DIY solar heater constructed with aluminum cans


Keep reading to learn about DIY Solar Heating System that looks cooler than Teslas Solar Roof

Want to know the best part?

I built my first homemade solar powered space heaters with soda cans only!

See my home-built solar furnace in action (it's a short video):

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video How to Beat the Price of Best Solar Companies in California with Cheap Pop Can Solar Panels

OK, without further ado, let's dive right in.

First, let's cover the basics of solar power usage. There are 3 types of solar panels:

  • Solar PV (PhotoVoltaic) Panel – creates electricity;
  • Solar Powered Water Heater – heats up water;
  • Solar Powered Air Heater – heats up the air.

Now, you may not want to hear this:

Most residential solar companies will not tell you that other, more efficient options can be used instead of PV solar panels. So instead of focusing on solar electricity, it is much cheaper to install solar space heating.

See also: What is a solar powered outlet?


I started researching DIY solar panel kits in 2009.

Note: This post was first published in 2013. I recently gave it a much-needed update (for 2022) and added many great tips and enhancements that I recently learned. Enjoy!

There were not so many free step-by-step installation guides on the internet at that time. Solar thermal installer resources for beginners were not easily available.

Back then, I reached out to several solar system manufacturers and professional solar installers for advice on how to build a solar system.

I asked them two simple questions:

Would I Make a Good Solar Thermal Installer?

What they answered might shock you.

They told me that building solar systems from scratch and solar panel installation is very complicated.

They also told me I would have to get a solar permit and pass certification training to install and build my own solar energy systems.

And guess what?

They were all wrong!

Thanks to Gary Reysa and Mother Earth News, I stumbled across the cansolair DIY solar heating system on the internet.

It took me less than 1 second to realize how awesome this project is. I instantly decided to start working on my own diy solar installation project.

This is what I learned by studying their commercial version of the solar space heater:

Unlike the solar PV system, even a simple homemade solar power heater could produce 2 KiloWatts of power without much effort or battery storage.

That truly makes it a perfect do-it-yourself solar heating system for homes.

Let's face it:

The concept of making and installing home solar heating systems yourself is not new.

Some homeowners choose DIY to save a few bucks (actually thousands of dollars).

Others do it for fun or simply because they want to build something useful and learn something new (that's me 😂).

The first thing you're going to learn today is figuring out if DIY solar is for you and how to build home solar panels.

In fact, going solar has significant benefits for homeowners:

  • Solar increases the value of your home;
  • Solar investment lowers your utility bill;
  • Decreases environmental pollution by lowering the carbon footprint;
  • Solar brings considerable savings by reducing electricity expenses;
  • It makes you feel good (because you did something right!).

Because of the high price tags that system designers put on commercial systems, solar equipment can be a significant investment. To save money, many homeowners are buying DIY solar panel kits.

To help you decide about making your own solar energy system, I have compiled a list of 5 necessary DIY solar project steps. You only need to check them and figure out if this is something you can do or not.


22- Black Tubing DIY Pool Heater

Easy to create and use, this DIY solar pool heater will extend the amount of time you can use the pool each year. This solar heater will also work great for an outdoor hot tub or above ground pool.

Easy to place on a nearby rooftop or other out of the way location, so the appearance is not an issue. Exposed black tubing attached to a square of plywood will soak up the sun and heat water as it passes through it.

This simple design is highly efficient and is affordable to construct. This design can be expanded and used to heat water inside the home so the need for a water heater that uses energy can be eliminated.

What Does it Cost to Build Pop Can Solar Panel?

The following table contains parts needed for assembling soda can DIY solar panels.

It is a list of parts and calculation of the cost without elements damaged and wasted during the experimenting and prototyping process.

If you strictly follow my "do it yourself" guide, the solar panel total cost will be around $200 (for the 2KW system size).

DIY Solar Generator Parts List

Plexiglass 27ft² / 2.5m2 70
Alu-Sheet 6.5ft² / 0.6m2 7.5
Wood 40ft² / 3.7m2 29.5
WoodPaint 2cans 10.5
Blk. Paint 3cans 15.5
Styrodur 43ft² / 4m2 11.5
Silicon 4cans 17
El. Fan 1 pc 23.5
Alu-Profile 22ft / 6.6m 11
Snap Disc 1 pc 9
TOTAL   $205

Using Recycled Parts Can Lower Solar Panel Cost

You could substantially reduce the price of solar panels if you make an effort to use parts that are otherwise collecting dust lying around in your garage.

Besides, you will need to collect empty soda cans. If you don't drink beer or soda, you can ask for empty pop cans in any restaurant or gas station. It is also essential to get all the necessary tools before you start building.

The most expensive parts of a solar panel are plexiglass sheets, an air blower, and wooden elements. If your budget is low, there are some cheaper alternatives for components.

For example, you can make the solar panel front cover using Lexan. Comparing to the UV resistant polycarbonate sheet, Lexan is a lot cheaper but also less efficient.

