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Friday, May 28, 2010

Installing the Solar Array

Firstly, it is a good idea to clean the glass on the front of the panels first, using a water and dirt repellent glass polish or wax. These glass polishes ensure that rain and dirt do not stick to the glass, thereby reducing the performance of your home solar power systems and are available from any DIY store and many supermarkets and car parts and accessories stores.

Assembly and Connections

Some roof mounted solar mounting kits are designed to be fitted to your roof before fitting the solar panels. Others are designed to have the solar panels mounted to the fixing kits before being mounted to the roof.

With a pole mounted system, you typically erect your pole first and then fit the DIY solar panels once the pole is in position.

A ground based mounting system is the easiest to install as there is no heavy lifting to be done.
As a general rule of thumb, you tend to mount and wire the solar panels at the same time. If you are stepping up the voltage of your system by wiring the panels in series, wire up the required number of panels in series first (i.e. sets of two panels fro 24v, sets of four for 48v).

Once you have wired up a set of panels in series, test them using your multi-meter set to a voltage setting to check that you have the expected voltage (20v plus for 12v system, 40v plus for a 24v system and 80v plus for a 48v system).

Take care when taking these measurements as 40v plus can give a nasty shock in the wrong circumstances.

Once each series is wired up correctly, make up the parallel connections and then test the entire array using your multi-meter, set to voltage setting.

If you have panels of different capacities, treat the different sets of panels as separate arrays. Don’t wire panels of different capacities together, either in series or parallel. Instead, connect the arrays together at the controller.

Once you have completed testing, make the array safe so that no-one can get an electrical shock by accident from the system. To do this, connect the positive and negative cables from the solar array together to short-circuit the array. This will not damage the array and could prevent a nasty shock.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Safety When Building DIY Solar Panels

There are a few safety notices we ought to go through when building DIY solar panels. Some of these may not be relevant to you, but read through them all first just to make sure.

Remember, you are working with electricity, dangerous chemicals and heavy but fragile objects. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Your First Aid Kit

You will need a good first aid kit on hand, including some items that you won’t normally have to hand. Most specifically, you will need an eye-wash and a wash kit or gel that can be applied to skin in case of contact with battery acid.

Chemical Clean Up kit

You will be working with lead acid batteries which contain chemicals that are hazardous to health. You will require the following:
  • A chemical clean up kit suitable for cleaning up batteries fluids (sulphuric acid) in the case of a spill.
  • You will also need a supply of strong polythene plastic bags
  • A good supply of rags/disposable wipes to mop up any battery spillages.
Chemical clean up kits and chemical first aid kits are available from most battery wholesalers. They only cost a few pounds. You probably wont need them, but if nothing else they buy you peace of mind.

Considering the general public

If you are working in an area where the general public has access, you should use barriers or fencing, and signage to cordon off the area. Clear diversion signage should explain an alternative route.
  • In this scenario, I would recommend employing a professional team of builders to carry out the installation work on your behalf. They will already understand the implications of working in a public area and the relevant Health and Safety regulations.
Working at height

You are very likely to be working at height and quite possibly crawling around on slanted rooftops.

Make sure you are using suitable climbing equipment (ladders crawler boards, safety harnesses, scaffolding). You can hire anything that you haven’t got at reasonable prices.

If you have any concerns about working at heights, or it you are working beyond your area of competence at any time, remember there is no shame in hiring a professional. A professional builder can fit a solar array to a roof in 2-3 hours – typically less than half the time it takes an amateur DIY enthusiast.


Batteries, large inverters and solar arrays can be heavy. Solar panels themselves may not be heavy in their own right, but when several of them are mounted on a frame and then lifted they are heavy, bulky and fragile.

Moving and installing much of this equipment is a two person job as a minimum. More people can be useful when lifting a solar array into position.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Solar Power System - Positioning Batteries, Controllers and Inverters

You need to identify a suitable location for batteries. This could be a room within a building or a separate building or battery housing.

It is important to try and keep the entire solar power system – solar array, batteries, controllers and inverters – as close together as possible in order to keep the lengths of cable required as short as possible.

