Have you ever been out hiking or camping and had your phone die, leaving you unable to call for help or find your way back? Or maybe you've just forgotten to charge your phone overnight and need a quick way to juice it up in the morning? Building your own solar panel phone charger with DIY materials is an easy project that can rescue you when you’re stranded without power. With just a few basic components, you can harness the power of the sun to create renewable energy and keep your devices charged up anywhere.

What You'll Need to Build a Solar Panel Phone Charger

Fortunately, you likely have most of what you’ll need for this project already lying around the house. The main components include:

Solar Cells

The solar cells, or photovoltaic (PV) cells, are the main unit that will actually convert sunlight into electricity. You can purchase specialty solar cells online or at electronics stores. However, cheaper options include reclaiming cells from old solar garden lights or assembling your own solar cells using copper sheets, titanium dioxide paste and thin copper wires.

Solar Panel Enclosure

Any box or pan with a lid can be used to mount and enclose the solar cells, such as a plastic storage container or aluminum baking pan. The enclosure should have a surface area of roughly 636 square inches for 6 solar cells. Make sure the container is non-conductive to avoid electrical shorts.


You’ll need insulated copper wire for interconnecting the solar cells and attaching the output connectors. Pre-stripped wire helps speed the soldering process. Standard hook-up wire, speaker wire or CAT 5 cable works well.

Soldering Iron and Solder

A soldering iron and rosin core solder are required for wiring up the solar panel components.

Silicone Adhesive

Silicone adhesive can help waterproof the panel and adhere the cells to the backing. Clear 100% silicone caulk works as an enclosure sealant and adhesive.

Output Connectors

Alligator clips or a 5.5mm x 2.1mm DC power plug are handy for connecting your panel to electronic devices to charge.

Epoxy Resin (optional)

Applying a coating of epoxy resin helps protect the solar cells from damage. This adds UV and water resistance to extend the panel’s durability.

How to Build the Solar Panel Step-by-Step

Building the solar phone charger involves basic assembly by:

Follow these step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Prepare the Solar Cells

Start with 6 3V/0.5W solar cells arranged in pairs of two parallel strings of three cells wired in series. This creates a 6V panel (matching most phone charging voltages). Clean any dust off the cells and position them how you want them arranged inside the enclosure.

Step 2: Prepare the Enclosure

Place your solar cells face down on the lid of your plastic container or baking pan. Use a marker to trace around each cell, then cut out these shapes from the lid to mount the cells. Glue the cells in place by putting silicone adhesive on the back of each and pressing into the lid cutouts.

Step 3: Solder the Cell Connections

Solder your insulated copper wires between the cells to electrically connect them. Solder tabs on the cells together in series to create the two parallel strings. Connect the positive (+) tabs of each parallel string on one side, and the two negative (-) tabs on the opposite side.

Step 4: Waterproof the Connections

Seal the soldered areas and wire connections between cells using clear silicone caulk. Try to waterproof the underside of the lid as best as you can to protect the internal connections.

Step 5: Attach Output Wires

Solder additional output wires or connectors to the positive and negative string endpoints to interface with devices. Alligator clips, barrel plugs or cut USB cables all work well for attaching phones to charge.

Step 6: Insulate Inside of Enclosure

Line the interior of your plastic or metal enclosure box with insulation like cardboard, foam or cloth. This prevents the solder points and wiring from shorting against the inner enclosure.

Step 7: Seal and Close Enclosure

Place the finished solar panel lid onto the insulated enclosure base. Use silicone caulk to seal the edges of the container and make the housing waterproof. Allow to fully cure before use.

Step 8: Add Epoxy Resin Layer (Optional)

For further weather protection, coat the solar cells by mixing and spreading two-part epoxy resin over the panel's surface. This adds a protective top layer to shield against UV rays and rain.

And that's it! Once assembled and sealed, your DIY solar phone charger is ready to harness the endless renewable power of the sun.

Tips for Using Your Solar Panel Charger

Here are some additional pointers to take full advantage of your new solar-powered gadget:

With a little creativity, you can build an eco-friendly solar phone charger in just an afternoon using common household items. Give it a try next time you need an emergency power source off the grid!