How to Build a DIY Solar Panel and Save Money on Electricity


With rising electricity costs, installing solar panels is an attractive option to save money on your energy bill. Building your own solar panel allows you to fully customize the system to meet your energy needs and budget. While complex, with the right materials and basic skills, building a DIY solar panel can be a fun and rewarding project. In this guide, I'll walk you step-by-step through designing, sourcing components, and constructing a homemade solar panel from scratch.

Determine Your Energy Needs

The first step is calculating your energy usage to properly size your solar panel system. Take into account all electrical devices and appliances used in your home or office.

Knowing your daily and monthly power consumption will help you select the proper solar components and quantity of panels needed. When in doubt, slightly oversize your system to allow for future energy demand.

Choose Solar Panel Components

Once you've calculated your energy needs, the next step is sourcing the right solar equipment. The main components are the photovoltaic (PV) cells, backing material, wiring, and a protective casing.

Photovoltaic Cells

The PV cells are the heart of the solar panel, actually converting sunlight into electricity. Monocrystalline silicon cells are the most efficient but also most expensive. Polycrystalline silicon is cheaper but slightly less efficient. More budget-friendly thin-film cells work well for smaller projects. Choose cells rated for 12V or 24V output.

Backing Material

PV cells need a solid backing to mount to. Good backing options are sheet metal, plywood, or plexiglass. Use a backing material with enough rigidity to support the cells and wiring.


You'll need copper wiring rated for outdoor use to connect the PV cells in series. Determine the wire gauge needed based on your solar panel voltage and current output. Solderable bus wire works well.


The casing holds everything together and protects against weather. For a DIY enclosure, acrylic sheets sealed with silicone caulk make a lightweight and weatherproof covering. Aluminum sheeting is another durable option.

Calculate Your Solar Array Configuration

Once you've gathered your solar components, the next key step is mapping out the panel configuration.

Assemble the Solar Panel Step-by-Step

With your components acquired and layout mapped, it's time to start building your solar panel. Follow these key steps:

1. Prepare the backing material

Cut your backing material like plywood or sheet metal to size. Drill pilot holes for wiring and mounting if needed. Lightly scuff and clean the surface.

2. Affix PV cells

Apply a thin layer of silicone caulk to the backing. Carefully press the PV cells in place, spacing per your diagram. Ensure good adhesion.

3. Solder cell wiring

Solder PV cell connections in series per your wiring diagram, using proper bus wire. Tape over solder joints for protection. Verify polarity matches schematic.

4. Incorporate fuses

Solder in-line fuses into the wiring, ideally close to the PV cell terminations. This protects from short circuits.

5. Seal enclosure

With wiring complete, seal the perimeter with silicone caulk and fit the transparent acrylic top. Secure the top using bolts through pre-drilled holes.

6. Adding terminals

Attach output wires to terminal connectors or solar plugs. Your DIY solar panel is complete!

Mount and Connect Your Solar Panel

You've built your own functional solar panel - great work! The final steps are mounting it outside and connecting to your system:

With everything connected properly, your DIY solar panel will start producing free, clean energy from the sun!


Constructing your own solar panel takes some effort, but provides an educational and rewarding project. Calculating your energy requirements, sourcing components thoughtfully, following safe wiring methods, and properly mounting and integrating the system are keys to success. With this guide, you now have the knowledge to harvest free solar energy. DIY solar is a great way to save substantially on your electricity costs for years to come.