You are looking for a location that fits the following criteria:

• Water and weather proof
• Not affected by direct sunlight
• Insulated to protect against extremes temperature
• Facilities to ventilate gases
• Protected from sources of ignition
• Away from children and pets

Lead acid batteries give off very small quantities of explosive gases when charging. You must ensure that wherever your batteries are stored, the area receives adequate external ventilation to ensure these gases cannot build up.

Because of the extremely high potential currents involved with lead acid batteries, the batteries need to be held in a secure area away from children and pets.

Batteries should not be installed directly onto a concrete floor. In extreme cold weather concrete can cause an additional temperature drop inside the batteries, adversely affecting performance.For all of the above reasons, batteries are often mounted on heavy duty racking which is t6hen made secure usi9ng an open-mesh cage.

If you installing your batteries in an area that can get very cold or very hot, you should insulate your batteries. Extreme temperatures does adversely affect the performance of batteries, so if your batteries are likely to be in an area where the temperature drops below 0 deg.c(32 deg.F)or rise above 45 deg c(113 deg.F), you should consider providing insulation.

Polystyrene (Styrofoam) sheets can be used underneath and around the sides of the batteries to keep the batteries insulated. DO NOT INSULATE THE TOP OF THE BATTERIES as this will stop the batteries from venting properly and may cause shorts in the batteries if the insulating material you use is conductive.

Controllers and inverters need to be mounted as close to the batteries as possible. These are often wall mounted, but can also be mounted to racking. They need to be mounted indoors.

Large inverters can be extremely heavy, so if you are planning to wall mount one, make sure that the wall is a load-bearing wall and able to take the weight.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Working With Lead Acid Batteries

Lead acid batteries are extremely heavy, in some cases weighting as much as an adult. Use proper lifting gear to move them and look after your back.

Heavier batteries quite often have hoops in the top case. To lift a battery, I tend to use a piece of rope threaded through these hoops to create a carrying handle. This means a battery can be carried close to the ground whilst reducing the need for anyone to bend over to pick up the battery.

Lead acid batteries contain sulphuric acid which is extremely corrosive and extremely dangerous to health. Splashes of liquid from the batteries can cause severe chemical burns and must be dealt with immediately.

When working with lead acid batteries, stay safe:
  • ALWAYS wear protective clothing – including overalls, eye protection (either protective glasses or a full-face shield) and protective gloves. Steel toe-capped shoes are also advised.
  • Keep batteries upright at all times.
  • Do not drop a battery. If you do, the likelihood is that the battery has been damaged. In the worst case scenario, the casing could be cracked or broken.
  • If you drop a battery, place it immediately in a spill tray (a heavy duty deep greenhouse watering tray can be used if necessary) and check for damage and leaks.
  • If you have a damaged battery, both the battery and the spill tray must be double bagged in sealed polythene bags and marked as hazardous waste.
  • If you have a spillage from a battery, mop up the spillage immediately using rages or disposable wipes. Place these rages in a polythene plastic bag, seal it and mark it as hazardous waste.
  • If any spillage from a battery comes into contact with clothing, remove clothing immediately and dispose it in polythene plastic bags.
  • If any spillage from battery comes into contact with eyes, wash repeatedly with eye-wash and seek urgent medical help.
  • If any spillage from a battery comes into contact with skin, wash off immediately with water, apply an anti-acid wash, cream or gel to stop burning and then seek urgent medical help.
  • If you end up with battery acid in your mouth, wash your mouth out with milk.
  • Do not smoke near batteries and ensure that wherever you are storing the batteries is well ventilated.
  • Try to prevent arcing or short circuits on battery terminals. Batteries can provide a huge current very quickly – short circuit a battery with a spanner and the spanner is likely to be real hot within a few seconds, and could easily lead to fire or explosion. Remove any rings, bracelets or watches you may be wearing and keep tools a safe distance away from batteries.
You may also be interested in checking out battery reconditioning and how to recondition battery.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Future Proof Your Solar Power System

You do need to consider the future when you build your own solar power system. The system will have a lifetime of 20 years plus, so you need to ensure – as far as possible – that the system will be effective for that length of time.

