Use Solar Panels to Save Money and the Environment

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Solar Panels to Save Money

The notion of unlimited and free energy has naturally attracted the interest of the environmentally conscious and frugal to use solar panels to save money and the environment. You can begin and enter this world by building panels yourself. You will need to use a guide book and a kit that provides easy to follow instructions and includes videos as an aid. You will have to do your research to find what works for you. When used properly these kits are a great learning opportunity and help you power simple devices. More kits are coming on the market as there is enormous demand for trying this route to energy production. For those who do not want to go all the way yet, this is a good place to start. Solar energy production techniques are being refined and improved on, so it may be wise not to make major investments at this time. In fact as revealed in the British media in February 2010, scientists have discovered a plastic that can store and release energy and may make batteries obsolete.

Save money with solar panels you build yourself

Solar panels are a collection of solar cells wired together. They produce an electrical current when struck by sunlight. Although, solar cells generate minimal electricity individually, grouped together they generate substantially more. You can save money by building them yourselves rather than purchase them prefabricated. You can easily purchase solar cells you will wire together to make a panel online. You can purchase good quality whole cells, or lesser quality cells that are cheaper but are blemished in some way. Pre-tabbed cells facilitate wiring. You can save up to half to three quarters of the cost, if you make the panel yourself compared to a premade panel. If you purchase the wood and pretabbed cells a panel can cost a little over 100 USD for a small system for a few small devices. If you use scrap wood laying around and tab the cells yourself, the cost can be below 100 USD per panel. You would need basic tools that can be purchased at the local hardware store. Silicone caulk, wood glue and for the wiring, wire cutters, wire strippers, a soldering iron and solder would also be needed. If you want to power your whole house, the cost will be steeper.

A solar power system generates electricity, uses batteries to store the power and a charge controller to regulate the power produced by the cells mounted on a weatherproof enclosure and charge the batteries, and a power inverter converting the direct current electricity from the battery to alternating current electricity used in the house. For a very simple system you can also not use a charge controller and just attach the panel to the batteries. However, a charge controller will refill batteries when power is used up to keep them fully charged. There are 2 types of inverters, the: Modified Sine Wave and the True Sine Wave. The True Sine Wave is more costly but is able to replicate the electricity current type more exactly and is worth the cost, depending on your needs. Solar systems can use standard sealed lead acid 12 volt batteries also used in cars. If you only want to power a few very small items, you might consider other types of batteries that are lighter in weight. A system can be sufficiently potent to power a house, or limited enough to power one appliance or a few. The cost and the sophistication of the materials needed will vary with the size of the house. The simplest systems have limited applications.

Do it yourself solar panels

The number of solar panels needed depends on your intentions. Your power bill will provide important information for your calculations. The bill indicates how much electricity you currently use, which you need to use to figure out the kWh of electricity usage your panels need to produce.

The other important measure is the insulation value. Solar panels require a certain level of intensity in the sunlight. Should there be low intensity, it will reduce the power they can generate. The intensity varies during the day, and during the year. Locations have insulation values and you should know the insulation value of your location. Maps of these values are accessible online. With this measurement, you can simply divide the kWh of electricity you will need to produce daily by the insulation value to determine what is needed for your panels. However, for accuracy you will you need to keep in mind there is always a loss in conversion. Generally this loss is about 25 percent. Hence, you will need to multiply whatever your final figure turns out to be by 1.25 to take this conversion loss into account. Now that you have your daily kWh requirement adjusted for insulation and efficiency, you will know how much power your solar panels should produce. To determine how many solar panels are needed, you divide the power output you calculated by the power output of a single panel. Solar maps that indicate average sun for different areas are a guide. If a solar panel is located in an area with double the score, it can produce twice the electricity with the same size panel. If you reside in a location with a low score, more or larger solar panels will be needed to produce the electricity required.

How to build solar panels

To build your own panels, knowledge about the different solar cells is a requisite. Two types of solar cells are readily available. The most efficient type is the monocrystalline cell. This is more costly, but delivers the highest energy output and lasts longer. Polycrystalline cells produce less power; but, they are also cheaper. A simple system can be devised relatively easily. After you have decided on the type of cells you want you can build such a system by gluing and mounting them on a strong backing board and wiring them. A thick piece of plywood can serve as a backing board. The wiring diagram included with the purchased cells indicates the different voltages they can produce. Decide on the voltage and thus the cells needed to produce it. Then, lay the cells in a rectangle to give you the size you need for the backing board.

After the backing board is sized correctly and cut, the solar cells can be mounted on it. They are attached using a silicone caulk. Applying caulk to the middle of the back of each cell, then lay out all the cells in the layout you decided on and glue each cell in place. The next step is to wire the cells together to form a panel. If you have bought pretabbed cells you will need to solder the tabs together. Otherwise, you will have to solder on tabs before you attach the cells. If you plan on using a charge controller you will not need a diode, which prevents the current from flowing back into the panel from the batteries, when there is no sunlight. But, if you plan to attach the cells to the battery, you may want to solder on a diode. Once this process is completed, you need to enclose the panels in a weatherproof structure.

Plexiglass or Lexan material can be used for the transparent top which allows sunlight to strike the cells. A liberal amount of caulking seals the enclosure. Your unit is complete and is ready to be placed on the roof or the ground location you have decided on. The enclosure may be built from different materials. The easiest material to use is wood and the simple system described here will not need anything different. The enclosure dimensions will depend on the number of panels you intend to use. The transparent top will have to be cut accordingly. Inside the enclosure the cells will be attached to a piece of wood or material. The wood cut to make the enclosure will need to be screwed together. Of course, a hole must be drilled for the wires to exit the box from the bottom of the enclosure. The wooden panel with attached solar cells will be glued into the container. The transparent top will need to be put down on top of the container. A connector can be soldered to the end of the wires depending on what the panel will be attached to. The panel can be tested by hooking up a voltmeter to the panel in direct sunlight. Your experiment with solar electricity can then begin and show you how to save money with solar panels you build yourself.

Article Source: ezine

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