Building your own solar panel can be an affordable and rewarding project. With just a few basic materials from around the house or purchased inexpensively, I was able to build a small solar panel to power LED lights and small electronics.

In this article, I will walk through the complete process of assembling a functional solar panel in 6 steps using common materials that cost me less than $20 total.

Benefits of Building Your Own Solar Panel

Constructing a homemade solar panel has many advantages:

Materials and Tools Needed

Gathering materials from around the house or purchasing inexpensive components is the key to keeping the cost under $20. You will need the following:



Step 1 - Determine the Size of the Panel

First, decide how big you want your solar panel to be. For a small 12" x 12" panel like mine, 6 solar cells arranged in two columns of three cells will generate about 2 watts of power. This is enough to charge a phone or power small lights and electronics.

If you want more power output, make a bigger panel and add more cells. Just remember the bigger it is, the higher your material cost.

Step 2 - Connect Solar Cells in Series

Solar cells generate electricity at about 0.5 volts. To increase the voltage, the cells must be connected in series.

Lay the 6 cells face down. Use a soldering iron and thin copper wire to connect three sets of two cells in series. Solder the negative tab of one cell to the positive tab of the next cell to chain them together.

When soldering, heat the cell tabs for just a few seconds before applying solder to avoid cracking the silicon cells. Be careful not to burn yourself!

Step 3 - Glue Solar Cells to the Backing Board

Now we will attach the soldered solar cells to the backing material to form the main structure of the panel.

I used an old yard sign made of thin plywood. Cut the board slightly larger than your planned panel size to leave room for a frame.

Clean the board then use strong epoxy like Gorilla glue to securely fix the cell columns in place spaced evenly apart. Clamp them down tightly and allow the glue to fully harden overnight.

Step 4 - Add Bypass Diodes (optional)

Bypass diodes are not essential but help maximize power output. They allow current to flow around shaded or damaged cells.

Solder a diode across each pair of cells with the striped end matching the negative cell tab. The ridged end of the diode connects to the positive tab.

Diodes add about $3 to the total price but are highly recommended if you want optimal panel performance.

Step 5 - Wire up the Panel

We need to connect the cell columns together in series to generate the desired voltage.

Solder an insulated wire between the positive tab of the first cell column and the negative tab of the second column. For a 6V output, repeat this process if you added a third column.

Then solder wires from the end tabs to your positive and negative terminal wires that will connect to your load (battery, lights, etc). Electrical tape works great to insulate the metal tabs and avoid shorts.

Step 6 - Enclose Panel in Waterproof Casing

The final step is to seal up the panel by enclosing it between the plexiglass front and your backing board.

Cut the plexiglass to size. Silicone the panels electrical components so they are fully sealed. Screw on your backing board. Attach your terminal wires to the end tabs and feed them through a drilled hole.

Once the silicone fully dries, your solar panel is complete! Just connect your load and place the panel in sunlight to start generating free electricity.


Building a DIY solar panel from home materials can be a fun and fulfilling project. In just an afternoon, I was able to construct a panel that can charge my devices using only the power of the sun. Plus, doing it myself allowed me to learn so much about how solar energy works.

With a little bit of time and some cheap materials, you can build your own panel too. The 6 basic steps cover the entire process start to finish. Your homemade solar panel will provide you with free renewable energy for years to come.