Before you start collecting parts for homemade solar panels, do not forget the importance of solving any thermal leakage and insulation problems in your home. With proper insulation, you will be able to heat your home with less energy, thus with a much smaller solar panel.

That also means you will spend less money on parts for your home solar heating do it yourself project and lower the solar panel costs to less than $200…

DIY Solar install kit technical specs:

Panel Width: 1.09m
Panel Hight: 2.2m
Panel Depth: 160mm
Total Area: 2,4m2
Effective Area: 2,3m2
Weight: 66 kg
Intake diameter: 100mm
Outlet diameter: 125mm
No. of cans: 225pcs
Orientation: vert/horiz.

Discover the Benefits of DIY Solar Powered Home (for a Few Hundred Bucks)

This is exactly why the utility company hates me.

Hit the play button to see how my DIY solar furnace works:

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video Free Home Heating with Pop Can Solar Panels – Very hot air: 80C

Video shows solar panel efficiency and operation on a bright sunny day. After only 20 minutes, the air temperature entering our solar-powered home rose quickly to 50°C/122°F.

Differential thermostat (snap disc – temperature circuit breakers) controls the fan. You can get it from almost any electronic component store.

The thermostat has two sensors:

  1. The sensor inside the top opening (hot air);
  2. The sensor located in the bottom opening (cold air supply).

When on/off temperature thresholds are set correctly, DIY solar panels can produce an average of 2 kiloWatt of free energy for home heating. Solar power output generally depends on the system size and how much sun there is during the day.

Homemade Solar Panel Test Drive

The first test of the solar heating do it yourself was carried out in the backyard (without mounting racks) on a sunny winter day without any clouds. After only 10 minutes in the sun, the DIY solar furnace started to produce hot air (70°C/158°F)! I have used a big cooler extracted from a faulty PC power supply as an air blower fan.

Test results and solar panel efficiency encouraged me to have the solar array installed on the house as soon as possible.

With the solar panels installed, the outside temperature fell below -3°C/26°F. Surprisingly, the solar panel was already supplying the room with 3m3/min (3 cubic meters per minute) of warm air. At the same time, I have switched to a more powerful fan. Hot air temperature went up to +72°C/162°F (measured with a digital thermometer).

To calculate a solar furnace's total energy production, I put the airflow and average air temperature output into the formula. My calculation showed that solar power output from DIY solar panels was approximately 1950 W (watts), almost 3 HP (3 horsepower)!!!

Solar Powered Space Heater Pros and Cons

CONS: This solar thermal system does not have a battery bank. Logically, without battery systems, it will not be able to accumulate thermal energy after producing it.

When it's sunny, a solar furnace produces heat, but it is necessary to use it instantly. If the sun does not shine, it is required to block the solar furnace air supply; otherwise, the room will begin to cool off. You can solve this by installing a shut-off valve, which reduces unnecessary heat loss.

PROS: DIY Solar kits are much easier to install compared to DIY solar. Given the cost-effectiveness and excellent results, the conclusion is that do it yourself solar panels are worth making. Solar panel, at the very least, can be used for additional heating of your home. It's up to you to calculate and figure out how much money you can save with renewable energy and a DIY solar furnace (hint: try solar calculator). Also, there are no toxic components like lead acid battery systems.

With cheap diy solar panel installation, you can also achieve significant savings during the heating season.

Depending on the construction and material quality, one square meter solar furnace can supply solar energy for 10 – 15 m² (107 – 160 ft²) of your living space. In other words, 2x1m solar panels (21 square feet covered with pop cans) can heat up to 30m² (30 square meters or 320 ft²) of your home.

The bottom line?

Depending on your location and available sun hours, DIY Solar panels can provide a short payback period while being a relatively cheap investment at the same time.

This is even without the federal solar tax credit that brings significant cost savings.

Beer Can Solar Heater Efficiency

Let's explain little bit about the actual solar furnace efficiency.

For example, in New York City latitude, the sun delivers up to 1000 Watts per m² (10 ft²).

Out of those 1000 Watts, photovoltaic panels can capture around 200 W per m² (10 ft²). At the same time, a DIY solar heater of the same size can capture 500 – 800W per 10 ft² (1 m²), which is up to four times more!

On top of everything, by choosing DIY, I saved almost $1K on my electric bill last year, thanks to this solar furnace. You also save on solar permit, solar tax credit and permits guides as well.

During the research phase, I have found tons of heavily advertised guides for sale on the Internet that promise you can make community solar PV panels that will provide "90%" of your home's power for a few hundred dollars. So don't waste your money or time on some lame Clickbank guide to diy solar (unless it's free, of course). Most of such guides explain diy solar systems and grid tied solar, often named as Avasva solutions free solar panels or Avasva solar plans…

You will find plenty of free and honest information online, from reputable solar resources like mother earth news, , builditsolar, canadian solar, etc.

35- Copper Coil Pool Heater

Watch this YouTube video to learn how to create a pool heater with a coil of copper piping. It’s an easy build that will heat any size pool using only solar power. Copper is an excellent heat conductor and this DIY solar heater will let you enjoy warm swimming water year-round.