Things You'll Need
Solar panel system and loan calculators
Solar panel rated at 12 volts or better
Deep-cycle, continuous-use 12-volt battery
12-volt DC meter
Power inverter (DC to AC)
Humans have been using solar power for thousands of years to heat their homes. Making solar panels to collect and store the sun power for heating and other electrical uses is a much newer industry.
Solar panels are maintenance-free and provide no-cost electric energy. Depending on the size of your house, making enough solar power for your home can be expensive. Fortunately, federal and local governments are now eager to offer financial incentives for you to create your own solar power. For small needs, like warming your water heater or running small appliances, even producing a little bit of homemade solar power can significantly reduce your power usage costs.
Determine how many watts of power you need in your home, which determines how many 12-volt solar power panels you will need to make. You can find easy-to-use solar panel system and load calculators at altEuniversity on the Internet. Also, most states have solar and alternative energy information websites with electricity usage calculators and other resources to help you learn more about solar power and calculate how large a system you will need to build.
Buy a small solar panel from an RV store or an Internet supplier.
Buy a deep-cycle battery for continuous use from a marine or RV store. A regular car battery is for cranking/starting a car.
Place the battery in a childproof box to cover up exposed terminals. A plastic tub to protect it from the elements is a good choice if the battery is stored outside.
Buy a DC meter to power DC appliances (fans, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, etc.).
Invest in an AC inverter if you are running AC appliances. You need to know how many watts you need to run your "stuff"; i.e., if you need 120 watts to run a TV, VCR and lights, buy an inverter at 115 volts and 120 (or higher) watts.
Use the drill to attach the meter and DC input to the top of the box.
Use insulated wire. Attach the meter to the terminals on the battery, negative pole first. Handle only one wire at a time.
Next, connect the DC inlet to the battery, negative pole first.
Connect the solar panel in the same way.
Close the lid of the battery box. Secure with a bungee cord.
Place the solar panel in the sun: 8 hours to charge a dead battery, 3 hours to top off a weakened one.
This small system will run small wattage lights for nine to 10 hours or give you about five hours of continuous 115-volt AC power. If you need more power than this, add more or larger solar panels, inverters and batteries.
If you find this project too challenging, you can purchase solar power kits of desired wattage that you can assemble yourself.
This is a beginner’s guide to making homemade solar power. There are excellent sources on the Internet and at states’ alternative energy websites for making larger units.