I have discovered the best way to build a solar panel using an aluminum frame. Constructing an aluminum frame can be confusing if you are not familiar with cutting angles. Below is a list of what you will need to construct a frame using 3 x 6 inch solar cells for a 70 watt solar panel. Our frame size will measure 27″ x 32 3/4″.
- Aluminum angle– You will need a 10 foot piece of 1-1/2 angle, it should be 1/8″ thick. We will be making this frame to last at least 30 years, so that is why we are using 1/8″ thick angle. This aluminum angle can be purchased at your local home supply store.
- Nuts, machine screws, and washers– To assemble our frame we will use 1/4″ hardware. We are using stainless steel machine screws and nuts because again we want this to last at least 30 years. The length of the screws should be 1/2″.
- Carpenters square– You will need a carpenters square for keeping your frame straight.
- Miter box for cutting angles– For cutting your frame corners you will need a miter box. You can purchase a cheap plastic one that will work fine for what we are doing.
- Hack saw– We will cut all our aluminum with a hack saw using metal cutting blades.
- We will need right angle pieces for joining are corners– After we cut are aluminum we will need to join it together using right angle corners. They can either be purchased or they can be made out of the scrap aluminum.
- A flat file– This will be used for filing off any burrs of metal left from cutting.
- An electric or battery drill with a 1/4″ drill bit– This is used to drill holes in your brackets and corners of the frame.
The first thing you need to do is place the miter box on a flat surface or bench top for easy cutting. I mounted mine to a bench using the holes provided. You need to measure your first piece of the solar frame at 27 inches. This is the tricky part of cutting any angle, is getting the angle direction in the right direction.
Next, we need to lay the angle in the miter box near one end. Laying the aluminum angle in the miter box closest to you, we will make our first cut, a 45 degree angle; this will be a cut to the right. Make the cut using your hack saw, cutting down at all times. What makes this easier is to clamp your aluminum in the miter box using either a c-clamp or a squeeze clamp, this makes cutting much easier.
After you have made your first cut, measure 27′ from the corner of the cut and mark the aluminum using either a pencil or marker. The easiest way to make this cut is to slide the aluminum in the same position as before but all the way to the 45 degree angle facing left. Carefully, place the mark on the cut in the miter box, clamp down and make your cut. Now measure the piece and it should be 27″. Go ahead and make another 27″ piece matching the one you just made, and then make two pieces the same way at 32 3/4″. Make sure you file off any burrs left from cutting.
Now we will assemble our frame. Place your frame down on a flat surface and using a square check to make sure your frame is square. Place your angle brackets in each corner and mark the center of each hole. Next, drill each hole mark using a starter bit such as a 1/8″ drill bit, and then finish each hole by drilling out to 1/4″. Using the 1/2″ machine screws, place the head of the screw from the outside, then apply the washer and nut, tighten each corner. Congratulations, you have made your first solar frame ready to mount your tempered glass in and start adding your solar cells.