Building your own solar panel from readily available materials is an exciting project that can save you money on electricity bills. With some basic electrical components, common tools, and household items, I was able to build a functional solar panel that can be used to power small devices or charge batteries.

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through the entire process of assembling a solar panel from start to finish using materials you likely already have around the house. I’ll cover:

What You Need to Build a Solar Panel

Step-by-Step Instructions

Testing and Using Your Solar Panel

Let’s get started on this DIY journey to harnessing the power of the sun!

What You Need to Build a Solar Panel

Building a functional solar panel at home is a relatively easy project as long as you have the right materials and tools. Here is what you will need:

Tools and Materials

The solar cells are the key component and can be scavenged from old solar powered calculators, garden lights, or ordered online relatively cheaply. The most expensive part will likely be the Plexiglas top layer to protect the cells.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these steps carefully to assemble a fully functioning solar panel:

Structuring the Solar Panel Frame

To house the solar cell array, you will first need to construct a rigid frame. This keeps the cells securely in place and allows you to seal out moisture.

Cut plywood or plastic sheeting to the desired size using a hand saw. Mine was 24x18 inches. Sandwich a layer of silicon caulk between each piece to waterproof the interior. Clamp tightly until dry.

Drill holes along the outer edges to mount a Plexiglas top layer. This will protect the solar cells.

Wiring the Solar Cells

Now it’s time to wire together the solar cells in series to increase voltage.

Lay the cells in the panel frame spaced evenly. Solder thin bus wire to the top contact of one cell and bottom contact of the next to connect them in series. Insulate each joint with electrical tape.

Solder longer leading wires to the end contacts to collect electricity. I used 10AWG wire.

Connecting the Load

The panel needs an output to deliver electricity to. This is called the electrical load.

Solder the lead wires to the charging controller or directly to the battery. The wires carry generated electricity.

To power small electronics, add alligator clips to the end of the wires to grab onto the positive and negative terminals.

Waterproofing the Panel

It’s critical to seal your solar panel to prevent moisture damage.

After wiring up the solar cells, coat the top with silicone caulk and firmly press down a sheet of Plexiglas to encase the cells. Drill through the Plexiglas into the frame to secure it.

Seal around all edges and bolts with additional caulk. Your panel is now ready for the sun!

Testing and Using Your Solar Panel

Before relying on your new solar panel, it's important to test its performance. Follow these tips to properly utilize and maintain your homebuilt system.

Checking Voltage Output

Use a digital multimeter to test open-circuit output voltage in direct sunlight. Compare to the rated voltage of your solar cells to verify expected performance.

Troubleshoot any issues with solder joints or framing if output is lower than anticipated. The voltage should remain steady during testing.

Charging Batteries and Devices

To charge batteries, connect the solar panel leads to a charge controller first, especially for larger batteries. This regulates the charging current.

For smaller electronics, carefully clip the leads right to the device. Measure output voltage first to prevent damage.

Do not leave charging unattended - monitor intermittently for full charge.

Mounting and Placement

Face your panel south if in the northern hemisphere for optimal tilt and sun exposure. The ideal angle equals your latitude.

For a fixed mount, use brackets to elevate the panel on a pole or roof. Adjust the angle seasonally.

You can also use a tracking stand to follow the sun. Place in an area with full sun at least 6 hours per day.


Building your own solar panel from scratch is a fun and empowering way to generate free renewable energy. Follow the instructions in this guide to successfully assemble a functioning panel using common tools and household materials.

With a DIY solar panel kit, you can produce free power for batteries, lights, electronics and more - all harnessed from the boundless energy of the sun! Let me know if you have any other questions. Happy building!