Build a solar panel, manufacturing tips

Tips for making a solar thermal panel yourself

Keywords: energy, solar, thermal, heating, self-construction, home-made, DIY, Do-It-Yourself, construction, tips, tricks, ideas, help…

With a minimum of tools and material it is possible to build yourself an efficient and durable thermal solar panel. A solar water-water system will heat your domestic hot water (sink), sink, washbasin, bath, showers, swimming pool, spa ... Depending on the means you put in it you can claim a large share of energy autonomy during the beautiful days! This file presents 5 technical methods to make a homemade thermal solar panel according to the material you have.

Other pages to visit on the solar and the construction of a thermal solar panel:
Realization of an auto solar panel built in boiler backup
Build a solar panel
Solar thermal installations forum­
Forum heating, thermal and housing

Introduction: general principle

A solar water heater is less complicated than you might think. Here is the operating principle of solar panels as they are sold and installed by professionals.

operating principle solar panel

Solar panel with garden hoses

If you have a pool and a small room you can improvise at a very low cost a solar water heater:

  • Place a good length of PER or garden hoses directly on a roof or on a support made for the occasion.
    The roof and the pipe should preferably be dark in color. Optimal solar tilt depends on your latitude and the date, see: Tilt of a solar panel.
  • In France, the optimal solar inclination varies within an amplitude of 40 °. That's a lot, so you have to know if you want to use it in summer (swimming pool for example) or in winter (heating solar heated floors for example). A simple solution giving an “average” result all year round consists in taking the latitude of the place as an inclination.
  • To have a measurable result on a swimming pool, the surface must be at least the equivalent of 2 m² depending on the size, shape and capacity of your swimming pool.
  • The sensor inlet and return pipes must be diametrically or diagonally opposite in the pool.
    The inlet pipe to the sensor must be placed at the bottom of the pool (or it is the coldest).
  • A large capacity aquarium pump or a small pump could be used for water circulation.
  • Adjust the flow rate of the pump, if possible, to obtain the desired temperature at the sensor outlet.
  • A valve and a strainer can be installed at the suction to avoid defusing the pump at each stop priming the pump more easily. This must be installed closer to the water level.
Read also: Pico hydropower plant on an isolated site

Such a system despite its extreme simplicity can heat the water in your pool in a few days but you can also do a similar test with a simple basin or children's pool.

Solar panel with plates

Get a corrugated iron panel. Make a simple structure as suggested. Position your panel facing the sun.sheet metal solar panelsolar panel autoconstructionRun water slowly, about 10 liters / minute. In a few minutes if the sun is present, you will have hot water to supply a small children's pool for example.

Solar panel with an old water radiator

A fairly economical solution and very quick to achieve is to use simple hydraulic radiators (water) painted black.

solar panel radiator

A current new radiator generally consists of 2 parts containing water and fins. Just remove the fins and "open" this radiator as shown in the image below to obtain a very economical solar panel.

Read also: Download: Make your solar electric scooter (2 / 2)

An aluminum radiator whose "open" surface is between 2 and 3 m2 is new between 150 and 200 € in any DIY store.

solar panel radiator autoconstruction

The heating power given corresponds roughly to the 1,5 times the maximum solar power that can give your panel. An 2000 W radiator will give about 1300 W of solar power.

Take care of the electrolytic copper-aluminum pair: you must electrically isolate the 2 metals if you use them on the same network (plastic ring or end of hose).

Solar panel in EPDM flexible panel

Sold in the pool departments at an unbeatable price per m² (from 150 to 250 € for 6 to 7m²) these panels can very well constitute a permanent extra panel for the summer. In winter, in the event of frost, it is absolutely essential to drain them, but the EPDM alone resists freezing. Here is an example of a 7 m2 solar panel sold in France in early summer 2007 for € 189.

solar panel EPDM autoconstruction

The system can be used as is but a sight under glass could only improve performance!

integrated EPDM solar panel

On the right, an example of EPDM solar panels integrated into a roof in a Mediterranean region.

Read also: Download: Transforming an engine AC generator

“Classic” copper solar panel with glazing: the basics of construction

There is nothing complex about a solar panel, and you can get very good performance with
basic materials. In addition, self-construction generally allows better integration of the panels.

So you can build your solar panel simply, with readily available materials. The costs are usually quite low.

