Over the years we have featured a whole load of awesome DIY solar projects for you guys to try building for yourselves. This fairly big post is a round up of some of the shorter DIY solar posts we have done. I have rounded them up here, in one place, to make them easier to find. The DIY solar projects below are in no particular order, so make sure you have a scan through all of them! You can use the ‘table of contents’ below, to jump to any specific project.
DIY Beautiful Solar Light Pathway
How awesome does that look? This solar light pathway is made with glass blocks and solar powered LED lights. In the tutorial below, most of the items used were purchased, but I think you could pick up almost everything required for free if you ask around…
For example when we moved into our house, the previous owner had left 15 of those glass blocks in the garage. They knocked around for a while and then I ended up just giving them away. Also if you didn’t want the different colors, you could pick up some free unwanted solar garden lights, and utilize the solar panel and LED in the glass blocks; this method would also cut down on any wiring. If you want to give this a go, get on Freecycle (or similar) and see what you can acquire for free. Tutorial: DIY Beautiful Solar Light Pathway.
Build A Solar Panel From A Picture Frame & Some Solar Garden Lights
If you have been following K.W.N for a while, you’ll know we love cheap recycling/re-purposing projects. Today we have a nice little solar project to build a cheap solar panel from a picture frame and some old garden solar lights…
This would be a cheap project even if you were purchasing the solar garden lights specifically to build this solar panel. You can pick them up for a dollar or two and you could save the batteries and LEDs for other projects. It’s just not necessary to buy new lights though. Almost everyone has some of these solar lights laying around unused at home. The cheap batteries fail and then they get discarded in the shed. Ask around, I am sure you’ll have no problem getting hold of some for free! Once you have enough solar garden lights, check the tutorial and get building your own cheap DIY solar panel.
How To Get Cheap Solar Power: 14 DIY Solar Projects
For most people the dream of living off-the-grid can only be accomplished by utilizing solar power, but this doesn’t always have to mean purchasing $10,000 solar system to power your home. Solar power has never been this cheap! Here are 14 DIY solar tutorials to get you generating free electricity and cooking for FREE, using just the power of the sun.
There are cheap DIY solar projects here ranging from simple solar food dehydrators and cookers, through to small DIY solar generators and even a full DIY home built solar system…
DIY Home Built Solar Power System
If you truly want to live off-the-grid or insulate yourself against rising energy prices, you have to embrace and utilize solar power (unless you have running water source, in which case you could utilize hydro power instead).
The problem is that getting a professional company to kit out and set up you up with a solar power system can be very expensive, but if you have sound DIY skills, with a bit of planning and research, you can set up your own DIY home solar power system. Check out the link here to see how this can be done.
How To Make A Better Solar Dehydrator
We did a post ages back about how to make a different solar dehydrator, but that dehydrator was a completely different design…
Personally I think this solar dehydrator is a more effective design. The whole thing seems more effective and simple and this applies to how it’s built and how it functions. If I had to choose between the two solar dehydrator designs, I would choose to build this one. Check out the great photo tutorial (including materials list) from ’10 Degrees Above’.
Make A Cardboard And Duct Tape Solar Oven
Now I’ll admit – until I started reading up on them a bit more – I thought solar ovens were a bit of a gimmick, you know, something to do with the kids, or just a fun project that isn’t that practical… How wrong I was! On a sunny day these babies rock, I have seen them cooking all manner of foods, I have even seen one bake a loaf of bread!
The tutorial below shows have to make a super quick, super simple solar oven from just a cardboard box, aluminum foil and some duct tape, and even this solar oven managed to get to a temperature of 280 degrees! This is a cardboard box and aluminum foil solar oven; imagine how much a solar oven would be if it was made from higher quality materials! I have read posts saying that 450 degrees is easily achievable. I’ll search out a higher quality, more permanent solar cooking tutorial, but in the meantime, have a go making this cardboard box solar oven and see how it goes. Tutorial: Make A Cardboard And Duct Tape Solar Oven.
How To Build A Solar Food Dehydrator
The main solution to this problem is to preserve your fruit and vegetables so you can enjoy them through the winter months. In my opinion, one of the best ways to do this is to dehydrate the food. You can purchase electric dehydrators, but why spend money on an electric dehydrator and continue spending money on the electricity it uses, when you can make a solar dehydrator pretty cheaply that costs nothing to run.
If you’re interested in building your own solar dehydrator, check out the video below. Also check out this link for more information on building a solar dehydrator.
How To Build An Awesome Solar Oven (Bakes Bread & Cooks Whole Chicken!)
A while back we did a post showing how to build a very cheap and easy solar oven from a cardboard box. Today we are featuring its big brother (built by the same person), which is made from wood, fully insulated and even has a sun finding pivoting base, making it easy to focus the oven at the sun.