When scanning the horizon, take into account that trees and hedges will grow during the lifetime of the system. A small spruce in a nearby garden now could grow into a monster in the space of a few years, and if that is a risk it is best to know about that now rather than have a nasty surprise a few years down the line.

See if there are any applications for building work to be carried out and try to assess the likelihood of future building work that could have an impact on shading.

It is also worth finding out if fog or heavy mist is a problem at certain times of the year. If the site has regular problems with heavy mist, the efficiency of your solar array will be compromised.

What if there are obstructions?

If there are obstructions, you need to ascertain at what point during the day the obstruction occur.

Anything due south is a major problem as this will be the position of the sun when the intensity of the sunlight is at its highest. Core power generation occurs between 9am and 3pm. If you have shading either before 9am or after 3pm, you’ll lose around 20% of your capability or 40% of your capability if you have shading both before 9am and after 3pm.

During the winter, the difference is not so great – if you have shading before 9am or after 3pm during the winter, you’ll probably be losing only around 10% of your generating capabilities during this time.

If you have shading during your core power generation times, you need to give serious thought as to whether you should continue with a solar implementation: the performance of your solar system will be severely compromised. You may be better off investigating other energy options such as wind power or fuel cells, either instead of using solar or in combination with a smaller solar electric system.

Alternatively, if obstructions occur for part of the day - such as during the morning or during the afternoon, you can consider increasing the number of solar panels you purchase and angling them away from the obstruction to increase their collection of sunlight during the unobstructed parts of the day.

The final option if there are obstructions is to use a solar tracker in order to improve the efficiency of your DIY solar panel throughout the day.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Do You Need To Use The Solar Power System?

It is important to work out at what times of year you will most be using your home solar power systems. For instance, if you are planning to use your system full time during the depths of winter, your solar power system needs to be able to generate electricity even during the dull days of winter.

A holiday home is often in regular use during the spring, summer and autumn, but quite often left empty for periods of time during the winter.

This means that during winter, we don’t need our solar power system to provide enough electricity for full occupancy – just so long as the batteries are large enough to provide enough electricity for the occasional long weekend, with the solar array recharging the batteries again once the home is vacated.

We could also decide that if additional electricity in winter was required we could have a small standby generator on hand to give the batteries a boost charge.

For the purposes of our holiday home, our system must provide enough electricity for full occupancy from March through October and occasional weekend use from November until February.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Checking for Obstacles When Installing Your Home Solar Power Systems

Go to the position where you are planning to put your home solar power systems and find due south with a compass. Looking from the same height as your proposed location, and working from east to west, you need to check that there are no obstacles, such as trees or buildings that can obscure the sun at its lowest winter height.

To do this, you will need to find out what position the sun rises and sets at different times of the year. Thankfully, this is easy to find out.

The easiest way to identify potential obstructions is to use a protractor and tape a pencil to the centre of the protractor where all the lines meet, in such a way that the other end of the pencil can be moved across the protractor, as shown below:

You can use this protractor to check the field of view, using the pencil as an ‘aimer’ to show the angle of the sun in the sky based on different times of the year.

Be very careful not to look directly at the sun, even for a few moments, whilst you are carrying out this survey. Even in the middle of winter ‘retina burn’ can cause permanent damage to your eyesight. Your survey needs to ensure there are no obstacles in the depths of winter when the sun is only a few degrees up in the sky.

In the case of London, on the 21st December the sun will be only 15 half deg high at midday (at due south) and lower than that for the rest of the day.

If there are obstacles that are blocking visibility of the sun, you need to try and find another location, or find other ways around the obstacle – such as mounting the solar array higher up on a frame.

Of course, if you don’t need your solar power system to produce much power during the winter months this may not be a problem for you. However, you should always make sure that there are no obstacles that can shade your system for the times of year you need your DIY solar panels to work.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Save the earth Using Solar Power

With Solar power systems being in the news these days because of the going green mentality. There is ongoing debate about dependence on foreign oil. It is easy to use solar energy to power our homes and we are all aiming towards doing so.

