DIY Solar Power

Building a DIY solar power system is by far the cheapest way of going solar. It may take a bit of research and it may take a few practical skills but in the end you could end up saving over 50% off a standard solar power kit and over 80% off a full solar power installation.

The advantages of home made solar panels are enormous both environmentally and financially. Not only can a solar system you build yourself pay for itself in under a 4 years and continue to save you a fortune for the rest of it's life, but it can also enable you to sell power back to the grid for profit, add up to 5% to the value of your home, save over 4 tons of CO2 a year, as well as a host of other advantages.

DIY Solar panels

What you need for DIY solar power

Some websites claim that you can make your own solar power system for under $100 but while this may be possible, you'll probably end up with something powerful enough to power a light bulb and that's it. So for a proper, efficient and profitable system you do need to spend a bit of money on key components.

In the situation below we are going to put together a 500 Watt solar power system which is enough to power your lights, and most other small appliances in your home.

The components you will need to buy for a 500 Watt (0.5kW) home solar system:

Inverter

A solar inverter converts the DC power which is produced by solar panels into AC power which most units in your house use. Actually your laptop runs on DC power which is why you have that little box on the cable. That little box is an inverter which changes AC power to DC power.

I don't know how you would go about making one of these and I can safely assume that you don't either so you will have to buy one, both for convenience and safety. Luckily they are not expensive and the 1200 watt inverter you need for a system this size can be bought for about $100.

Charge controller

This is another complicated but essential piece of kit which has the task of controlling how much power is directed to the batteries. It's main duty is stop the batteries from over charging.

Most of your devices which run on batteries and thus need charging like laptops, phones, Ipods etc. all have charge controllers. Of course you don't need this if you don't want batteries but batteries really are important. A charge controller can also direct power to the meter (grid-tie system) so that it can be sold back to the grid once the batteries are charged.

Again these solar charge controllers are not expensive and you can buy a suitable one for about $40.

Batteries

Batteries are an important part of any solar power system as without them you wouldn't be able to light your house at night or save any energy at all.

You may immediately think that car batteries would be a good option but this is not true as you need a batteries which are capable of being charged and drained thousands of times and traditional car batteries are just not good at this. For an efficient, sustainable system it is worth investing in some decent batteries. Follow this link for the specifcations you want.

12v Solar power batteries can cost around $100 and for 500 watt diy solar power you will need about 4 (or more) batteries so that's $400.

Solar panels

Solar panels are the most important part of DIY solar power as their size and wattage determines how much power your solar system will produce. Follow this link for more information about building solar panels at home.

This 500 watt solar power system we are building is enough to charge up the batteries for power at night as well as most of your lighting and some small appliances. If you want a bigger system then do the maths and buy bigger solar panels!

So, for a 0.5kW system you would need 500 watts of solar panels (e.g. 2x250w panels) which currently cost about $2 per watt meaning that your panels will cost about $1000 if you buy directly from solar panel manufacturers.

The alternative option is to make your own solar panels which is actually not as difficult as it sounds.

Total cost

So as you can see the price of your DIY solar power system is well below half of what you might pay for a fully installed system and a lot less than investing in a complete kit.

The total cost of the DIY solar system above is $1735 and with the extra wiring and brackets etc we can round this up to $1800.

Batteries are recommended but not essential and without them you kit is reduced to $1400.

In America you an get a 30% tax credit against this investment taking the cost down to $1260 with the batteries or just under $1000 without them.

This system will save an average of $250 per year off your bill so it will pay for itself in about 4 years. DIY solar power systems such as this usually last longer that 30 years and by the end of this period you could find yourself at least but probably more than $6240 better off!

DIY solar power components

I want more power!

DIY solar power has the advantage of being easily exapnded. The only thing limiting this expansion is the inverter which will need to be replaced for a more powerful one if you want to add more solar panels. If you think you may want to increase the size and ouput of you solar power system at a later date then invest in a bigger inverter at the beginning to avoid having to replace it.

Sell power back to the grid

The DIY solar power system on this page is an off-grid system meaning that it is not connected to the national grid. If you are generating excess power then you can link your system up to your meter and then your power utility company has to by law buy back the power you produce.

How will the system look

Lot's of peoples views about DIY is that it can end up disastrously and indeed it can, but if you are careful and follow a guide/manual properly then there is no reason why DIY solar power can't even look beautiful.

The image below shows how your solar power system will look.

DIY Solar power layout

Lots of people document their own experiences regarding DIY solar power on the web and you can find numerous blogs like this one which are full of pictures and interesting information about DIY solar panels.

What next?

Now you need to go and start building your system. To do this properly and safely always follow a guide and consult an expert. There are many ebooks and resources online that can help you like this one.

I'm still lost!

If you find yourself confused by the information on this page and are maybe doubting your ability to put together such a system then you have two options.

  1. Buy a Solar power kit which just needs to be installed and plugged in.
  2. Try harder to understand or follow a guide like the one on this page.

Building your own panels

Building your own solar panels is the first step in going solar for yourself. It is cheap and cost effective but there are some dangers and you need to be careful and follow a good guide. Follow this link for the dangers and precautions you need to take when you build your own solar panel.

Also take a look at why some succeed and others fail before setting out to build your own solar panels.

DIY solar water heater

For a cheap alternative to a full solar power system you can employ the use of a solar water heater. These can be made simply and easily at a minimal cost. Follow this link for more information about DIY solar water heater.

Contact me

If you have any concerns or questions about the information on this page page then please don't hesitate to follow this link and contact me directly and I will try and answer your query immediately.

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