Heating solar panels made with 180 soda cans ? It’s possible, as Daniel Strohl from Hemmings Garage once dit. He made his solar panel out of need for heating his garage with a lot of ingenuity and whatever he had laying around. Is it your best solution? Let’s find out.
Make Your Own Solar Panels
I am on a greenhouse, gardening and garden crafts – kick!
And so I followed Daniel Strohl. He wanted to tinker in his garage, but it was too cold there in Winter. So, he created his own heating system. I love Daniels’ practical approach of just finding a key element and then adjusting all the other elements to match. After 3 years of refining his solar heating project, here it is.
How-to make your own solar panels for soda cans
What you’ll need
- old glass sliding door; or a frame with polycarbonate sheet on front.
- 2×4’s to size
- for the back panel, use either plywood or metal cut to the size of the door
- 180 empty cleaned soda cans (the cans are effectively your solar panel cells). You can also use soup cans -with 7-10 1/4″ holes drilled into the bottoms.
- silicon adhesive to glue to the cans together (pick one that can withstand 400 degrees or more), and to seal.
- Optional: insulate your back and sides with insulation materials, such as cardboard.
- Black paint.
The way Daniel made his solar panel: he found an old glass sliding door, and then used that as his measuring stick for all the other materials. He cut his 2×4’s and back plywood to that size for the box. He just filled it up with cans. It turned out, there are 180. So, we recommend you to to work with the right kind of frame, and then size/scale your supporting materials accordingly. When assembled, paint the cans black to absorb and conduct UV heat better.
- How to make this work as a solar panel that offer you heating:
- Install an air intake-tube at the bottom or back-bottom of the frame
- Add an air output tube at the top or back-top.
- Fill gaps around the frame’s edges & openings for the tubes with heat-resistant silicone.
- Attach an exhaust fan to or place near the intake tube to pull cold air from the room into your panel.
- Attach the 2nd fan or air pump to or place near the output tube to pump the warmed air back into your living space.
DIY Solar Panel Effectiveness: How Much Heat Does it Produce?
Daniel recorded temperature differentials up to 120 degrees in full sun and up to about 80 degrees in a mixture of sun and clouds. Not enough to boil water (almost), but enough to heat up a garage, greenhouse or garden guest house.
Daniel Strohl described the full details of how to make heating solar panels on this page, https://www.hemmings.com/stories/index.php/2010/06/22/soda-can-solar-heater-v2-completed, but has since removed it as perhaps his solar power adventure got him diverted from his car repairs, as that’s his main business. I wish I had made a copy of this page, but I didn’t. So, for your benefit, I have assembled the information from a variety of other sources, so that you’ll still find the answer that you are looking for.
Reality check – 2023.
Things have move on tremendous amount since Daniel did his project in 2010. Today’s solar panel are not made from cans but from ultra-efficient silicon solar cells instead. Technology has moved on so far that efficient solar panels on the market now can be very inexpensive. Probably less expensive than 180 cans of coke, plus the cost of the glass, the silicone, frame, etc. And probably, 100x or more, as good.
Buy Solar Panels Online
You can get real, well- working, latest technology solar power panels for home, RV, sheds, or off the grid situations, for just a couple of hundred bucks. (Yes, you can spend several thousands for either ‘cosmetic’ features as well as more capacity). But this is a good choice:
This Inexpensive, durable kit is by HQST (High Quality Solar Technology). It’s made to last for decades. It is easy to install and suitable for beginners with solar energy. (#ad) It includes 2 pack 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel, 30 Amp 12V/24V PWM Solar Charge Controller with LCD Display, 20Ft 10AWG Solar Panel and Controller Connector Cables, 8FT 10AWG Controller and battery Connector cables,2 Set of Mounting Z Brackets.
This kit can be used in various off-grid applications that include 12 volts arrays, water pumping systems, signalling systems and more.
Great for off-grid applications, such as RVs, trailers, boats, sheds, and cabins.
Like my garden shed! We won’t always be able to do potting outside….
Going Solar … is a Journey
Once you start looking solar cells, other than recycled beer cans, at some point you’ll wonder: Is polycrystalline or monocrystalline better? And the answer is: Nope! Monocrystalline solar cells are more efficient because they are cut from a single source of silicon. So, go for that. Which is why I’m pointing to the very product I’m pointing at, which has monocrystalline cells.
How much do solar panels cost?
Surprisingly little, really, compared to typical energy bills. This entire kit with panel and associated required elements that you’ll need to make it work, is just about $250. Have a look here into your various solar system solutions out there. (#ad)
Make Your own Solar Panel in 2023
‘Making your own solar panel’ today is maybe better put as ‘installing your own solar panel’. OK. It does not sound as ‘romantic’ and ‘fun’ as recycling your soda cans. But it’s much more likely to get you the energy results you’re after! And will probably end up costing you similar in expenses and materials.
It is important that we go solar / start using renewable energy. These panels are a great way to heat up the garage as Daniel used to do, and more!
Method #2 of making your own solar panel: with old fridges
Not convinced and prefer to tinker with recyclables first, but perhaps not with cans? If you’re of this opinion, then consider this second idea, of using old fridges as a solar panel. All explained in a clear how-to video (not mine):