Your tools will be reduced, jigsaw, handsaw, hammer, etc.

a) The case: will be made of plywood from 10 to 15 mm, exterior quality if possible.plans to manufacture its box solar panel Reinforcements, simple squares of wood. The absorber panel ideally copper first choice but expensive. Then galvanized sheet or aluminum sheet. The collector pipes will be 12 plumbing copper tubes at 20 mm in diameter.
Glass wool or rock wool insulation (the top: a natural insulation, see the natural insulating folder).

b) Glass surfaces: Quality glass by checking that this glass has little or no iron. This is easily controlled by checking the edge of the glass.
If you see a lot of green color on the edge, do not use this glass and ask for a glass containing less iron.
The use of plexiglass is possible, you will opt for plexiglass at least 4mm thick. Otherwise, you can use semi-opaque panels (preferably dark color).

plans to make his copper network solar panel
cut of a solar panel

- Present your montages or watch those of others on the forum Solar Thermal
- DIY forum
- Heat pump and solar coupling
- Solar potential in France: the solar map

11 thoughts on “Building a solar panel, manufacturing tips”

  1. Hello
    I have 4 solar panels used for self-builder hesitant to embark on the adventure
    Water heater size 154 X 106 fiberglass shell
    they are in a remote corner of the High Alps in LA Beaume 05140

  2. Forget the black pipe it does not work. For the simple reason that the pipe is too long blow the water heats at the beginning of the pipe, and then it is too hot so loses heat instead of gaining heat. It would take a huge pump for tonight effective (see

    For the sheet metal solution, you say to use a low flow. This is true if you want to use the hot water directly at the exit of the panel but if it is to heat a swimming pool or bare tank in closed circuit, it is necessary on the contrary the flow as strong as possible. See the power calculation formula.

    1. The water heater must be placed downstream of the balloon (or the swimming pool), it is the same thermosiphon principle that prevailed in the central heating installations of yesteryear, when we would never have thought of adding a circulator.

  3. Hello I broke the glass of one of my solar panels placed on my land that feeds me in hot water, you said less iron in the glass a tempered glass extra clear it is appropriate in 4mm or as there was du3,2 kind of glass need it really thanks for the answer

  4. I do not understand the technique of opening (like an oyster) of an aluminum radiator. Can you specify the type of radiator?
    Thank you

  5. I tried to heat the water of my small swimming pool with metal radiators: at the exit of the sand filter, the water was sent in the radiators (painted in black, inclined at 45 ° towards the south, etc…) then discharged into the basin. It works… but the radiators have rusted +++ (due to chlorine) and the water has taken on a pretty yellow color. The yellow of the water + the blue of the pool = green… not at all appetizing. Total failure. The two circuits must be separated by putting an exchanger on the other side of the device. It complicates +++ since it requires a specific pump, an automatic purge, a filling, a drain valve….

    1. Hello Thierry,

      A distinction must be made between solar panels used in a closed circuit (with a heating circulator) and an open circuit. The swimming pool is an open circuit where the water is permanently oxygenated: this necessarily increases the risks of oxidation, not to mention the treatment products which are often very corrosive or oxidizing!

      The best for swimming pools is the use of EPMD or polymer panels because they are insensitive to corrosion or oxidation, this is what is available on the market!

      It is obvious that in the case of a swimming pool it is necessary to use materials which do not corrode!

      For example: copper is prohibited in swimming pool circuits, iron even more ... and it is not possible to use a heating pump (circulator) for a swimming pool ... or any other open circuit!

      1. Hello,
        I have old solar panels, and I really want to try to modify them to make an open circuit for my swimming pool, rather than investing in an exchanger with pump, expansion tank, thermostat and co. Either with PE pipes, or plumbing PVC, or multilayer. A priori these materials are all insensitive to chlorine and oxidation, and between these choices my heart balances ... Doubt on the multilayer at the fittings, because suddenly it would limit the mounting of the pipes to the spiral, which limits the pump flow and therefore requires parallel mounting (/ by pass), while the other materials make it possible to make a "comb", and to pass all the water circulation in the panels. But I'm a little afraid of leaks at the fittings. I just need to plan an oil change for the summer, when I don't need the heating, so that it doesn't get too hot, which would be fatal for the panels :-). I did not know the EPDM in heating panels, I will look at that.
        What do you think?

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