Going off the grid with solar power is becoming an increasingly popular choice for many homeowners and preppers seeking energy independence and sustainability. With the right components and a DIY approach, you can build your own affordable solar panel system to generate electricity. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process start to finish.

Choosing the Solar Components

The core components you'll need for a DIY solar system include solar panels, charge controller, inverter, batteries, wiring, and mounts. Here are some tips on selecting the right gear within a low budget:

Solar Panels

Solar panels are the most expensive part of the system, so going with budget-friendly options is key. Polycrystalline panels provide a good balance of affordability and efficiency. For a small DIY system, 100-200 watts of solar panels will suffice. You can expand later. Buy complete panels rather than individual cells to save time and effort.

Charge Controller

The charge controller manages the power from the solar panels to your batteries. It prevents overcharging and damage. A 10-20 amp MPPT controller is ideal for smaller DIY installations. MPPT type is more efficient than PWM.


An inverter converts the DC power from the batteries into standard 120V AC power to run household appliances and electronics. A 500-1000 watt inverter will cover basics. Pure sine wave inverters are the best quality but more expensive. Modified sine wave works for most uses.


Deep cycle lead acid batteries are the most cost-effective for storing solar power. For minimal use, 100-200 Ah capacity will work. Use 6V or 12V batteries wired in series/parallel for more capacity and voltage.

Wiring and Mounts

For connecting components use 10-6 AWG copper wire. Use MC4 connectors between panels and controller. Tin-plated copper wire lugs connect inverter and batteries. Outdoor rated zip ties, conduit, and clamps mount the wiring.

Sizing Your DIY Solar System

To determine how many solar panels and the capacity of other components you need, calculate your total daily power consumption in watt-hours.

Example Power Usage Calculations

Here is an example for a small 500 watt-hour per day system:

To cover this usage, a system with:

Would be appropriately sized with room to spare.

DIY Solar Panel Installation Guide

Once you've sourced all the components, it's time to start the DIY installation. Follow these steps to properly set up your off-grid solar panel system:

1. Mount the Solar Panels

Find an open, sunny spot facing southward to mount your panels. The roof is ideal. Use angled racking or pole mounts to adjust the tilt angle equal to your latitude. Point them true south if possible.

2. Install the Charge Controller

Mount the charge controller on a wall indoors, nearby where your battery bank will go. Follow the wiring diagram to connect the solar panels through MC4 connectors to the controller PV input terminals.

3. Connect the Batteries

Link your batteries together in series and parallel to achieve the total voltage and capacity calculated. Follow wiring diagrams to connect the battery bank to the charge controller and inverter. Use large copper wire and crimped lugs.

4. Set Up the Inverter

Mount the inverter on the wall next to the charge controller. Connect its input terminals to the battery bank through large copper wires with lugs. Follow all safety codes and install external fuses. Connect 120V outlets and appliances to the inverter AC output.

5. Ground the System

Connect all components to a proper earth ground according to electrical code for safety. Use grounding rods driven into the earth.

6. Test and Use

Turn on the system breakers and test all connections. Power on appliances to verify proper functioning and capacity. Monitor voltage levels over time of use. Add more panels and batteries later if needed.

Operating and Maintaining Your DIY Solar System

Once installed, be sure to follow these tips to keep your solar system running efficiently for years:

With proper operation and maintenance, a homebuilt solar panel system can provide sustainable off-grid power for decades. Careful planning, component selection, installation, and usage will lead to energy independence and savings on utility bills.