How To Make a Solar Panel & What They’re Made Of (Including Household Items)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | March 15, 2024

Woman looking at the parts of a solar panel wonders how to make a solar panel and what are solar panels made of and if there is a solar cell diy manual for how to make a solar panel with household items.

Did you know that you can easily learn how to make a solar panel?

Its true. And you can actually make one that generates clean electricity using many items that you already have at home.

Technological advancements and new material discoveries are revolutionizing an industry driven by the need to harness cleaner energy and reverse climate change.

But, all you need to make a solar panel at home (that makes radiant heat) is some old CDs, masking tape, cardboard, glue, utility knife and some attachment clasps, such as s-hooks.

This complete guide explains how to make a solar panel at home (for radiant heat) as well as how to make an electrical solar panel by purchasing the materials at a hardware supplier.

What Are Solar Panels Made Of? How Are Solar Panels Made?

So, what are solar panels made of?

In the list of material of solar panel, silicon is the most essential component within photovoltaic cells as it is cheap, is the most abundant material on earth after oxygen, and has a high level of semiconductivity.

It is this ability to absorb light and convert it into electricity efficiently that has producers of solar panels using silicon along with glass, plastic polymers, aluminum, copper, and trace amounts of silver and other metals for wiring in the production of solar panels.

Miscroscopic view of a solar panel showing it's microchip and delicate wiring.

(Image: Eroyka8).

The 3 most common types of solar panels are Thin-film, Monocrystalline, and Polycrystalline, and each has pros and cons, and 2 of them use silicon as the semi-conductive component.


The name is derived from the process of creating the panels from one silicon ingot. This formation begins when hundreds of rocks containing silicon are thrown into a cylindrical furnace that is heated to incredibly high temperatures of over 2552°F (1400°C) to reduce the rocks and silicon to molten lava, and remove impurities.

At this melting stage, boron is added to the mixture so the silicon will already be imbued with a positive charge. Once out of the furnace and still in its molten form, pure crystal silicon (called a seed crystal) is pulled into it until it becomes shaped into a pure cylindrical single ingot.

This process takes 4 days. Multiple wafer-thin sheets are then sliced from this ingot by a wire saw, each precisely the same and as thin as a sheet of fine paper.

One side of it is treated so it has a higher capacity to refract light and work more efficiently.1 To make one solar panel will take 36 to 96 of these thin sheets sandwiched together and between each wafer-thin sheet, there is a layer of phosphorous injected with nitrogen in a special oven.

Just as adding boron will provide a positive charge, so adding phosphorous will provide a negative charge. Adding both of these impurities into the mix under a process called doping, will create an electrical field ready to capture and convert those sun rays into clean, renewable energy.

But to increase the conductivity even further in the cell, a special silver alloy is applied to the front of the wafer. If the cells in a solar panel have 96 layers of ultra-thin wafers sandwiched together, it will have a much greater energy output than a cell that has only 36 layers.


The principal difference between a Monocrystalline and a Polycrystalline, is that the latter is produced from silicon fragments instead of slices from one solid silicon ingot. Part of the manufacturing process is the same but where the molten silicon is molded into a cylindrical ingot, this process is omitted and the silicon lava is left to crack and fragment into pieces as it cools.

These shards are then smelted again in another oven and poured into molds, where they are allowed to solidify. Slicing them into cubic-shaped wafers is done with a wire saw for accuracy and then the surfaces are finished similar to Monocrystalline cells with multiple layers.


This solar panel is popular because of its flexibility, cost, and lightness. How to make a solar panel so thin is possible because they are composed of only one or just a few layers of cells.

This reduces their efficiency, but conversely, this is what gives them their flexibility – and keeps the retail prices down. It is possible that they can produce just as much electricity as other solar panels such as Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline solar panels, but a larger surface area would be required to compensate for their lower power output capacity.

The material that makes these panels is called amorphous silicon, which is itself composed of a chemical compound that is excellent at capturing the sun’s rays called Cadmium Telluride.5

Added to the surface to increase the semi-conduction properties for better energy conversion, are copper, indium, gallium, and selenide.

CIGS solar panels are quicker, easier, and cheaper to make. Although not ideal, as yet, for large industrial projects, the ability to adhere to small portable devices is increasing their appeal.

Monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive than Polycrystalline and are about 15%-20% more efficient at converting sunlight into usable energy. If space allows, however, installing extra Poly solar panels will make up for the deficiency and balance the books.

Aesthetics sometimes plays a role when deciding between the two styles as Mono panels are darker than Poly, so sometimes the decision comes down to personal taste.

Building Solar Panel (How To Make a Solar Panel)

Once the solar cells have been created either from silicon or other materials, the solar panels still have to be assembled into the conventional shape we are accustomed to seeing on more and more roofs across the country.

Regardless of whether the cells are mono, poly, or thin-film, they have to be connected by electrical contacts that are made of a silver composite, copper, or nickel for superior conductivity.

Graphic that shows the 6 steps in making a solar panel at home.

