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Homemade Solar Cells

Are They Worth The Effort?

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homemade solar cells
Can you make your own solar cell? The answer is YES, technically it is possible.

In fact, it isn't all that difficult but in reality it may not be worth your effort. It takes many solar cells to generate even a little solar energy. Creating one or a few homemade solar cells alone will not provide useable solar energy for you.

Exploring the DIY solar cell projects of others is a useful way to learn about building a solar cell and building your own solar panels. They can be a valuable learning source. Just shut your ears a little bit if someone starts talking about how cheap it is :-)

However, if you are seriously looking at the plausibility of building your own solar power system to supply your entire house then we recommend using commercially produced cells. The primary reasons for this recommendation are cell life (longevity) and cell efficiency.

The efficiency of solar cells and the efficiency of solar panels you build will affect the cost of your project. The less efficient, the greater the cost. If your cells do not have a long life your system will be rendered ineffective much sooner and you may not see any payback on your investment.

Efficiency, Longevity And Cost Of Homemade Solar Cells

Solar Cells Efficiency

There is a comparable difference between the efficiency of DIY solar cells compared to commercial solar cells. DIY solar cells are considerably less efficient with an efficiency rating of about 2% or less while commercial solar cells typically test at 14% to 16% efficiency.

It would literally take acres (thousands and thousands) of homemade solar cells to power an average sized home. The type of solar cells you can make at home tend to be low voltage, low efficiency cells.

Solar Cells Longevity

The longevity of a DIY solar cell is not terribly reliable. Commercially manufactured solar cells using silicon wafer have the advantage of not breaking down over longer periods of time. They are also capable of maintaining an indefinite source of electrical power, provided that the capsulated and conductive leads remain undamaged. Homemade solar cells are generally made from materials other than silicon which are less conductive and deteriorate at a much faster rate than cells composed of silicon.

Solar cells can be useful for very small solar power projects but it is not a truly viable solution for creating your own whole house solar power system.

In reality commercially produced solar cells are the best option when considering either a DIY solar system or a commercially produced and installed system. Your investment in higher quality cells will reduce your overall costs in the end and provide greater, efficiency, reliability and generating capacity.

The Cost Of DIY Solar Cells

Is it rational to build homemade solar cells from a cost perspective? The answer is unfortunately, but unconditionally NO.

Here is a cost simulation to help you understand why it is not financially beneficial to consider using homemade solar cells to power your home.

If you build a low voltage solar cell (which is hat you do in a DIY solar cell project), the cell you built produces 50 microamps at 0.25 volts. This is 0.0000125 watts (12.5 microwatts).

Not too impressive. You shouldn't expect to light light bulbs or charge batteries with this solar cell. It can be used as a light detector or light meter, but it would take thousands of them to power even a single stove.

The 0.0000125 watts (12.5 microwatts) is for a 0.01 square meter cell, or 1.25 milliwatts per square meter.

  • To light a 100-watt light bulb, it takes 80,000 square meters of cuprous oxide for the sunlit side, and 80,000 square meters of copper for the dark electrode.

  • To run a 1000-watt stove, you need 800,000 square meters of cuprous oxide, and another 800,000 square meters of plain copper, or 1,600,000 square meters all together. If this were to form the roof of a home, each home would be 282 meters long and 282 meters wide, if all they needed was enough electricity to power one stove.

  • There are 17,222,256.7 square feet in 1,600,000 square meters. If copper sheeting costs $5 per square foot, copper alone would cost $86,110,283.50 USD. If you make it one-tenth the original thickness can bring the cost down to $8,611,028.35. Since you are buying in bulk, you might get it for half that, or about $4,300,000.00.

  • If you used silicon solar panels costing $4 per watt, you could run the same stove for $4,000.00. But the panels would only be about 10 square meters.

You can see just how ridiculous it would be to consider making your own solar cells and panels to power an entire home. There are far more cost efficient methods using high-powered manufactured cells and panels. With the decreases in costs for manufactured systems, rebates and grants it is wiser to investigate several dealers and installers to find the solution that fits your budget and your energy needs.

More About Solar Cells

Want to try other DIY solar projects? Have a look at the list to the right for more inspiration.

Once you're done with the project to build a solar cell or with some other solar DIY project, please take a moment to brag about it here.

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