Build Solar Panels - Meeting the Challenges

Understanding the challenges associated when you build solar panels for your home is critical for the success of the project. These tips will help your DIY solar panels project to go smoothly and to be a success!

There are some basic determination to be made before beginning such project, such as location, construction and maintenance, permits and inspections, as well as costs and savings. It is important to evaluate these issues before beginning your solar project.

Location - Where to Build a Solar Panel?

The very first challenge you must face is to determine whether it is practical to build solar panels to install at the location you have chosen. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you make this determination.

The Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory has a calculator that uses your zip code and the current average energy costs where you live to calculate the value of the energy that it is possible to produce with solar energy at your house.

This is a very useful and effective tool, however it will not take into account any obstacles, such as other buildings or trees, which might block the sun from your location. You need to ensure that the solar panels will be receiving 5 – 6 hours of sunlight from approximately 9 am to 3 pm, when the sunlight is strongest.

Working with Solar Cells

The solar cells you will need to build your solar panels are very fragile, chipping and breaking easily. Handle them carefully, especially when soldering the wires to the cells and when gluing the cells themselves to plywood or other surfaces. Keep their surfaces clean, as any dirt or film build-up will reduce their ability to pick up energy from the sun. Buy a few extra cells, just in case!

Construction and Maintenance

Although it is not exceedingly difficult to build solar panels yourself, it does require that you be comfortable working with tools, following plans and problem solving. Although the solar panels themselves can be built in a reasonable amount of time, installing them is not a weekend project. Acquiring the permits and inspections requires time and patience, and it is possible that you will have to do some modifications to your system before it passes inspection. On-going maintenance and repairs will be necessary.

Permits and Inspections

Depending on where you live, and the size of the system you are plan to build, it may be necessary to obtain building or electrical permits before you can legally install solar panels at the location you have chosen. Be sure that you know whether permits are required before you proceed with your installation, and don't forget to factor them into the cost of your project. Once you have completed your project, it may be necessary to have your work inspected. You will have to arrange and pay for any building and utility inspections required to approve your work.

Average Cost

The average cost to have solar panels installed in your home is currently considered to be between $8 and $10 per watt. However, you can reduce that cost considerably by buying solar cells for $1 - $3 per watt and using them to build solar panels for your home yourself. You still have to factor in the costs of glass, electrical and other supplies, permits, and inspections, but you will be able to achieve significant savings over installing a manufactured system. Rebates and Other Incentives

Currently, most states and the federal government are offering tax credits and rebates that can reduce the cost of your electrical system even more, in some cases, up to 50% Check with your local electric provider to see which incentive programs are offered where you live.

Net Metering

Net metering is a program available with some power companies whereby, any excess power generated by the customer's solar panels actually causes their electric meters to turn backwards; giving them credit for their excess power at the going power rates they are being charged. In areas where net metering is not available, the excess power is measured with a separate meter. Unfortunately, the amount paid by the electric company to the customer to buy this power, are usually much less than the rates the customers are charged. Of course, if your system is off-grid, net metering is not available.

Although using solar cells to build solar panels can be challenging, ultimately, it is an extremely worthwhile project. Using solar energy is less stressful to the environment, allows you to be more independent of the electric power grid, and saves you money over the long run.

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