To Buy or Build Your Own? A Solar Panel Conundrum

by R. Grimsby

Many renewable energy enthusiasts dream of making their own solar panels.

Fortunately for them, it is possible. Those with enough technical skills can certainly acquire the proper materials to make their own.

You also score another environmental point by making your own solar power system at home. You can use more local and recycled material to mount the solar cells.

How Much Will You Save?

However, the core question remains: Will you get enough wattage out of the cost you put into your DIY solar panel to be worth your money, time and energy?

As wonderful as it is to light up your house with a home constructed solar panel, the prospects look dim.

As it turns out, you may be better off investing in a ready-made low wattage solar panel.

Might Not Be Powerful Enough

Homemade solar panels are not very powerful. It will take a lot of work, and a bit of money to buy parts to create. After that, you can't expect much more than 60 watts out of a homemade solar panel.

An average family home uses at least 800 kilowatt hours per month. A homemade solar panel is a mere drop in the ocean of your home energy needs.

Let's look at it this way: For less than $300 and a five year warranty, you can purchase a 60 watt solar panel expected to last 25 years. A homemade solar panel of the same wattage will cost you about the same amount of money to assemble.

A homemade solar panel won't do much more than power a few light bulbs or charge a laptop. At the end of the day, it's not going to cost less than a purchased ready-made panel.

Purchasing vs. Building Your Own

Plus, you have quality control and a warranty on your side. From a purely economic perspective, it's more worthwhile to purchase an inexpensive low-wattage solar panel rather than build your own.

Possible to Save Money

That being said, the technical aspect of constructing a solar panel is a very appealing pastime to many people. The idea of constructing and adapting your home renewable energy system is a good technical challenge that many people might enjoy outside of financial incentive.

It also is rare, but possible, to score good deals on solar cells. If you land a good deal on parts you need, you may considerably cut the $300 price tag.

One tip to remember: If you do in the end decide to make your own solar panel for your home, you're going to need a few specific technical skills. Knowledge of electrical circuitry and soldering are essential for success.

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