Silicon nitride is applied to the surface by commercial manufacturers to reduce the sunlight reflected by shiny panels to better improve absorption which in turn leads to greater energy production.

Encapsulation is the final stage of how to make a solar panel or building solar panel where the connected cells are settled into an aluminum frame after being sealed by ethylene vinyl acetate or silicon rubber.

Either a plastic or glass panel is used to cover the front while a Tedlar sheet is placed on the back to complete the sealed unit.

Automation by robots are the principal assemblers of these parts and their increasing usage over the years has reduced the overall costs and speed at which solar panels can be manufactured.

The carbon footprint solar panel is generated up to this point by the procurement of materials, manufacturing, installation and disposal. Although they produce clean energy which helps to fight against the dangers of climate change, there is a emissions cost to create the panels.2

Can You Make Your Own Solar Panels? (Solar Cells DIY and How To Wire Solar Panels)

Can you make your own solar panels? Learning how to make a solar panel and how to wire solar panels at home or for solar cells DIY is more than possible.

It entails either buying a kit with all the parts in a box ready to be put together or taking the time to gather all the components separately and assembling them in the comfort of your own home.

Close up photo of a solar panel.

(Image: Los Muertos Crew9)

Follow these steps and you’ll even better how are solar panels made and you’ll be a technical solar engineer in no time:

  1. Buy ready-made polycrystalline cells online or from your local hardware store if they stock them.
  2. Cut a backing board to accommodate the number of cells you need to reach the energy output required, leaving a 2-4 cm gap around the edges for wiring. This backing board can be made out of wood or plastic as it needs to be non-conductive, and easy to drill. The front face can be made of either plastic or glass.
  3. A tabbing wire, which is a flat copper wire with a coating of solder, is then used to connect the cells together. Run a flux pen along the full length of the two thick horizontal lines on the back of the cells to prevent oxidation, then cut the tabbing wire the same length as 2 of the cells.
  4. Press the wire into position along the lines with 50% of it left overhanging, then solder with a soldering iron, leaving a small space between the cells as you go.
  5. Snip the soldered tabbing wire end slightly short from the edge.
  6. Arrange all the photovoltaic cells face-down on the front face.6
  7. A bus wire, which is a thicker version of the tabbing wire, is soldered in place on both ends of the row of cells by the overhanging tabbing wires. On one side it is just long enough to connect to the tabbing wires, while on the other side, it needs to be twice as long so it can connect to the next row of cells.
  8. Continue connecting in this fashion until all the cells are connected by the bus wire and the circuit is completed.
  9. To secure the backboard in place, squeeze a dollop of glue on the back of each cell and position the board in place.
  10. Once that has solidified in place it is then just a matter of constructing the panel box out of a non-conductive material such as wood.

How To Make a Solar Panel With Household Items (Building Solar Systems at Home)

How to make a solar panel with CD or how to make a solar panel with aluminum foil are questions often found online as craftsmen are curious to know if it is possible to make solar panels from items laying around the house.

(Image: HappyEnd10)

You can. But, unless you wire it, the energy it radiates won’t be able to power your coffee maker.

However, you can install it and use it to create radiant heat, for a small workshop or some other application.

Here’s how.

Apart from the CDs or aluminum foil used to build the ‘cell,’ you’ll need:

  • Cardboard
  • Masking tape
  • Utility knife
  • Black spray paint (or regular black paint)
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Clear plastic sheeting (4 mil)
  • Measuring tape

Follow these steps:

Step 1. Choose a south facing window in your home and measure it’s width and length (usually the bottom or top portion of a window)

Step 2. Add 8 inches to the dimensions. So if your window was 24 x 30, make your working dimensions 32 x 38.

Step 3. Cut a solid piece of cardboard to the working dimensions, using the utility knife.

Step 4. Cut four pieces of cardboard into rectangles, 4 inches wide and about 8 inches shorter than the width of the larger piece.

Step 5. Paint one side of the large piece of cardboard black and allow it to completely dry (usually one day).

Step 6. Notch each corner of the cardboard five inches to form the ‘container’ (Simply cut a 5 inch square from each corner and then bend the cardboard up to form a wall… the black side should be inside).

Step 7. Tape the corners using masking tape.

Step 8. Place the CDs in the box (shiny side up) and carefully mark the center holes where they lay for the top and bottom rows.

Step 9. Using the knife, remove the center holes you marked, then glue the CDs inside, lining them back up over the holes.

Step 10. Use the rectangle strips of cardboard to create a reinforcement grid, like a maze. Gluing the edges of the cardboard strips down.

Step 11. Allow the interior walls to dry, then cover the top of the box with the plastic sheeting, making it as air tight as possible and glue it down.

Step 12. Insert hooks into the corners of the plastic and hang your solar window box.

How to make a solar panel with household items can be a fun project but at the end of the day, these DIY solar panels do not pack the same electricity-generating punch as commercially made solar cells do.

They will have the capacity to convert sunlight into energy, that can warm a small area, or surface.

How To Make a Solar Panel Better: Science Is Working

Over the last few years, the evolution in the solar technology sector has been nothing short of incredible with improvements in design, battery storage, and efficiency.

