$11 DIY Portable Solar Panel Stand: 7 Steps (w/ Photos)

I recently built a DIY solar panel stand that cost me just $11.

A solar panel standing in a yard with a DIY solar panel mounting stand on its back

That’s an insane deal. Store-bought solar panel stands and mounts regularly cost five times as much.

What’s more, this homemade stand is adjustable, portable, and easy to build.

Here’s how to make it.

Materials & Tools

Materials

Materials for building a DIY solar panel mount laid out on a wooden table

Note: I’ve listed the sizes I used for my specific panel, a 100 watt HQST solar panel. Follow Step 2 and Step 3 to find the right sizes for your panel.

Tools

Tools for building a DIY solar panel mount laid out on a wooden table
  • Tape measure
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Marker

Step 1: Understand the Stand Design

Here’s the design for the stand we’ll be building:

The design for a portable and adjustable solar panel mount made of PVC pipe

It’s made of seven sections of PVC pipe:

  • Crossbar
  • Support beam
  • Base beam
  • 2 upper leg sections
  • 2 lower leg sections

The sections are all connected together with PVC tee and elbow joints. The crossbar is then attached to the panel with self-drilling screws.

Note that the crossbar is a thinner pipe than all the others. This allows the tee joints to slide back and forth across it freely.

The dimensions for all the sections of PVC need to be customized for your specific panel. (Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to find all the measurements.)

Now let’s get building!

Step 2: Measure the Gap of Your Solar Panel’s Frame

Flip your solar panel over. Measure the gap between the frame’s rim and the back of the panel.

A tape measure measuring the gap between the back of a solar panel and its metal frame

Use this number to determine the thickness of the PVC pipes and length of the self-drilling screws you use.

My panel’s gap is just under 1″ tall, so I decided to use 1/2″ PVC for the crossbar and 3/4″ PVC for the legs, base, and joints. I also used 3/4″ self-drilling screws.

Tip: PVC sizes refer to the diameter of the pipe’s hole. The pipe itself is a bit thicker. For instance, my 1/2″ PVC pipe is about 13/16″ in diameter.

Step 3: Measure the Stand Dimensions

Time for lots of measuring!

We need to find the following dimensions:

  • Crossbar length
  • Stand width
  • Stand height

Once we know these measurements, we can find the length of all the individual pieces of PVC.

Crossbar Length

Decide whether you want your solar panel to stand horizontally or vertically.

A 100 watt solar panel oriented horizontally next to another 100 watt solar panel oriented vertically

I decided to mount mine horizontally because my panel’s junction box and cables would get in the way of the stand if mounted vertically.

Find the crossbar length by measuring the distance between the inside of the frame from one side to the other.

A tape measure measuring the length of an upside down solar panel

Mine ended up being 35″. You’ll likely get a different number if you have a different panel or choose to mount yours vertically.

A close up of a tape measure showing 35 inches in length

Record this number.

Stand Width

You get to decide this number yourself.

The main consideration here for me was to make sure the panel’s cables and junction box wouldn’t get in the way when I collapsed the legs.

(If you’re junction box isn’t in the way this won’t be a consideration for you.)

I ended up deciding to make my stand 21″ wide (indicated by the pencil). At that width, my panel’s junction box and cables won’t get in the way.

A tape measure measuring a distance on the back of a 100W solar panel with a pencil marking 21 inches

To show you what I mean, here’s a PVC pipe laid at the 21″ mark.

A 3/4" PVC pipe laid on top of the back of a solar panel with the MC4 cables moved out of the way

As you can see, the junction box isn’t in the way and the cables can easily be moved out of the way.

Decide how wide to make your stand. Record this number.

Tip: You can see the grid lines of the solar cells on the back of some panels. You can use these as guidelines when deciding how wide to make your stand. For instance, I chose to make mine three grid lines from the frame on each side.

A close up of the back of a large solar panel with a tape measure on it
In this photo you can just see the grid lines on the back of the panel. I used these as guidelines when deciding how wide to make my stand.

Stand Height

You also get to choose how tall you want your stand to be.

I wanted my stand’s legs to sit flush against the panel back when collapsed. So I had to make sure the stand wouldn’t touch the bottom rim of the panel’s frame.

I arbitrarily decided to make my stand tall enough that there was about 1″ of space between it and the frame on both top and bottom.

I put the pipe I planned to use for the crossbar 1″ from the top of the frame.

A tape measure measuring the distance between a solar panel's metal frame and a PVC pipe

I put the pipe I planned to use for the base beam 1″ from the bottom of the frame.

A tape measure measuring the distance between a 100-watt solar panel's frame and a 3/4" PVC pipe with an elbow joint on it

Then I measured the distance between them to find the height of my solar panel stand.

A tape measure measuring the distance between two PVC pipes laid on the back of a big solar panel

My stand height checked in at 22.25″.

A yellow tape measure measuring 22.25" with a PVC pipe and metal rim in the background

Decide how tall to make your stand. Record this number.

My Stand Dimensions

Here are the stand dimensions I ended up with for my solar panel:

  • Crossbar length: 35″
  • Stand width: 21″
  • Stand height: 22.25″

Your dimensions will almost certainly be different if your panel is a different size, from a different brand, or mounted vertically instead of horizontally.

