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Are DIY Solar Panels Worth it?

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  • Jason
    started a topic Are DIY Solar Panels Worth it?

    Are DIY Solar Panels Worth it?

    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 mostly 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 are said to not 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. (www.sunelec.com) 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.

    Lastly, don't pay for those DIY Solar Panel Guides you see polluting the Internet, such as Earth4Energy.

    See Here: Earth4Energy Scam

    These guides are nothing more then a bunch of information gathered from the Internet that you can get for free anyway. Your better off just coming here to Solar Panel Talk and learn for free.

    This thread is intended to shed some reality on what your getting into, not to tell you it's not possible!

    Any other input is welcome and encouraged. Thanks for reading!

  • SirHund
    replied
    From my personal experience, and I hate to say this... But the DIY panel builds are simply good for learning the ins and outs of how the system actually goes together and potential troubleshooting knowledge down the road. No way shape or form am I discouraging it but don't begin to think you will save boo koo bucks (like I thought) even after scavenging glass and reusable junction boxes.
    IT'S a for sure fun project but after time and money spent ...the savings of 0.00-100.00 maybe depending on your build just isn't worth letting someone else slap them together and throw you a warranty.

    Obviously this is my own opinion but it was formed from actually going through the motions. I am glad I did it though.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mike90250
    replied
    Originally posted by kevinpcox View Post
    ...... The director of the nonprofit has tasked me to see what I could do to get a DIY solar project started later this summer. In the absence of expensive, imported factory sealed panels, I thought an imperfect solution would be better than none. I suppose I'll get a materials list, follow a youtube tutorial, and try to build one at home in the next couple of months, then try to bring some cells down with me and try to replicate the effort down there with locally purchased materials.
    Then get a list of what you need, and what you can get locally.
    Fieldlines has a great 4 part tutorial on how to DIY PV panels. It's a couple scales of magnitude harder than boiling willow bark to make aspirin.

    https://www.solarpaneltalk.com/forum...9693#post49693

    All the different parts in the panel (Glass, EVA, Tedlar) are designed to protect the cells. There are no other suitable parts to replace those.
    Use shower door glass, you loose a couple % in light loss, skip the Tedlar, and your cells soak up moisture and rot out in a couple years. Same for bedding them in silicone.
    Epoxy might be clear for a year or three, and then it yellows, and the temperature coefficient mismatch eventually cracks the cells in a year or so. Painted wood frames pass water vapor and rot the cells. On the cheap, look at a place in Florida, SunElectric and see what they have - cheaper and more reliable than you can produce with unskilled labor.



    Leave a comment:


  • kevinpcox
    replied
    Thanks for the responses- I know that a lot of the people in this forum are professionals, and many responses will be from the perspective of builders that are governed by American standards for zoning and regulation. Of course I would probably never attempt a DIY project to power anything more than a garden shed here at home. But my experience in Haiti is that people are very poor, have no resources, and certainly no money to buy or import solar panels. Last summer my teen daughter and I went there to unload a shipping container of donated medical supplies and set up a clinic, and to document American doctors training the locals. The director of the nonprofit has tasked me to see what I could do to get a DIY solar project started later this summer. In the absence of expensive, imported factory sealed panels, I thought an imperfect solution would be better than none. I suppose I'll get a materials list, follow a youtube tutorial, and try to build one at home in the next couple of months, then try to bring some cells down with me and try to replicate the effort down there with locally purchased materials.

    Leave a comment:


  • bcroe
    replied
    Originally posted by kevinpcox View Post
    I want to start a DIY solar panel project for people living in Haiti. I work with a Haitian non-profit community focused on health and community empowerment. Very few people in rural Haiti have any kind of electricity and solar has big potential to change lives. If I can build one solar panel there in Haiti, I think many more will follow.
    You would do well to study possible applications, then design and build up a working system with available
    components, as a model for more work. The actual panels are only a part of a practical installation.

