by PHL Council
Building solar panels can be a fun and interesting project, however, it’s important to understand what you are dealing with. The homemade built panels should be used for smaller applications such as providing light for a shed, powering small electronics etc. If you are wanting to build high wattage/current solar panels in attempt to provide electricity into your home or a bigger project, this is not recommended. Here is why:
First, homemade solar panels don’t last as long and you will see the efficiency decrease in a shorter period of time. Manufactured solar panels usually come with a 25 year warranty and last considerably longer than homemade panels (25+ years).
Homemade solar panels do not have the proper certifications to qualify for the state and federal tax rebates. Without these certifications, you wouldn’t be compliant with the building/electrical code or insurance companies. It would take thousands of dollars and several months to get your panels listed by a NRTL(Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories).
It could be a fire hazard. You should never put high powered, homemade panels consisting of wood and/or plastic over your home or flammable material. You would want to mount them on bare ground, a concrete surface, etc.
An alternative for off grid or other solar projects is getting blemished solar panels. These type of panels have small blemishes that don’t really affect the output of the panels. You can get these type of panels for $ 2.50/w up to $ 4/w including a 25 year warranty. These types of panels are not UL listed. The prices of commercial, UL listed solar panels are currently going for $ 4-5 per watt.
Here is an entry on the sun electric website regarding this matter:
“The Problem of Do It Your Self Panels. Building your own solar module can be fun and exciting. However if you want to power your building on solar power it is best to purchase manufactured panels. The cost of the materials, time, and labor will cost you more than if you buy a panel that is already guaranteed to produce over 40 years of use with a 25 year warranty. With a manufactured panel you know exactly what you’ll get and you will know that the panel is functioning correctly. In the end you’ll pay more and get less power and life.”
A solar thermal (heating) DIY would be worth looking into if your itching for a solar solution. Solar thermal produces cost effective hot water and reduces the need for gas or electricity to heat water. It’s cheaper to build a solar thermal system, and usually an easier task. Also, the payback time for solar thermal is quicker than solar electric systems.
Lastly, DON’T PAY for those DIY Solar Panel Guides you see polluting the Internet! Your better off just going to a solar forum and learn for free.