A solar tracker is a device that will follow the sun’s path throughout the day, thus increasing the system output of a solar panel by at least 50%. There are some pretty simple ways to build your own DIY solar tracker at home. The tracker uses a LED sensor to sense the sun’s path and then communicate to an actuator to move in accordance with the sun’s path. Here is a step by step guide on how to build the DIY tracker using this sensor.
Bicycle Wheels – 2
Treated 2×4’s Lowes – Depending on how many you need
Angle Iron with pre-punched holes – 1 piece
12 Volt Linear Actuator – 1
LED Tracking Sensor – 1
Nuts, Bolts, Screws, Cables and Wires – Depending in how many you need
Steps to be followed
Step 1: The Base and Wheels
Cut the 2×4’s at angles and place them together to form two triangles. The size of the triangles depends on the size of the solar panels. Tie the triangles together at the base and at the top with some more 2×4’s, thus creating the base for the wheels to be mounted onto.
Cut the angle iron into small pieces. Locate the midpoint on the cross members and attach them to the exterior woodscrews. Mount the wheels by putting them through the holes.
Step 2: The Wooden Frame
Drill holes through a 2×6 piece and the bike rims, and bolt them together. Drill holes through the wooden board and clamp the rims to the same using U-bolts. Add a few more 2×4’s to the bottom and top of the wooden board to accommodate the solar panels. Attach these 2×4’s to the 2×6’s using bolts and screws. Secure the panel to the frame using the small angle iron pieces.
Step 3: The Linear Actuator
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Mount the linear actuator onto one side of the wooden frame with a bolt. Attach the actuator to the solar panel frame. Use a staple to secure the actuator to the frame and a cable clamp to secure the cable that goes through the hole in the actuator. This will help the actuator move around freely any hindrances. Check if the actuator is able to move totally from one side to the other when attached to the battery. The next step involves teaching the LED tracker to move along with the sun and transmit the same data to the actuator which will move the solar panels accordingly.
Step 4: The LED Tracker
The LED is the main part of the solar tracker. It will measure the actual position of the sun and send the data regarding the same to the actuator. This, in turn, will help the actuator know how much to move and where to position the panel.
Place the LED tracker inside an empty tin can like a peanut butter jar. Mount the jar to a 2×4 and attach the latter to the side of the entire unit. Ensure that while doing so, the LED tracker is placed above the solar panel and enjoys an unobstructed view of the sun.
Step 5: The Final Touch
Take care of the condensation that collects inside the peanut butter jar by sealing it properly. This will pretty much be the final touch for the project. Note that you will need to choose a tracker size that matches the number of solar panels you plan to set up. Set the finished product in a nice sunny place and test the solar tracker.
A solar tracker will increase the efficiency of a solar panel by allowing it to move in accordance with the sun’s movements throughout the day. You can easily build a solar tracker at home using a LED sensor and an actuator, thus enjoying a greater power output efficiency from your solar panel.