No longer are solar panels the clunky eyesores they once were, locked into place to stare blankly toward an empty sky.

Recent technological advancements are now enabling the panels to tilt and track the movements of the sun to maximize the amount of absorbable sunlight.

Just being able to rotate on an axis has improved the efficiency of solar panels by up to 35%.3 But knowing how to make a solar panel more energy productive is pointless if there is nowhere to store it.

Fortunately, the innovation in battery technology has kept pace with other technological advancements. These new batteries are being produced with improved storage capacities and can store these larger amounts of energy for longer periods of time.

This means that they can easily provide sufficient energy for an entire house or establishment so that when the sun goes down the lights don’t have to go out as well. Yet there have been even more breakthroughs.

Scientists have developed an alternative to silicon-based solar cells in an effort to increase the efficiency by a further 20%. The material is called perovskite and is also cheaper to manufacture into solar cells than silicon, and also leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

Solar panels made from perovskite cells have the potential to outperform any solar panels on the market, but as yet they are not as commercially competitive. This is because, despite the fact that silicon has the more expensive manufacturing process, it is such a plentiful material that the price is hard to beat.

But there can be no doubt that time, and future innovations, will see further technological leaps forward in the solar industry.

How To Install Solar Panels on Roof (How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?)

If you are technical-minded you may well know how to make a solar panel, but do you how to install one on your roof?

Do you know its square footage? Do you know its pitch?

Photo of the top portion of a mansion with roof installed with solar panels.

(Image: Watt A Lot11)

A roof that is ideal for solar panels needs to be facing south, have a pitch of 30°, and be 500 square feet with no nearby structures casting shade on it through any part of the day. But we live in an imperfect world so for your roof to fall within all these parameters is unlikely.

However, pitches between 15°-45°, a roof space of 100 square feet, and even roofs facing in the wrong direction are capable of having solar panels installed on them.

As long as the roof isn’t overshadowed by a forest of tall trees, that is, the full solar capturing potential can still be realized from your rooftop.7

  1. The age of the roof has to be considered as solar panels weigh about 2 kg per sq ft so the roof has to be able to withstand that load.
  2. Anchor the stanchions of the solar panel frame securely into the roof’s rafters.
  3. The wiring needs to be run from the house electricity meter, a new sub-panel, and a micro-inverter, so it may be a good option to employ an electrician as this will have to be up to code.

Knowing how to install solar panels on roof, the next question is how many solar panels do I need? If you want to know the maximum amount of solar panels needed to power your home, it is first necessary to calculate the energy requirements for your home by reading your utility bills.

You can also calculate how many solar panels you’ll need using this calculator:

The average hourly consumption of your home needs to be multiplied by the hours of sunlight in your area. That figure should then be divided by the wattage of the solar panels and the resulting figure should reveal how many panels are required to keep the lights on in your home and run all your gadgets and gizmos.

Solar Panels and the Future

Solar-powered cars, solar power satellites in space, and even solar-powered planes are closer to reality than we may believe.

Photo of a space station with solar panels which powers it up as it roams around the earth.

(Image: SpaceX12)

With greenhouse gas emissions and climate change a worldwide problem, engaging experts in the drive to constantly adapt and improve on the capture and conversion of this clean energy source for the future is paramount.4

Renewable energy sources are the way forward, with millions of people wanting to do their part to save the planet.

Knowing how to make a solar panel at home is not only a fun scientific activity, with the right materials, you can build yourself some free energy (in small batches).

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Make a Solar Panel

How To Test a Solar Panel?

For those asking, how to test a solar panel, a multimeter is the best way to test a solar panel. When it is connected to the positive and negative cables in the box, it will give a DC reading on how much energy the panel is producing from sunlight

How To Make a Solar Panel With Cardboard?

Solar cells cannot be made out of cardboard. Understanding how to make a solar panel highlights the fact that this material can only be used in making the frame to hold the cell.

How To Make Solar Panels Look Good?

There is a printable skin on the market that can be adhered to the panels so they are the same color as your roof to make them blend in, instead of standing out.

How Many Solar Panels Are Needed To Power an Average House?

Between 17-21 solar panels would be needed depending on the hours of daily sunlight, and wattage of the panels.


1Arizona State University. (2023). How Solar Works. Business and Finance. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from <>

2Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. (2023). Climate Change. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from <>

3Jones-Albertus, B. (2021, July 28). Replacing Your Roof? It’s a Great Time to Add Solar. Energy Efficient & Renewable Energy. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from <>

4O’Niel, C., & Dreves, H. (2022, February 7). Building a Solar-Powered Future. ONREL Transforming Energy. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from <>

5US Department of Energy. (2023). Cadmium Telluride. Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from <>

6US Department of Energy. (2023). Solar Photovoltaic Technology Basics. ONREL Transforming Energy. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from <>

7US Department of Energy. (2023). Solar Rooftop Potential. Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from <>

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9Los Muertos Crew. Pexels. Retrieved from <>

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11Watt A Lot. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

12SpaceX. Pexels. Retrieved from <>