How to Make a Solar Panel From CDs

In the digital age, many music-lovers have discarded CDs in favor of iTunes, MP3s and Windows Media Player. Portable music players are no larger than a silver dollar and easily connect to computers for music updates. This leaves music aficionados with blank and burned CDs they no longer need. You could simply toss or recycle them, but you could also take advantage of their reflective surfaces to create your own solar heating panel. The process is so simple, a teen could make one for her room in an afternoon.

Measure the length and width of your window and add 4 inches to both measurements. Cut out a piece of cardboard with your utility knife to match your expanded measurements. For instance, a window 24 inches wide by 36 inches long needs a cardboard rectangle 28 inches wide by 40 inches long.

Spray paint one side of your cardboard black. Let the paint dry overnight. If the cardboard needs more than one coat, let each coat dry for about an hour before applying the next one.

Cut a 4-inch square from each of the rectangle’s corners. Bend the sides of the cardboard up so the corners meet, forming a box. The black part should be inside the box. Tape up the corners with masking tape.

Place your CDs in rows inside the box with the shiny side out. You’ll have some wiggle room since most CDs are about 5 inches across; that’s okay. Try to keep the rows as even as possible. The bottom row should touch the bottom side of the box and the top row should touch the top. This shows you how many CDs you’ll need. In this case, about five columns of seven CDs each.

Trace the center holes of the top and bottom rows of CDs with a pencil. Remove the CDs and cut these holes out with your utility knife. Glue CDs down over these holes with super glue. Glue down the rest of the CDs, leaving a small space above the bottom row and below the top. Leave space above and below the center row, also.

Cut four cardboard rectangles 4 inches wide and three-quarters as long as your box is wide — 16 inches in this case. Glue them into your box on edge like maze walls. Place the first against the left side of the box above the bottom CD row, the second against the right side below the center row, the third against the left side above the center row and the last against the right side below the top row. Let the glue dry overnight.

Cut a piece of plastic drop cloth 3 inches longer and wider than your box. Stretch the drop cloth over the top of the box and glue it down over the sides, making the seal as airtight as possible. Let the glue dry overnight. Punch two holes in the upper corners of the box and slip an S-hook through each hole. Hang the panel in a south-facing window.

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