    My own experience with DIY panels, is that most of the methods described by amateurs give panels that
    are doomed to very poor performance, and soon fail. The best panels I could build required components
    making them as expensive per watt as commercial panels, required high skill levels, were very labor intensive,
    and were quite clumsy. good luck, Bruce Roe

    Leave a comment:


  • Mike90250
    replied
    Originally posted by kevinpcox View Post
    I want to start a DIY solar panel project for people living in Haiti. I work with a Haitian non-profit community focused on health and community empowerment. Very few people in rural Haiti have any kind of electricity and solar has big potential to change lives. If I can build one solar panel there in Haiti, I think many more will follow.
    Because of the local high humidity, any panels built, that are not constructed with care and vacuum ovens, will fail in a couple years. Is that the legacy you want to have associated with your name?
    Better idea is to build a PV panel Fab Plant, all modern gear, and produce panels with a 20+ year warranty. But DIY with out being sealed, is pointless

    Leave a comment:


  • kevinpcox
    replied
    I want to start a DIY solar panel project for people living in Haiti. I work with a Haitian non-profit community focused on health and community empowerment. Very few people in rural Haiti have any kind of electricity and solar has big potential to change lives. If I can build one solar panel there in Haiti, I think many more will follow.

    Leave a comment:


  • Haiqaljacob
    replied
    Originally posted by Mike90250 View Post
    Making a solar panel from raw materials, is pretty tough. Most resin does not last with UV (sunlight) exposure.
    i choose the material from PMMA ( Polymethyl methacrylate), its quite though with UV, heat water etc. and im stilll looking at the EVA film that commercial panels used, the material is same with resin PMMA. any idea of this statement? because im just heard from the electrical expert.

    If im using EVA film and laminate it, i need an expensive machine to do that. that's why i need alternate. for now im still looking the alternate that will be use for a long time.

    i would like to ask that, how much actually solar panel 100WP produce?
    because last time i make 60WP, it only produce 36watt. Please give me advice

    Thank You

    Leave a comment:


  • J.P.M.
    replied
    Originally posted by bcroe View Post

    To get rid of bubbles I bolted a vibrator to the frame, adjusted it with a variac. Bruce Roe
    I've heard the same from a few female type people I've known.

    Leave a comment:


  • bcroe
    replied
    Originally posted by Haiqaljacob View Post
    still have a lot of bubble trap on it, but i believe i can make it better without bubble.
    To get rid of bubbles I bolted a vibrator to the frame, adjusted it with a variac. Bruce Roe

    Leave a comment:


  • Mike90250
    replied
    Making a solar panel from raw materials, is pretty tough. Most resin does not last with UV (sunlight) exposure. Most plastics do not last in sunlight.
    Few plastics, paint or epoxies are "Water Vapor Tight" meaning, moisture will built up internally, Glass and metal will stop moisture vapor. When water vapor gets inside a PV panel, it starts to corrode the tab wire connections and the metal contact fingers on the cells. Then the panel fails, Look how commercial panels are made, they do it the very cheapest way they can, so they can make the most money and not have to pay warranty claims for failed panels.
    Glass, EVA, Tedlar and aluminum frames.

    Leave a comment:


  • Haiqaljacob
    replied
    Hi all,
    Im newbie in solar panel. i just finished my DIY solar panel, and will try continue to make it listing with the certificate in my country (Indonesia)
    I've made my 100WP solar panel with solar cell 0.5V 10A with 24 cells series. it produce 12V 10A, im not tested it yet with watt meter to know how much it get (progressing)
    Im using resin for encapsulation, but still have a lot of bubble trap on it, but i believe i can make it better without bubble.

    I would like to ask, If im still use resin to encapsulation can it be use for a long time (25 years)? is there any problem with it?
    i will start to build the company for solar panel in my country, and it expensive to buy machne for laminate so i try using resin. also i change the front glass with Plastic PET (to reduce the cost).

    and also, how about solar backsheet? any recommended alternatif for it? because outside the resin, the output only 2 bussbar +- and directly go into junction box.
    for now, i just thinking to use hard vinyl wallpaper but i don't know how its gonna be.

    Please advice.

    Thank You
    Warm Regards,

    -Haiqal

    Leave a comment:


  • BrentEMarvin
    replied
    Thanks for your guidance. This is really informative post. I have learn so many important tings from solar panel talk.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mike90250
    replied
    Originally posted by SNF View Post
    So please fill me up with the procedure of calculating solar system that will be save for my future investment.
    Here is 220 volt system.
    Measure your loads, generally looking at your electric bill statement shows how many KWh you used for the billing period. divide that to get KWh used every day.
    Your goal is to harvest about 80 - 90 % of your usage. It will be a little lower harvest in winter or cloudy weather, but you are looking for annual average harvest.

    Leave a comment:


  • SNF
    replied
    So please fill me up with the procedure of calculating solar system that will be save for my future investment.
    Here is 220 volt system.

    Leave a comment:

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