How to Build a Flat Plate Solar Collector

  • 4-40 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 250-2,000
What You'll Need
Solar cells
Saw for cutting
Paint brush
Plexiglas cutters drill
Tin wire
Soldering iron
Volt meter

When you think about collecting solar energy, you almost automatically think of a flat plate solar collector, which seems to be the most popular type. Throughout history, people have looked for find ways to generate energy from the sunlight. A flat plate solar collector is an excellent tool when it comes to this matter. Even if there are no major power companies developing this type of alternative energy resource, the flat plate solar collector has still a lot of potential of becoming a major technology in collecting solar power.

As opposed to using electricity, the flat plate solar collector is designed to convert solar energy into heat. This is why this system is also called a solar thermal system. So if you want to cut on your energy expenses, you may want to try using this cost-effective system. Here are some easy steps you can follow in building a flat plate solar collector.

Step 1 – Test Your Solar Cells

After purchasing solar cells, it is vital that you test them first. Make sure that majority of them is capable in producing at least a hundred watts of electrical power. Test the solar cells individually using a volt meter. Make sure to take down notes of the voltage each solar cell produces.

Step 2 – Cut the Plywood for the Solar Cells

Once you have determined the right amount of power each solar panel would need, cut the plywood according to the size of the entire solar cells. Keep in mind that you can cut the plywood according to your own desire. This is one great advantage of making your own flat plate solar collector. Instead of going for the usual rectangular shape, you can cut it whatever shape you want.

Step 3 – Varnish the Plywood

Apply varnish to the plywood using a paintbrush. It is recommended to use UV-ray protective varnish to make the panel last longer under the heat of the sunlight. Begin working on your solar cells while waiting for the varnish to dry up.

Step 4 – Put Flux on the Solar Cell’s Bus Strips

After varnishing the plywood, it is time to put flux to the bus strips using a Rosin flux pen. This is to get your solar cells ready for the soldering of the tab ribbons. Flux is a chemical cleaning agent that removes oxidation from the joined metals in soldering or welding. Applying the flux will also help you later on in connecting the wiring correctly. Once the flux is applied, attach the solar cells together.

Step 5 – Attach the Solar Panel to the Plywood Panel

When the cells are all connected to each other use little silicon to affix them to the plywood panel. Make sure that there are two unattached wires on the solar cells. Insert the wires through the two holes in the plywood and put silicon to any gaps around the holes as sealant.

Step 6 – Cover the Solar Cells with Plexiglas

Finally, you need to make a frame as a cover for your flat plate solar collector panels. The best cover frame option would be Plexiglas. Attach the cover to the frame using silicon and screws.