As the technology of solar power continues to improve, and as the industry continues to grow, introducing economies of scale to the production of solar panels, the price continues to drop. Making a good deal even better, it’s possible to reduce the price dramatically by building your own solar panels from cheap, easily-
Solar power lends itself to a decentralized approach (such as installing a rooftop solar system), and between the falling cost of solar panels themselves, the unreliable but increasing price of oil, and the increasing availability of net metering, there has never been a better time to take advantage of this environmentally-
Although buying new solar panels doesn’t allow you to get them as cheaply as buying used ones or (best of all!) making your own, it does provide the advantage of a manufacturer’s warranty and a guarantee of quality.
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether these advantages are worth the extra money. Also, make sure that the warranty really is in effect and ask the seller how using it would work. If you have to ship damaged panels all the way across country or, even worse, to China, and wait for a replacement to arrive, you’re not seeing much advantage.
The best way to buy new solar panels cheaply is to get them direct from the manufacturer or from the manufacturer’s principle supplier. Not only does this cut out the retailers’ profit margin, but suppliers are usually better about handling responsibility for warranty issues.
At least for the present solar panels can be purchased from Chinese manufacturers at a discount compared to domestic solar panels. However, it’s important not to just do a Google search for “solar panels from China”
or the equivalent. Instead, go to a known reputable manufacturer such as Yingli or Suntech to place your order. Delivery times from China can be a month or more, so you will also have to exercise patience.
The most inexpensive way of all to get solar panels for your home is to make your own. To do this, you need a soldering iron and solder, plus a frame for the solar cells that will make up the solar panel. The frame is basically a shallow box into which you will fit the connected solar cells, plus a plastic cover to protect the solar cells from weather damage. Each solar cell produces about 1/2 volt in good sun, so you will need 36 cells linked together to produce 18 volts, which is needed to charge a 12 volt battery.
The solar cells should be equipped with metal tabs when you buy them. This is slightly more expensive, but cuts the soldering needed to make your solar panel in half.
It’s recommended that you obtain a professional guide that details both where to go to buy the parts for your solar panel and how they should be put together. The solar cells need to be soldered serially (not parallel), and each group of cells needs to be connected correctly. It’s not hard to do, but it is important to do it the right way.
Making your own solar panels can save you hundreds of dollars compared to buying new solar panels or even making solar panels from a kit, so it’s well worth the effort and investment.