Solar panel frames are pivotal in solar mounting systems for residential rooftops or ground installations. Their primary purpose is to secure the solar panel array. While ground installations may sometimes be necessary, the frame’s importance remains consistent. The choice of solar panel frame directly influences the solar panel’s performance. When selecting the right frame, key considerations include ease of assembly, adjustability, aesthetics, overall costs, and environmental impact. Making an inappropriate frame choice can be counterproductive and costly. Your decision on solar panel frames should align with your desired benefits.

Ideally, opt for a frame that’s easy to handle, store when needed, and withstand severe weather conditions. This blog will guide you in choosing between steel or aluminum frames for solar panels.

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What Are Solar Panel Frames?

  • Solar panels harness sunlight to generate electricity using a process known as photovoltaics. They consist of photovoltaic cells, usually made from silicon, held within a frame. A solar panel frame is a structural component that supports and secures the photovoltaic cells, helping maintain the panel’s integrity and longevity.
  • When sunlight strikes these cells, it energizes electrons in the silicon, initiating an electric current. Conductive wires within the panel then guide this current to an inverter, which converts the panel’s direct current (DC) output into alternating current (AC). AC electricity can power homes and businesses.
  • Solar panels are designed with photovoltaic cells connected in series, and multiple panels can be linked to create a solar array. This flexibility allows tailoring the array’s size and panel count to meet specific energy requirements. Solar panels offer a clean and sustainable energy source that reduces reliance on fossil fuels and minimizes greenhouse gas emissions. They are instrumental in converting sunlight into usable electricity, pivotal in transitioning to a more sustainable energy future.

Solar Panel Production

Materials Gathering

Creating a solar panel involves assembling essential materials such as photovoltaic cells, a frame, tempered glass, a back sheet, EVA film (ethylene-vinyl acetate), and a junction box. Additionally, you’ll require electrical wiring, soldering equipment, and various tools.

Cell Arrangement

Begin by arranging the photovoltaic cells in a series on a flat surface, ensuring correct interconnection. Solder the cells together to establish a complete circuit.

EVA Film Application

Cut a piece of EVA film to match the cell size and place it over them, ensuring complete coverage. Apply heat and pressure to bond the EVA film securely to the cells.

Back Sheet Attachment

Cut an appropriately sized back sheet and place it over the EVA film, ensuring complete coverage. Secure the back sheet to the frame using adhesive or other suitable fasteners.

Tempered Glass Installation

Cut a piece of tempered glass to the required size and position it over the back sheet, ensuring complete coverage. Secure the glass to the frame using adhesive or suitable fasteners.

Junction Box Connection

Establish the electrical connections from the photovoltaic cells to the junction box, facilitating connection to the electrical system.

Frame Mounting

Finally, position the panel within the frame and secure it in place. The structure safeguards the panel and provides a mounting point for installation.

Applications of Solar Panel Frames

Whether you should opt for steel or aluminum primarily depends on the placement of your solar panels.

  • For rooftop solar installations, aluminum is the superior choice. Weight is the primary consideration for roof-mounted systems, and aluminum is the lightest option. This logic also applies to solar panel racking on RVs or camper vans.
  • For ground-mounted solar panels, the material choice is less critical. Both aluminum and steel can support the panel weight, but aluminum makes future setup adjustments easier. Unless your solar panels will be exposed to severe weather conditions, aluminum is the preferred choice.

What Are Solar Panel Frames Made of?

Silicon, a crucial component in solar panels, is the semiconductor responsible for converting solar energy into electricity. However, a solar panel comprises more than just the materials used in its cells. The solar panel manufacturing process combines six components to create a fully functional unit.

Silicon Solar Cells

These cells utilize the photovoltaic effect to convert sunlight into electricity. They are interconnected in a matrix-like structure between the glass panels, generating an electric charge.

Metal Frame (Usually Aluminum)

The frame serves multiple purposes, such as protecting against adverse weather conditions, ensuring safety, and facilitating the optimal angle for mounting the solar panel.

Glass Sheet

Typically 6-7 millimeters thick, the glass sheet protects the delicate silicon solar cells beneath. Beyond these elements, a typical solar panel features a front glass casing for durability and safety. Below the glass, insulation and a protective back sheet control heat and humidity, which is critical for maintaining efficiency by preventing overheating.

Standard 12V Wire

This wire regulates the energy flow into the inverter, contributing to the solar module’s overall efficiency and sustainability.

Bus Wire

Bus wires connect the silicon solar cells in parallel. They are coated with a thin layer for easy soldering and possess adequate thickness to carry electrical currents effectively.

Steel Frames for solar Panles

Which is better? Steel Vs. Aluminium

Strength comparison

Assessing aluminum vs. steel strength involves nuanced factors. Steel is technically more robust, but aluminium’s lighter weight affects the strength-to-weight ratio. Steel excels in shear strength due to carbon content. Aluminium offers superior malleability, ductility, and cold-weather strength, making it versatile.

Durability and Corrosion resistance

Steel and tempered aluminum are strong but differ in corrosion resistance. Steel can rust over time, while stainless steel resists but is heavier and pricier. Aluminium doesn’t rust but may corrode without protection—coatings like powder coating and anodization shield against corrosion. Aluminum excels in natural corrosion resistance, while steel, mainly carbon steel, needs layers in damp conditions—both benefit from finishes, with aluminum’s built-in oxide film offering superior corrosion resistance.

Weight Comparison

Aluminum is renowned for its lightweight quality, compared to heavier steel, due to its higher carbon content. Steel excels in durability, resisting bending and deformation. Steel is approximately 2.5 times denser than aluminum on average. Lighter variants like mild steel exist but trade some strength for weight savings compared to aluminum. Aluminium’s lightness offers easy handling and lower shipping costs, making it a cost-effective option.

Cost Considerations

Cost is crucial in material selection when comparing aluminum and steel alloys. Generally, steel is more budget-friendly than aluminum. However, it’s essential to consider different steel types. Mild and carbon steels are usually cheaper than aluminum, while stainless steel is pricier. While choosing the cost-effective option may seem tempting, it’s vital to consider all factors. Creating custom aluminum extrusions is surprisingly affordable for custom shapes due to low tooling and die costs.

Final Words

In conclusion, the choice between steel and aluminum for solar frames is multifaceted and depends on specific project requirements and considerations. Steel offers exceptional strength and durability, making it suitable for ground-mounted solar systems. On the other hand, aluminum’s lightweight nature makes it ideal for rooftop installations and applications where weight is a concern.

Zetwerk, a leading player in the industry, contributes significantly to this decision-making process by providing customizable solutions for solar frame manufacturing. Their expertise in precision engineering and material selection ensures that both steel and aluminum options meet the highest standards of quality and efficiency. Ultimately, selecting steel and aluminum for solar frames should align with project goals, location, budget, and environmental factors. With Zetwerk’s support, this critical choice becomes more informed and tailored to specific needs, driving the solar energy sector towards a greener and sustainable future.

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Steel is durable but heavier, while aluminum is lighter but less durable. Steel is often used for ground-mounted systems, whereas aluminum is standard for rooftop installations.

 Aluminium tends to have a higher initial cost but can be more cost-effective in the long run due to its low maintenance requirements and corrosion resistance.

Yes, aluminum is more environmentally friendly as it is lightweight, recyclable, and requires less energy compared to steel.

Zetwerk offers customizable solutions for solar frame manufacturing, ensuring that steel and aluminum options meet industry standards for quality and efficiency.

Consider factors like project location, budget, expected lifespan, and environmental impact to make an informed choice between steel and aluminum for your solar frames.