People dismiss solar ovens as a gimmick, I think this is a mistake, sure, they are useless on a cloudy day, but it is worth building a solar oven because when the sun is shining, you can cook all day long for free! This particular oven can maintain a 300 degree temperature on a sunny day, and it is often used to bake bread and cook whole chicken.
DIY Solar USB Charger – Upcycle An Old Altoid Tin
If you are a fan of DIY and LOVE solar powered stuff, this is your next project. This Altoid tin solar USB charger will power your iPod or phone where ever you are.
Why spend 50 bucks on one from online when you can make one for a lot cheaper and a lot cooler looking. You can pop the solar panel away and no one will ever know what is inside. Tutorial: DIY Solar USB Charger – Upcycle An Old Altoid Tin
How To Build A Solar-Powered Still To Purify Any Water Source
The great thing about using a still, or in this case, a solar still to purify water is that any water source can be used, even dirty unfiltered water and sea water!
Boiling water is the most common way to purify water to make it safer to drink. The problem is that boiling dirty water with debris in isn’t very effective as even after the water is boiled, there is still potentially dangerous sediment and debris in the water. It is the same with salt water, boiling won’t make it drinkable… Purifying water with any still and in this case a solar still, will effectively purify both dirty unfiltered water and salt water. This is because in both cases, the sediment and salt etc, don’t evaporate, so they are left behind to be discarded. To find out more about building a solar still, check out the great post from ‘Off The Grid News’.
DIY Solar Water Heater from Stock Tank
Are you looking to get off the grid to heat your water? Batch heaters have long been known as the best choice in warm climates or for seasonal use in colder areas, and recent work with improved materials and designs suggests they may also be the best choice even in colder areas.
You could find a lot of the parts and materials needed to make this on craigslist to make this build even cheaper. Tutorial: DIY Solar Water Heater from Stock Tank
DIY Miniature Soda Can Solar Heater
This is very similar, although on a much smaller scale. This soda can solar heater from Primed Preppers is designed to fit on a windowsill. It is not going to completely heat your home, but every little bit helps.
I think this would be a nice fun project to do either with the kids, or perhaps as a proof of concept/trial, before taking things large scale like our previous post on soda can solar heaters.
How To Build Your Own Solar Thermal Panel For Around $5
I did a post a few days back about solar power for your home. Some folks on the Facebook page pointed out that the options featured were expensive and out of the reach of many people.
Today I am going to focus on budget solar power and when I say budget, I mean less than $5. That’s right, for less than $5 you can build a solar thermal panel, which will heat water to a temperature that scalds.
This option is small-scale and it is built around a reclaimed heat dispersal system from an old refrigerator (which you can get with the gas removed from your local dump). It has no pump as it is gravity fed and it requires no electricity to work. Just put it in the sun, turn on the water feed and you will get a slow but constant supply of very hot water.
Now this is all small-scale, but I see no reason why several of these panels could not be used together in some way, to meet a family’s entire hot water needs. The idea of using reclaimed heat dispersal systems from old refrigerators is genius and I definitely think there is enough here to run with, and create something more large-scale.
Head over to The Sietch and check out their tutorial complete with lots of photos to help you along the way.
DIY Solar Panel That Follows The Sun
Solar power is a great way to get off the grid or at least power some household items to be more self sufficient. The only problem with this is you have to have the solar panels pointing in the direction where the sun the most.
This relatively low cost and straightforward to build project actually allows your panel to follow the sun so you have more hours of sun on your panel, thus, giving you more power, aparently, between 30 and 50% more power! See the full instructable here.
How To Build Your Own Solar Thermal (Free hot water!)
To be fair, the person who built this solar thermal is based in Hawaii, but it has proven very effective there, so there is no reason this should not be just as effective for anyone else living in similar warm regions. It could also be utilized in cooler climates, but its performance is very much determined by the heat and sun. Even so, it could still be a worthwhile project, even if it is only effective seasonally.
Head over to The Sietch and check out their tutorial complete with lots of photos to help you along the way.
DIY Portable Solar Water Heater
I go camping pretty much every few months and I have always wondered if there was a way of getting hot water without boiling it over a fire! I found a DIY portable water heater that you can make for around $10 and can be folded and carried in a backpack, suitcase, car or boat!
This could be used to have a shower or to wash. Even better, if you were bugging out, this would give a much needed moral boost to get you going again. See how to make it.
DIY Solar Powered Radio (or other AA powered devices) For $3
Sure, you can go out and purchase a new solar powered radio, but they cost a lot more, and this way you can convert an existing radio you have. If you also have an old solar garden light as well, this project will cost next to nothing to complete. Once completed you can put rechargeable AA batteries in your radio and they will be recharged by the solar panel when it is left in bright light.
