DIY solar projects : how to put the sun to work in your home

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Apr 02, Smellsofbikes rated it really liked it. Not enough detail, but given the amount of ground it covers, that's not surprising. It handles installation hardware and techniques, solar electric, solar hot water, solar hot air, solar ovens, and wood-drying kilns. The last two weren't too useful to me but they were well-written, as were the earlier chapters.

Sep 04, Horseandahalf rated it really liked it. I really liked this book. I'm a fan of the subject matter anyway, but it is organized in a very well thought out manner. They start simple, and slowly go more complex to make everything easy to learn. They also provide very basic projects to get yourself started.

What I liked the most about the book is I found myself thinking of very easy translational projects for hobbies I enjoy. I think that's the ultimate goal of any DIY book: give the reader what they need to do the projects they want. Oct 23, Heather rated it it was ok Shelves: did-not-finish. I think if I wanted to set up a solar panel myself or describe what I needed done, this might be helpful. It kind of gives you a basic idea in picture form. Eriche Sarvay rated it it was amazing Sep 06, Jack rated it it was ok May 24, Daniel Hammer rated it really liked it Aug 24, Jeremy Davis rated it it was amazing Dec 11, Jean Marcotte rated it really liked it May 08, Kirry rated it liked it Apr 13, Joe Blanford rated it liked it Nov 20, Tony rated it liked it Aug 14, Stockfish rated it it was amazing Mar 17, Jeffery A.

Irwin rated it it was ok Aug 31, Lance Hetzler rated it really liked it Apr 09, Middlethought rated it it was amazing Aug 05, Jul 31, Mills College Library added it. Prabakaran rated it did not like it Sep 20, Elizabeth rated it it was amazing Oct 04, Like Ochs, the trio worked for Bell Labs and had taken on the challenge of creating that balance before. Chapin had been trying to create power sources for remote telephones in deserts, were regular batteries would dry up.

Pearson and Fuller were working on controlling the properties of semiconductors, which would later be used to power computers. Aware of each others work, the three decided to collaborate. To understand how silicon solar panels make electricity requires shrinking down to the atomic level. Silicon has an atomic number of 14, which means that it has 14 protons in its center and 14 electrons circling that center.

Using the classic imagery of atomic circles, there are three circles moving around the center. The innermost circle is full with two electrons, and the middle circle is full with eight. However, the outermost circle, which holds four electrons, is half-full. That means it will always look to fill itself up with help from nearby atoms. When they connect, they form what is called a crystalline structure.

Why power your tiny house with solar energy?

With all those electrons reaching out and connecting to each other, there isn't much room for an electric current to move. That's why the silicon found in solar panels is impure, mixed in with another element, like phosphorous. The outermost circle of phosphorous has five electrons. That fifth electron becomes what is known as a "free carrier," able to carry an electrical current without much prodding.

Scientists boost the number of free carriers by adding impurities in a process called doping. The result is what's known as N-type silicon. N-type silicon is what's on the surface of a solar panel.


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Below that resides its mirror opposite—P-type silicon. Whereas N-type silicon has one extra electron, P-type uses impurities from elements like gallium or boron, that have one less electron. That creates another imbalance, and when sunlight hits the P-type, the electrons starts to move to fill the voids in each other. A balancing act that repeats itself over and over again, generating electricity.

Solar cells are made out of silicon wafers.

Learn how to make your own solar panels

These are made out of the element silicon, a hard and brittle crystalline solid that is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust after oxygen. If you're at the beach and see shiny black specks in the sand, that's silicon. As Ochs discovered, it naturally converts sunlight into electricity.

Like other crystals, silicon can be grown. Scientists, like the ones at Bell Labs, grow silicon in a tube as a single, uniform crystal, unrolling the tube, and cutting the resulting sheet up into what are known as wafers. That stick is cut like a "pepperoni, a roll of salami cut thin for sandwiches—they shave them very thinly," he says.

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San Diego Solar Panels, DIY Home Installation Kit, Off-grid Systems

They try to make these wafers as skinny as possible, to get as much value out of their crystal as possible. This type of solar cell is made out of mono-crystalline silicon. While the first solar cells resemble today's cells in terms of look, there are a number of differences. Back at Bell Labs, the initial hopes was that solar cells would be good for the coming space race, Margolis says, so there was a premium on keeping weight down. The photovoltaic cells, as they came to be known, were put into a lightweight encapsulate.

And it worked. Just four years after the first working solar cell was developed, on March 17 , the Naval Research Laboratory built and launched Vanguard 1 , the world's first solar-powered satellite. Nowadays, photovoltaic cells are mass-produced and cut by lasers with greater accuracy than any scientist at Bell Labs could have imagined. While they're used in space, they've found far more purpose and value on Earth.

So instead of putting an emphasis on weight, solar manufacturers now put an emphasis on strength and durability. Goodbye lightweight encapsulate, hello glass that can withstand the weather. One of the main focuses on any solar manufacturer is efficiency—how much of the sunlight that falls on every square meter of the solar panel can be converted into electricity. It's "a basic math problem" that lies at the center of all solar production, says Aggarwal. Here, efficiency means how much of the sunlight can be properly converted through P and N-type silicon.

Efficiency means how many electrons they can produce per square inch of silicon wafers.

DIY Solar Projects. How to Put the Sun to Work in Your Home

The more efficient they are, the more economics they can deliver. Around a decade ago, Margolis says, solar efficiency was hovering around 13 percent. In , solar efficiency has risen to 20 percent. There's a clear upward trend, but one that says Margolis has a limit with silicon. Due to the nature of silicon as an element, solar panels have an upper limit of 29 percent.