To Make a Small Solar Panel or Whole Home Solar System, These Materials Are Must-Haves



Knowing how to make a small solar panel may seem pretty straightforward to you. After all, solar panel construction is not that hard, right? You are pretty sure you know how to build a solar panel because you have seen plenty, and may even own one or two. In truth, building a solar panel is easy, but it's not simple. What I mean is, once you know the components and steps you need to take to make your first homemade solar panel, you can make a small solar panel quickly and easily, and begin to benefit from your handiwork financially in an eco-friendly manner.

Before you begin to build a solar panel of any description, map out exactly what your homemade solar panel will look like, where it will be mounted, and how the water flow will go. A couple of good tips here are burying pipes when possible, and keeping pipe runs as short as possible, both for cost reasons and for trouble-free maintenance down the line. Just because you only plan to make a small solar panel doesn't mean you should skip the planning stage.

When you make a small solar panel, you will invariably need some type of pipe. When using pipe in building a solar panel for a water heater, you should use copper, with few exceptions. Copper is relatively cheap, works well over several temperature ranges, is easily obtainable, non-corrosive and very versatile. And when building your pipe line, always use two 45 degree bends instead of one 90 degree angle. This lessens the chance of water flow backup and freeze damage. If running a swimming pool system, PVC is the overwhelming favorite, and some flex hose is used with portable homemade solar panel systems.

When building a solar panel, insulation is inevitably going to be needed, and even when it is not necessary, it is still advised. Absolutely a must outdoors, and definitely recommended inside the home, whether you make a small solar panel or large unit, HT armaflex is the multi-purpose insulator favored by professional home builders. It won't rot when it gets wet like fiberglass, and squirrels, rats and birds will not pick it apart to make nests. Before you begin building a solar panel, get some HT armaflex.

Now you are ready for thermometers, flow valves, check valves, drain valves and electrically controlled valves. First and foremost, follow all manufacturer's suggestions and instructions. I know you are handy, but a little improvisation here can mean busted pipes and winter-time frustration later.

Thermometers and pressure gauges are pretty much the same when you make a small solar panel or a large one. These are usually placed in front of a check valve or drain valve in the direction of the water flow. Check valves allow water to run in one direction only, and need to be employed on pipe that is angled downward. They stop possible back-up with a one-way, doggie-door type of system, and thermometer and pressure gauges are obviously import monitors needed when building a solar panel to prevent problems and alert when pressure and water management is needed.

As mentioned before, drain valves and relief gauges are what you need when you build a solar panel to open when the temperature or pressure gauge alerts you to unsafe conditions. Some drain valves are electronically engineered or motorized with built-in pressure and temperature sensors, and these are highly recommended over manual drain valves. When you make a small solar panel, add an automated drain valve, and your system will police itself 24/7.

Tempering valves control monitor water temp, and mix cooler water with “too hot” water to prevent scalding water reaching your faucet. These are an obvious must in any homemade solar panel project. A vacuum breaker is another item you definitely need in certain situations, such as draining a roof-top pool collector tank or draining a system during winter. As always, consulting a professional solar contractor for advice before building a solar panel is highly recommended.

You will need some type of pump or thermosiphon, and there are some general differences. If you have access to electricity a motorized pump is the way to go. Easy to install, and coming in complete DIY solar panel construction kits, they come equipped for each individual job. You'll need an electric pump for a closed-loop, and a swimming pool requires a filter pump.

The only time you would employ a passive thermosiphon when you make a small solar panel as opposed to a pump is when you are in an outlying area and have no access to electricity. Mounted with a tank above the thermal collector, it allows lighter hot water to move to the upper tank, and the heavier cold water to move into the collector to be heated. With no moving parts they are very efficient and reliable.

Obviously, that just skims the surface of things you need to know before you attempt solar panel construction of any kind. You should always consult a professional solar expert or guide, whether you make a small solar panel or whole house system.


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