How To Make Your Own Solar Hot Water Panel How To Make Your Own Solar Hot Water Panel

What You'll Need
1-inch plywood
Circular saw w/wood and metal blades
Wood glue
Electric router
Straight edge
Power drill
Insulated copper piping (1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter)
Glazed glass panel
Copper solder
Soldering iron
Silicon caulk
Caulking gun
Small metal tank
Flat black paint

The construction of solar hot water panels requires some time, effort and the right materials, but it is well within the grasp of the motivated do-it-yourselfer. By making your own panel, you will not only be saving money over the long term by decreasing the monthly costs associated with water heating, but you will avoid the large initial investment usually involved with solar hot water systems. Besides the panel, though, to complete your solar hot water system you will also need a storage tank and the necessary piping. The easiest type of solar hot water panel and system you can build yourself is a passive Internal Collector Storage or “batch” system. It heats pumped-in water from the sun and then stores it above the panel in a tank. Because the storage tank is often exposed to the outside, ICS or batch systems are not very well equipped for cold weather locales.

Step 1: Build the Box

First, you have to build the box which contains the pipes to channel water. The box should be 5 inches thick. The other dimensions can vary, but it must be no bigger than the piece of glazed glass. Measure the diameter of the glass. Make the dimensions of the plywood sheet the same area with 1 inch added to both width and length. Cut 1 piece of plywood to the proper dimensions. Cut 4 strips of plywood, each 4 inches wide. Two should be equal in length to the length of the long side of the sheet while the other 2 should equal the short sides minus 2 inches.

Step 2: Drill Holes for Copper Pipe

On one of the shorter side pieces, drill a hole at either end. Both holes should be centered at the end of the strip and about 1 inch from the edge. Measure the diameter of the copper pipe and make the holes just slightly bigger so the pipe will go through with little resistance.

Step 3: Make Dado Cuts

A dado cut is a 3-sided groove into a side of wood. In this case, you need to make a groove in all 4 strips an equal distance from the top so the glass panel will slide in. Set up a straight edge and a means of securing the strip of wood. Measure the thickness of the glass and set up the electric router with the appropriate bit. Remember, there are 2 holes on 1 short strip, so the dado groove will have to accommodate their location. Once all 4 strips are done, when held together in a rectangle, they should form an even groove on the inside.

Step 4: Glue Together

Glue and screw the 2 long pieces on edge to the long sides of the sheet. Affix the short side with no holes to the edge of 1 side in the same manner. Make sure all edges are flush. See to it that the fourth side (with the holes) fits snugly, but do not glue it in yet.

Step 5: Solder the Pipe

You will create a parallel series of copper pipe that will be positioned inside the box. Two lengths of copper pipe should run nearly the entire length of the box. Cut these long enough to extend out of the 2 holes in the short side. Depending on their distance from one another, measure and cut several other lengths of copper pipe to fit perpendicularly between them. Drill holes in the long pieces equidistant apart and solder each of the shorter pieces to each length. Cap the far ends of each long piece. Make sure all connections are secure and that the open ends of the long pieces fit through the holes in the unattached short side.

Step 6: Insulate the Box

Using silicon caulk and other insulation, insulate every seam on the inside of the box. You want no heat escaping from it once it enters.

Step 7: Slide in the Glass

Slide the glazed piece of glass into the grooves. Once in place, and with the parallel series of pipe secured inside as well, attach the fourth side. Make sure the open ends come through. Seal the holes around the protruding pipes with waterproof caulk.

Step 8: Mount the Panel and the Tank

The panel should be mounted at an angle, either on the roof or on the ground. Atop it positioned the storage tank painted flat black to keep heat in.

Step 9: Connect Pipes

The top pipe will connect to the storage tank while the bottom pipe will receive cold water from the water main. Make sure all of the seals are sound. The storage tank also needs to have a pipe running out to the hot water line of the house.

As cold water is pumped in, it will fill the parallel pipes inside the panel and be heated by the sun. The glazed glass prevents heat from escaping. As the water heats in the sun, it rises up the pipes and out into the storage tank. From there, hot water is provided for your home without the need of any electricity whatsoever.

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