Building your own solar panel at home using common household materials is an inexpensive and rewarding project. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk through each step of the process to build a small but functional solar panel that can be used to power small electronics. With a budget of less than $50, this DIY solar panel project is an accessible way to learn about solar energy.

Gather the Necessary Materials

The great thing about this project is that most of what you need can be easily found around the house or purchased cheaply. Here are the materials you will need:


Solar Cells




Other Supplies

As long as you have these basic components, you have everything you need to successfully build your own solar panel for less than $50.

Construct the Panel Frame

With all the materials gathered, it's time to start building the solar panel frame. Follow these steps:

Size the backing material

Cut your plywood or plastic backing to the desired size. A good size for a small DIY solar panel is around 12 x 12 inches. Measure and cut carefully so your backing is perfectly square.

Create wire channels

Use a router or chisel to carve two channels along the edges of the backing material. These channels will hold the wiring between the solar cells. Make them 1/4 inch wide and 1/4 inch deep.

Affix the solar cells

Arrange your 6 solar cells in a rectangular pattern on the backing material. Glue them in place using silicone adhesive carefully squeezed between each cell and the backing.

Add the wiring

Thread your 22 AWG wires through the channels you carved. Use solder to interconnect all 6 solar cell's + and - tabs in a pattern that connects them in series. polarity matters here!

With the solar cells wired up and glued securely to the backing, your solar panel's structure is complete!

Waterproof and Protect the Solar Cells

Now that the panel is structurally complete, the next key step is weatherproofing. Solar panels installed outside will be exposed to rain, snow, and UV rays. Waterproofing protects the wiring and prevents shorts. Here's how:

Seal exposed wires

Run a bead of silicone over any exposed wires or solder points. This insulates them from moisture.

Encapsulate the cells

Mix your epoxy resin or UV resistant silicone as directed. Pour a thin layer evenly over the face of the entire solar panel surface. This seals and protects the solar cells from outdoor damage.

Let it cure

Allow the protective encapsulation to fully cure as directed on the product instructions. This may take up to 24 hours. Once cured, your panel will be ready for installation.

Install and Use Your DIY Solar Panel

You did it! Now it's time to put your homemade solar panel to work.

Prep the site

Select a sunny spot, facing south if you are in the northern hemisphere or north if you are in the southern hemisphere. The solar panel can be mounted to a roof, railing, or pole.

Connect the wiring

Use the alligator clip cables to connect your solar panel wiring to your device you want to power, like a light or battery. The red clip connects to positive, black to negative.

Angle toward the sun

To maximize sunlight capture, change the tilt angle regularly to point the solar panel directly at the sun throughout the day.

Monitor performance

Use a multimeter to test the voltage output over time. On a sunny day your 6 cell panel should produce around 3-4.5V.

Maintain as needed

Check your wires and waterproofing seals occasionally for wear and re-seal if needed. Keep the panel surface clean.

With minimal cost and effort, you now have a fully functioning DIY solar panel to put to work! The sun provides unlimited clean energy so grab your household materials and start harvesting power.