This is a really good entry level project that just about anyone can do. The simplest pool solar water heater we've seen involves using a simple coil of half inch black irrigation tubing placed in direct sunlight, and have a small water pump keep the water moving. In another project, rows of the same black tubing were connected to a manifold and wrapped around the pool fence. In this case, the regular filter pump was used to circulated the water.
You can mix and match these ideas to create your own swimming pool solar heating solution. Once you get started, you just want to continue adding and improving your design. The motivation is free heat from the sun.
A photovoltaic solar cell is the basic building block of PV solar electric systems. The cells can be purchased individually or in lots to build your solar panel(s). Solar cells are usually assembled in multiples of six (6, 12, 24, ..., 72) and both the positive and negative leads are soldered in series. So the individual voltages produced by each cell add up. Solar cells can be purchased from many different online shops, including ebay.
You'll need a basic understanding of electric circuits, some hand tools, soldering supplies, silicon caulking, and glass.
Once the tabs are soldered together in rows, rows of cells are lined up creating a matrix for encapsulation in glass. The glass not only allows sun to shine on the solar cells, it provides a ridged sealed enclosure for the solar matrix. You can add glazing to one or both wides depending on what kind of deal you can get on the glass. If you only want to use glazing on the sunny side you can use some other ridged material on the bottom side that is not conductive or heat sensitive. The finished panels will get quite hot in the sun.
Then you need to frame the glass and solar cells. Normally pre-formed aluminium framing material used. You can get a kit containing four sides and four corner keys shaped like L's. The corner keys allow you to snap the aluminium sides together around the perimeter of the encased solar cells.
Once the solar is assembled, a junction box is attached to the back side of the panel assembly. The junction box serves several purposes. It shields electrical conductors from being exposed to curious hands. It has several wire splicing connectors inside the solar panel to be connected in different configurations, such as reduced voltage output or wiring in series or parallel with other solar panels. It allows connection of standard MC cables, which are 10 American Wire Gauge (AWG) thickness. The two cables, one positive and the other negative, are terminated with special male or female locking connectors, usually called an MC4 pair. These cable allow the solar panel to be connected in series or parallel with other panels.
If you don't want to assemble a solar panel from individual solar cells, you can get an unfinished laminate panel that has all the solar cells assembled already. You only need to add the framing and junction box. Typically these laminate panels can be had for as little as 50 cents per watt. However, the vendors typically require a quantity order of 10 or more panels. Still, to get 10 high powered solar panels for less than $1000 is a pretty good deal.
Installing a junction box to the back of the solar panel is simple. Here is a brief illustration of the steps needed.
Grab a barrel and let's make a portable solar hot water heater. All you need is a storage container, black flexible tubing, a pump, and a mounting platform.
Take the power with you even if you are away from the house. There are currently available portable power stations available on the market. They provide the solar panels on wheels, as battery enclosure, which includes charge controller and AC inverter with outlets. These generally run $1,500 and up. However, with the prices of solar panels coming down fast, you can build one yourself for much less.
You can also buy a traditional gas powered electric generator. However, they are noisy and gas is expensive.
We have property that is off-grid in the desert. There is no electrical power nearby. We are planing to build our own portable solar power station from the ground up, to take advantage of the low solar panel prices and provide more power than ready-made packs. The system will provide us with at least 500 watts of continuous power using 6 volt deep cycle SLA batteries and a solar panel. The unit will be mounted on a four wheel cart for portability, and contain shelving for other components and several cordless power tools and chargers.
Tags: DIY Passive Solar, DIY Solar Cell, DIY Solar Collector, DIY Solar Hot Water Heater.