Using solar energy is a simple idea. By building home solar power systems for your house to power your TV, coffee maker, microwave oven, and even the lights in your home, you could cut down on your power bills.

Since the sun produces all the energy needed for everyone and everything in the world to survive, it is thus logical to use the sun as a source of energy for your household needs.

DIY solar panels collect sun rays that heat copper tubing which produces electrical energy that is converted into electrical current and channeled through twelve volt batteries and condensers which then provide power.

This system not only saves money on your electric bill, if you know where you can find all the necessary items or parts and can find a reasonable deal, then building solar panels should not cost you more than $100. This type of ingenuity is what drives new ideas and new inventions.

Solar power had initially been a novel idea, a creative means for university students to research a class project. But now using solar energy is in the news as the effects it has on our environment is positive.

Whatever your opinion about environmental issues like global warming you have to agree that burning oil and coal and sending smoke up into the air is just not good for the air we all breathe. Now is the time we all give solar power a serious look. We need to put this technology that will, at least in part, make this a cleaner world to live into use.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The 5 Top Benefits of Using Solar Power

Most people who are going to power their homes using home solar power systems realize it is good for the environment and is also a sound financial option compared to other investments. For one thing before undertaking such an investment you or I want to know in detail is what their greener power system will produce. For instance, by installing the right solar power system for your needs can make the difference between a good and a bad investment.

Let's take a look at The Top 5 Benefits of Converting Your Home To Solar Power.

Reduced electricity bills:

One of the biggest advantages of building solar panels is that you will reduce your electricity bills. It is very easy to work out how much power your solar system will produce and consequently your reduced dependency on fossil fuels.


Although some people think a solar power system is high-tech. The reality is they are quite simple. There are no moving parts. The sun shines on your panels, a reaction takes place within the panels and electricity is produced, controlled and flows into your house hold system (simplistic version I know!). Because of this there is very little maintenance to undertake and in turn this means systems can last for up to 25 years.


Our Government has a strong interest in promoting solar power because of its overriding positive environmental impact as well as the sought-after political goal of energy independence. The best way to promote solar power is to get more people to invest in it and the best way to do this is to support financially and drive the costs down. Subsidies, rebates, and tax breaks are common and they are becoming more widespread every day. In some states, the total discount on a solar system can be as much as 50%

Hedging your bets:

Every investment requires you to predict the future. Do you think our future energy costs are going to rise? If you do, powering your home by solar will be a very wise decision. When you reduce your power bills down to practically zero, they will stay there in spite of of how much energy costs rise.

Knowing you've made a change:

There are many other benefits to converting to solar that are less easy to define. The first time you see your electric meter go backwards! That's the power company buying your excess energy. Ask anybody who has installed a diy solar panel and they will more than likely advise you that it is great! They are very happy they took the decision and will advise you to do the same.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Facts On How a Solar Panel Works

Solar panels, which are also known as photovoltaic systems (PV), consist of a group of solar cells. These solar cells contain semi conductive material called crystalline silicon. This crystalline silicon absorbs the sun's light and stores it very efficiently to be used for electricity.

These home solar power systems are usually attached to the roofs of houses, which will make electricity to power the entire house. They will produce enough power to run all the appliances, electronic equipment, pools, hot water tanks, outside lighting, etc. Larger buildings like hospitals, schools, hotels, and businesses can also benefit from solar energy. Although it takes a lot more panels to power these larger buildings, it can still be done very easily by just attaching more panels to the building. You can also store enough solar energy to power up these huge buildings at night and when it is cloudy.

In no time at all, you could build your own solar panel, generating power that will be stored in deep cell batteries for future consumption and it costs just pennies on the dollar! There are diy solar panels available for you to take advantage of the energy generating kit at home. If you are careful and make sure that you get the right instructional manual and videos, they are so easy to understand that even a beginner with no experience at all will be able to do this.

These kits should also let you see the history of many excited customers mentioning positive reviews about all the money they have saved. Most of them who have built the devices can't believe how simple it was and they are eager to share their success. They have actually saved 100% of their electric power bill!

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