Here’s a collection of my research on how to build & install solar energy to go “off the grid” with our DIY aquaponics garden. If you are curious to build a system of your own, use the designs in these videos as inspirations and to help understand the basic mechanics behind solar energy installations.
DIY Solar Materials
All the individual parts you will need to build an off grid solar array:
- Solar Modules (aka Solar Panels). Collect energy from the sun and turn it into direct current.
- Power Inverter. Turns the DC from the panels into AC that your aquaponics system and other appliances can use.
- PV Disconnect. Lets you cut off power so that you can work on the system without electrocuting yourself.
Choosing The Best Solar Panels
Choosing either crystalline or thin-film panels has major consequences for the rest of the installation process, so important to make these considerations upfront before deciding how to mount them.
Crystalline modules are the very efficient and durable big panels that usually come to mind when you think about solar power. A 40 year lifespan is more than you can ask of many home improvement projects, and gives you more than enough time to make your money back in savings.
A drawback of crystalline is installation: cells require a somewhat elaborate racking system. This means more effort and costly materials are needed for this DIY project. Though you can buy an adjustable solar panel mounting rack bracket for under $50 each on Amazon.
Thin-film solar modules come on a roll of flexible material. Though crystalline modules are more popular, thin-film is gaining a strong foothold in the market due to its ease of use. The two biggest advantages of thin-film are cost and convenience, since installation is as simple as slapping the module onto a smooth surface. One major drawback of thin-film, however, is durability – Thin-film usually only lasts around 25 years. Compared to crystalline, thin-film is usually more efficient in the dark, but less efficient in general. Although the thin-film panels are slightly more expensive, you don’t have to buy expensive racking for them. Here’s a kit you can buy on Amazon for $269 / free shipping with everything except the 24 volt battery:
DIY SOLAR POWER VIDEOS
The following video explains how simple it is to incorporate solar energy systems to power your aquaponic system, and the rest of the videos explain how to create a solar energy system itself. STOP PAYING for energy. START SELLING energy back to your utility company!
How to Create an Off-the-Grid Solar Powered Aquaponic System for under $400: using only the sun, a food-grade 275 gallon IBC tote cut in two ($125), flood and drain system ($5), 20 watt water pump ($20), and 60 watt solar panel kit ($436 & FREE Shipping includes charge controller, battery, and inverter).
Components of DIY Solar Panel Home Installation: describes every component used for his 24 Volt DIY solar system, how it works, where he got it, and the cost he paid — just over $4,700. “You really only need 4 main elements. You need the solar panels, charge controller, battery, and inverter…plus wire and fuses.”
Here’s a linked list of the specific products he LDSPrepper used in the video below:
- 4 x Grape Solar 250 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- Samlex PST-150S-24A 1500-watt 24V Pure Sine Wave Inverter
- Battery Tender 24 Volt Battery Charger
- Battery Saver Desulfator
- 13 x 24″ Starter to Switch Battery Cable
- 4 x 6 AWG Multi Strand Copper Wire, 60 Feet
- 2-1/2 in. Polypropylene Wheel Swivel Plate Caster
- Kill-A-Watt Meter
- 2 x BZ 500 MPPT500 Watt PV Charge Controllers: (www.bzproducts.net)
- 4’x8′ 1/2″ Plywood for Battery Box (
- 12 x 6V golf-car batteries
- Wire Nuts, Zip Ties, Misc.
- 35 Watt & 200 Watt Fuses
How to Create DIY Solar Panel Using PV Solar Cells: explains the process and method of tabbing together polycrystalline cells together using tab wire, a flux pen, silver solder, and a soldering iron. Costs $2 per Watt. Need 36 cells to charge 12 volt battery (about $100).
How to Create a DIY Solar Battery Charger Using Old Car Batteries: really inexpensive way to create a solar energy charger by repurposing 2 old car batteries, an inverter, and cables from the junk yard. Useful for charging computers, phones, & battery chargers.
DIY SOLAR INSTALLATION
Thin film installation is much easier than crystalline panels. To install this 136 watt thin film solar panel, just peel and stick to any metal or laminate surface.
How to install solar panels on your roof quickly and cheaply: If you can get your hands on crystalline solar panels, this is by far the easiest DIY home installation method I’ve seen.
DIY Solar Power Mount Using Old Satellite: explains how to create a simple, sturdy mount for any sized solar panel on your roof using an old satellite mount. Creative!