I am not an expert, so someone please tell me if I am wrong, but I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t do the same thing with any 2/3 AA cell powered device. The principle would remain the same…
If you want to give it a go, head over to Got Wind and check out the tutorial.
Make A Solar Scorcher (Fresnel Lens) Frame
How to build the Solar Scorcher
The Solar Scorcher in action, burning and melting stuff…
This DIY solar scorcher (Fresnel Lens) is so powerful that it produces a 2,000-degree ray of heat, that instantly sets wood alight. With a focused beam it can also melt sheet metal!
It could be used for cooking boiling water etc and I am sure it has some other genuine uses (fire starting and melting stuff etc), but I am mostly just featuring it as it is pretty cool and it seriously demonstrates how the power of the sun can be harnessed into something that’s crazy powerful. This DIY project was made with the panel out of an old TV and some low cost wood; the whole thing cost less than $8 to build.
Build A DIY Solar USB Phone Charger For $5
We have featured several DIY solar chargers in the past, some large scale with others being small USB chargers like this one. We featured a DIY USB charger a while back, but the cost came in a bit higher than this charger, due to the fact that that solar charger was effectively a solar battery charger which could then charge mobile USB devices via the power stored in the rechargeable batteries.
This solar charger doesn’t have a battery pack, it charges the battery in your USB device directly. This brings the cost down as you don’t need to purchase some rechargeable batteries to use for the project. It also means you never have to worry about the batteries failing over time (because there are none!) AND the solar charger is lighter/smaller and way more portable. It could fit in your pocket. Check out the tutorial.
Make A Cheap Solar Charger From 2 Garden Solar Lights
I think almost all of us have some of those cheap garden solar lights, with many of those lights being broken/unused. If they are broken, see our previous post: DIY Quick Fix For Solar Lights.
If you do have some old unused garden solar lights, why not put them to good use and build this simple solar charger, which uses the solar panels from two garden lights? This DIY charger also has an LED light added for extra functionality. Once built this solar charger should be able to charge/power any small USB device. Tutorial: Make A Cheap Solar Charger From 2 Garden Solar Lights
Easy Solar Panel Or Cooker Sun Tracker Made From A Clock
So we have posted before about DIY solar panels that track the sun for maximum performance, see: DIY Solar Panel That Follows The Sun. The problem is that was a fairly technical DIY build. This solar tracker is much, much simpler though as it basically involves hacking a large clock to provide the mechanism to track the sun. Once built you just set the clock to the sun and it will then track the sun as the clock turns. Seriously, I don’t think you will find a simper or easier to build solar tracker.
This clock solar tracker could be used with a solar oven or a solar panel. Using a solar tracker should increase performance by 30-50% Vs a static solar panel. Check out the build tutorial.
How To Build A DIY Portable Solar Generator
First I should clarify – there are solar panels, solar chargers and solar generators. We have featured several tutorials showing how to build cheap solar chargers. These are simple to build as they are basically just a solar panel that produces electricity and charges when the sun is out, but when the sun goes in, it does nothing. This tutorial is to build a simple weatherproof solar generator – when the sun is shining the panel produces electricity AND then charges (and tops up) an internal battery so you can store the electricity to use later. To be fully weatherproof I would probably make a little cover to go over the external socket, just to keep it dry.
A solar generator like this would be awesome for camping, fishing and emergency preparedness etc. With it you can power lights and other small devices. Check out the full build tutorial here.
DIY Solar Powered Evaporative Cooler (Portable!)
In arid areas of low humidity (desert/ southwest US etc) an evaporation cooler or swamp cooler can reduce the temperature of a room by 20-30 degrees. In many cases they are even more effective than traditional air conditioning. Evaporation coolers are also very low-tech and cheap and easy to build and run. In fact the DIY evaporation cooler in the tutorial below is run via solar power.
DIY evaporation coolers provide true off-the-grid cooling for arid areas. The fact most arid areas have constant sun easily allows these cooler to run via solar power. If you hook in a battery to charge in the solar system, you’ll be able to run the cooler throughout the night too. A great option for RVs, trailers/caravans and cabins. Check out the DIY build tutorial.
How To Make A DIY Solar Furnace For Under $50
Free heating for your home, that’s the dream… Unfortunately, short of owning your own woods with a free supply of wood, heating your home entirely for free is probably going to remain a dream. However there are loads of DIY heating and insulating projects you can undertake that can dramatically cut your heating costs. See: Cheap DIY Energy-Saving Thermal Curtains, Endless Hot Water Without Electricity, DIY Bubble Wrap Window Insulation and 5 Ways To Heat Your Home For Free.
The video above shows how to make a simple solar furnace for around $50. It’s not going to entirely heat your home, but every little bit helps and even if it allows you to turn the thermostat down by one degree, that will save you a load of money over the winter.
(Image from: thegulley.com )