Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
I keep seeing information online about buying plans to build your own solar panels. Is it really possible to do this? Is it worth the trouble?
Brookhaven, New York
I’m a pretty dyed-in-the-wool DIYer, and to me, DIY solar panels are not worth the work if all you want is electricity. They don’t save a lot of money compared with buying commercial solar panels, they’re fussy to make and service life is uncertain because it’s difficult to seal them well. For those who want the learning experience of building a panel, though, I think the project can be educational and fun. This seems to be the opinion of people I’ve talked to who have built a few panels — they found building them educational and interesting, but not worth the effort when you can simply buy a “real” photovoltaic (PV) system.
If you do want to try building your own solar panels, a lot of good, free information is available online. I’ve put together a collection of links to the best information I could find and posted it on my website, www.builditsolar.com. Beware of $50 scam guides that make ridiculous claims and provide “plans” that are not any better than information you can get for free.
— Gary Reysa, www.builditsolar.com