Harbor Freight Solar Panel Frame

I started off with a Harbor Freight solar panel kit.  I later added a second kit.  Now the panels I buy are much larger, and a higher quality.  However, these panels still produce energy, so why mothball them?

At my last house, I had a steel frame that held three of them.  Even with some corrosion resistant paint, mother nature still caused it to rust.  This time, I'm using 1"x1"x1/8" aluminum angle.  I'll use a MIG welder, with a spool gun, to make a simple cradle type frame for the panels to sit in.  They'll be clamped along the top and bottom edges.

All my panels bolt to the rafters.  The drawing above shows the rafters, on 24" centers, and how the panels will fit.  I've added a 1/4" gap between the panels to improve air flow.  They perform better when kept cool.

There's a downside to mixing these panels, with the much larger Kyocera panels.  To avoid any issues, these panels will be connected to their own MorningStar 10L charge controller.  This way, these panels are isolated from the other panels.


I set the panels on the garage floor, to verify the calculated total dimensions are correct.

I'll probably add an 1/8" to allow a little room for expansion.

The aluminum angle I selected fits the panel frames nicely!

Started laying the parts out on the floor.

To weld the frame, I'm using a Lincoln 140C MIG welder.  Today I added the optional spool gun so I could weld aluminum.

The spool gun is a little awkward to use, compared to the standard MIG gun.  The spool gun is needed as the soft aluminum wire wouldn't push the entire length of the hose without binding.

To miter cut the aluminum, I used a Royobi 10" compound miter saw.  The blade was a typical 40 tooth carbide.  Cuts the aluminum nicely, just have to cut it slowly.

The angle I wanted only came in 72" sticks.  I needed 75 1/2".  A scrap piece of 1"x1"x1/8" angle was welded onto it.  The weld came out "acceptable".  The appearance is far from a TIG weld, but it's plenty strong, with minimal porosity/inclusions.

Next time I'll pre-heat the aluminum.  1/8" aluminum is really the limit of the 140A welder.  Aluminum heatsinks so well that it takes a lot of energy to get it to melt.

The frame pieces were set on the floor, and the panels set within.

The mitered corners dry fit well.  I hope to weld up the frame tomorrow.

Check back soon.  I'll update this page frequently in the next couple of weeks.  




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Last updated 12/12/13    All rights reserved.