I hope that your quest towards building your own solar panel
s is going well. In the beginning one of the most difficult choices that you have to make is how big should the solar cells
that you buy be? There is a dizzying amount of different types and sizes that you can use and figuring out what's right for you can turn out to be a costly mistake.
The first thing you need to know is the amount of power that each solar cell produces. Power is rated in volts and amps and the nice thing is that cells always produce the same amount of voltage so all you need to look at is the amount of amps that they put out. Solar cells produce 0.55 volts per cell and varying amount of amps per cell. When you go looking for cells it's easy to compare them by simply comparing the number of amps each cell puts out. Higher is better.
The next question is how many cells do you need? I'll share a couple top secret tips with you here. 3x6 solar cells are perfect for a 2' x 4' panel because you can fix 36 of them in that space and you don't need to waste any material. 36 cell solar panels produce 72 watts @ 19.8 volts (which is perfect for 12V systems). The only advice I can give you here is to buy in bulk. Buy as many as you can afford because higher quantities are significantly cheaper than just buying 36 cells.
Another thing that you need to look at is whether you want to buy tabbed or un-tabbed solar cells. A couple years ago you could save quite a bit of money by tabbing the solar cells yourself; however, in the past couple years solar cell prices have dropped dramatically. I highly recommend that you buy tabbed solar cells (they will tell you if they're tabbed or un-tabbed). Un-tabbed cells are not that much cheaper anymore and they more than double the build time of each solar panel.
Class A or B? Solar cells are sold by class. Class 'A' are perfect condition cells with no defects in them. Class 'B' cells are perfectly functional cells, but they may have some cosmetic blemished. I'll share another secret with you here... Class 'B' cells look the same as Class 'A' cells when they're mounted on your roof (you need to get real close to notice the imperfections). So save your money and buy Class 'B' cells. Class 'A' cells cost over $3/watt and Class 'B' are significantly less than that (I've seen deals of 0.70 for 500 cells).
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