paint,electrodes and cables.I want to know if you have done something like this before.

  10. Great article, solar power is brilliant and it is good that so many people are starting to use .Solar Medix have over 17 years of experience in the field. solar panel roof replacement Solar Medix is built on the notion that not all installations are the same, and not all equipment is made equally.


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