First, you need to build a box for the panels. Start with a 1/2" sheet of plywood, cutting a section 2 x 4 feet. Rip some wood to make 3/4" x 3/4" strips that will glue and screw to the front of the plywood along the edges and in the middle. Cut two loose fitting pieces of 1/4" pegboard to go in the sections created by the strips.
Cut a sheet of 1/4" thick Plexiglas to cover the entire panel box. To allow for attachment to the 3/4" strips, carefully drill holes every 6" around the edges and across the middle.
Apply exterior paint generously to all sides of the wood and pegboard. You'll need several tubes of silicone for caulking all the cracks and making an airtight seal for the box. Use clear caulk and plan to seal the Plexiglas to the front when you are finished with the assembly. Be sure to use silicone in the screw holes and on top of the screws when they are installed.
You will need about 40 solar cells for your panel. The mono-crystalline cells are sold in bricks consisting of about 18 cells each. The cells are brittle and easily broken, so consider purchasing extras. Buy the cells that have tabs on them. This will save you time when soldering them together.
Arrange the cells in a design that will work within the usable areas of your panel box. When you know where the cells will be placed, solder groups of cells in easy to manage cell sections. Attach these to the pegboard with a small amount of silicone. Do not apply too much adhesive because the cells must be able to expand, contract, and move independently.
After all cells are attached, each cell will need to be wired to the next in a series circuit. You will have two wires that leave the last cell. These need to be long enough to extend through a drilled hole in the bottom of the panel. These are your power out wires.
Attach the Plexiglas cover using silicone and screws, sealing the screws afterwards with silicone. Do not over tighten the screws as this can crack the Plexiglas. Use screws with smaller shaft diameters than the drilled holes.
Check all penetrations to make sure seal is tight and no moisture can get in. If the sun is shining, you can place a volt meter on the wires and test the solar output. Now you know how to build your own solar panels.
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Article Added on Sunday, January 31, 2010
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