DIY HOME SOLAR POWER TRACKER
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Up until a few short years ago home solar power was only used mostly by people in a position where connecting to the power grid was too expensive or simply unobtainable due to environmental factors, too great a distance to the grid, waterways or mountains restricting access etc, mostly remote locations such as the outback or where the Electricity Grid infrastructure just wasn’t available.
A DIY home solar system in this situation relied heavily on obtaining power from the sun so to make full use of their solar system a solar tracker would increase performance by as much as 25%.
If you are on the grid and have a home solar system you will not necessarily need to track the sun but doing so is always a good idea.
What does it do?
The sun is at its peak at 12 Midday, this is where your panels have been setup to be directly in front of the sun as the peak electrical input is obtained at this time.
An automatic solar tracker will turn your panels to face the sun from Dawn to dusk.
Throughout the day your home solar panels will be perfectly aligned to the sun. Let’s say the maximum input is 14 Amps at midday.
Normally your input at 8 AM would be around 4 Amps but turn your panels to face the sun and you will get 8 Amps.
That’s an increase of 50%, not bad but of course you won’t get an increase of 50% all day long.
There are automatic solar trackers on the market but they are expensive although well worth the money.
MANUAL DIY SOLAR POWER TRACKING
Once your solar power panels have been installed you can convert them to manual tracking, although this means they will need constant supervision.
It has been proven that they really only need to be turned three times a day.
At the start of the day turn your panels toward the East where the sun rises over the horizon.
Turn them to the home position at midday and around three or four o’clock turn them to face the West where the sun disappears over the horizon.
Of course it is a lot better to turn them every half an hour to get the absolute best input but for most people this is not an option.
For some people it’s not a problem because they may be home most of the time so every time they walk past they just give the panels a nudge.
The way to tell if your panels are facing squarely to the sun is by looking at the shadow cast on the ground.
If your ground is relatively flat the shadow will have nice square edges.
DIY CONVERT YOUR HOMESOLAR PANELS TO MANUAL TRACKING
Consider this as a basic guide; use your common sense and handyman skills to perfect you home solar panels tracker.
An average system may have eight solar panels built onto a galvanized iron frame.
The first thing you need to do is support the centre of the frame by connecting a tube vertically of the same size and material that your frame is made from, generally 33mm or 1 3/8”.
Using standard pipe clamps from the centre of the middle tube to the ground. Dig a square hole about 30 centimeters (1 Ft) deep and 1.5 meters square about 4.5 Ft.
This will be the main pivot point and will be filled with good quality concrete, preferably with steel reinforcing mesh (REO).
The centre pipe will go all the way into the cement so drill some holes through the bottom of the pipe and push 10 mm bar x 20 centimeters long into it for extra strength In between the pipe connection to the centre of the frame and the ground the tube will have a load bearing pivot point; this is where your own inventiveness will be needed as there are many ways of going about it.
A bearing store can help you with this. One way is to convert an old clothes line.
Australia has a clothes line known as a Hills Hoist.
These are ideal for the purpose as you just retrieve the centre swivel pole.
A cheaper option is to just cut the vertical pole and insert a solid bar perhaps 45 centimeters long, the top end of the bar will sit up against the original horizontal bar of the frame and you will drill a hole past the cut line and put a heavy bolt in about 12 millimeters diameter.
The solid bar will sit on the bolt and must be just long enough so that there is a gap in the pipe of only one to two millimeters. Once the vertical pipe is installed with you bearing or solid bar in place and the cement is well set (after at least three days), you can cut the rest of the vertical pipes of the frame.
Cut them about 30 centimeters from the ground and make up some pipes that will slide over the original frame pipes.
These will be used to clamp the frame back to its home position if strong winds are expected.
Drill holes in the clamp pipes and weld nuts on to them for hand tightening clamps.
Use 12 mm bolts and weld 12 mm bar across the top of them for grip rather than using a spanner to tighten them.
The last thing to do now is make up the wheel frames.
Use good quality 30 centimeter solid rubber wheels similar to wheelbarrow heels but do not use pneumatic (air) tires.
Four of these will be bolted to vertical pipes on your frame just long enough so your solar panels are sitting level.
Bolt them about 30 centimeters from the ends of the SPF (solar panel frame).
You will have to make ‘U’ shaped frames for the wheels from flat bar stock 6 x 1.2 centimeters with a hole drilled in the top of the ‘U’ to accommodate the vertical pipes which as mentioned before will be the same as you’re SPF (33 mm).
The wheels have to be turned in to the radius of the circle they will be traversing; can you imagine trying to force a wheel around a circle if it is facing forward?
It will shudder and scrape making the SPF very difficult to turn. Ultimately you want your SPF to turn with ease; a ten year old boy (or girl) should be able to turn it.
Join the two wheels at each end by a horizontal pipe, half way up from the ground and support the vertical wheel pipes by another pipe coming from the end SPF pipes again half way up from the ground. In total there should be five pipes to each set of two wheels.
Paint the cut pipes sticking up out of the ground with bright paint so you won’t trip over them. Some final tweaking and adjustments and your Home Solar Tracker will be good to go.
Do you want to design, install or build your very own solar powered home, but don't know how or where to start?
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