Making the frame for your Homemade DIY solar panel

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There are several methods for building the frame or enclosure for the DIY solar panel  you are making.  The thing most important to remember when building one is that it is water and air tight, to prevent condensation.

Most common homemade DIY solar panels that are being constructed today are made from plywood, about 7/16" inch or 3/4" inch thick, and with wood strips going around the outer edge.  Basically you are building something similar to a shadow box.  Something to keep in mind when building your box is that you don't want your box too thick or it may shadow out the sun when it is on and angle.  I built my panel with 3/4" inch square wood strips. The length and width depends on how big the panel is that your going to construct. The strips will go all around the outer edge of your plywood. The wood strips are then glued in place. I recommend using PL premium polyurethane construction adhesive. You can use screws for extra strength if  needed.

Once your box is constructed you can then paint the entire wood frame inside and out, with a good paint like oil base or some other type of waterproofing paint or protection.  Some people recommend using a UV protection paint to prevent the wood from damaging in the sun.  I recommend painting the box inside and out with 3 coats of white water proof paint , making sure it is completely dry between coats.  Using white paint will keep your solar panel cooler thus making the solar cells cooler which helps to keep the efficiency up.  When building solar panels this is very important.


  Videos of homemade DIY solar panels

Now that you have built your frame for your DIY solar panel you are ready to prep your Plexiglas piece to fit on top.  Do this before you begin setting your solar cells in place. Cut the Plexiglas to fit your frame.  The Plexiglas will be screwed using drywall screws or whatever screw you prefer.  It will also be siliconed in place to make it water tight. The screws will hold the glass tight to the frame or wood strips. Therefore, you need to drill small pilot holes in the Plexiglas so it does not split and crack.  This should also be done to the wood frame to prevent it from cracking and splitting as well. You also need to figure out where exactly on your frame you will need to drill your holes for your positive and negative wires. It is very important to do all necessary drilling before you set your cells in place.  After you are done drilling your pilot holes make sure your frame is completely free and clear of dust.

You are now ready to silicone your cells in place. Make sure all cells are soldered properly in series and that each row has tabbing wire hanging off both ends, one that is positive and one that is negative for each row of cells. When putting your rows in, they will go in opposite directions. The rows will be alternating from positive to negative, this is series. When you figure out exactly how they should be placed you will then need to silicone them to your frame or enclosure.  Please make sure you are putting them in properly.  Once they are siliconed in place thats it!

See below for a diagram of connecting solar cells in series. 

click to enlarge

Once you have siliconed your solar cells in place, and it is good and dry you are now ready to connect your bus or connecting wire to the tab wire that is hanging out.  Once you have them all connected and your positive and negative wires going out of the box, silicone around the wires so water does not enter through the holes. You should be ready to place your glass or Plexiglas on top. 

Embed the outer edge of your frame with silicone to form a silicone gasket.  Place your pre-cut and pre-drilled plexiglass piece on top of your frame.  You are now ready to start screwing it down. When putting your screws in, don't screw them down too tight or you could crack the Plexiglas and squeeze all the silicone out. For the most part, screwing it down is really just to hold the Plexiglas down.  Most of it will be held by the silicone. Make sure you have a nice bead of silicone for a permanent and water tight seal.  When this is good and dry then silicone the holes and the wires again on the outside, so water does not enter.  Make sure your panel is sealed good before sticking it in rain, or on the roof of your home.

Some instructions say to drill holes in the Bottom of the panel to have air flow, I recommend this as a last resort only if your getting moisture or condensation inside your box .

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