Step 4: Calculate the PVC Dimensions

Now that we know our stand dimensions, we need to calculate the length of the following pieces of PVC:

  • Base and support beams
  • Upper and lower leg sections

Before we can do that, we need to measure the diameter of our PVC joints.

A tape measure measuring the diameter of a PVC elbow joint

My joints were all 1.25″ in diameter.

Measure yours and record this number.

Base & Support Beams

To find the length of the beams, we need to subtract the added length of the PVC joints from the width of the stand.

Beam length = Stand width – Length of PVC joints

My stand width is 21″. I decided this in Step 3.

I also know that my PVC joints are 1.25″ in diameter. Because each beam has two PVC joints attached to it, I double this number to get the added length of both of them.

1.25″ * 2 = 2.5″

Now I can figure out my beam length.

Beam length = 21″ – 2.5″

Beam length = 18.5″

So my base and support beams should both be 18.5″ long if I want my stand to be 21″ wide.

Calculate the length of your beams in the same manner. Record this number.

Upper & Lower Leg Sections

To find the combined length of the leg sections, we need to subtract the added length of the PVC joints from the height of the stand.

Combined length of leg sections = Stand height – Length of PVC joints

My stand height is 22.25″. I decided this in Step 3.

Because each leg has three PVC joints attached to it, I tripled the diameter of the joints (1.25″) to find the added length of all three of them.

1.25″ * 3 = 3.75″

Now I can figure out the combined length of my leg sections.

Combined length of leg sections = 22.25″ – 3.75″

Combined length of leg sections = 18.5″

So the combined length of my upper and lower leg sections should be 18.5″ if I want my stand to be 22.25″ tall.

I plan to make the upper and lower sections the same length. So to get the length of a single section, I just halve 18.5″.

18.5″ / 2 = 9.25″

Now I know all my PVC dimensions!

My PVC Dimensions

  • Crossbar length: 35″ of 1/2″ PVC (from Step 3)
  • Base beam: 18.5″ of 3/4″ PVC
  • Support beam: 18.5″ of 3/4″ PVC
  • Upper leg sections: 9.25″ of 3/4″ PVC
  • Lower leg sections: 9.25″ of 3/4″ PVC

Once again, your dimensions will very likely be different from mine!

Step 5: Cut the PVC

Time to make some cuts. (Finally!)

Using a saw and tape measure, I started cutting my PVC to my calculated dimensions.

First I cut a 35″ section of the 1/2″ PVC for the crossbar.

Tip: Cut your PVC somewhere where it’s easy to sweep up all the shavings.

A length of 1/2" PVC pipe and a handsaw laying on the ground

Then I cut two 18.5″ sections of the 3/4″ PVC for the base and support beams.

A length of 1/2" PVC pipe, two sections of 3/4" PVC pipe, and a handsaw laying on the ground

Lastly, I cut four 9.25″ sections of the 3/4″ PVC for the upper and lower leg sections.

Seven sections of PVC pipe of varying sizes and diameters and a handsaw laying on the ground

Before assembling everything, I used a 3/8″ drill bit to drill a hole in the middle of the base beam large enough to fit my tent stake and paracord. (You’ll see why this is helpful in a bit.)

A hand holding a piece of PVC pipe with a metal tent stake stuck through in a hole in the pipe

Time for the moment of truth!

Connect all your pieces of PVC together as shown and put the stand on the back of your solar panel to make sure it all fits.

A large 100w HQST solar panel laying on a rug with pieces of PVC fitted together on its back

Check! 🥳

Note: If my stand looks a little short, it’s because when making it I accidentally used the wrong stand height in my calculations. I used 21″ instead of 22.25″. Whoops! 😅

Step 6: Attach the Stand to Your Solar Panel

Now we’re in the home stretch.

It’s time to attach the stand to the panel.

Slide two of the tee joints on the crossbar, if they aren’t on there already.

Screw the crossbar to the solar panel frame. I used a Phillips head drill bit and one self-drilling screw on each end of the crossbar.

Tip: Place a towel underneath your panel to protect the solar cells from being pressed against the ground when drilling.

A screw that is connecting a piece of PVC to the frame of a solar panel

Now, if you haven’t already, connect your stand together.

A solar panel with a DIY adjustable solar panel mount made of PVC pipe standing in a living room

And just like that…

…you’re DONE!!

Try out your snazzy new homemade solar panel stand by standing up your panel.

An HQST solar panel with a homemade solar panel stand mounted in a living room

Admire its beauty 🤩. And pat yourself on the back. You did good.

Step 7: Test Your DIY Solar Panel Stand

Use our solar panel angle calculator to calculate the best tilt angle for your location.

Go outside, face your panel towards the azimuth, and mount it at your optimal tilt angle.

Tip: Use a solar app to find the azimuth and measure the angle.

A solar panel mounted with a DIY solar panel rack made of PVC pipe

Your panel likely won’t stay mounted at this angle by itself. You’ll need to hold it in place somehow.

You can do this one of two ways:

  • Tent stakes
  • Paracord

Tent Stakes

Tent stakes are best when you’re mounting your solar panel on the ground or somewhere else you can drive a stake into.

If you’re using tent stakes, stake one through the hole you drilled in the base beam.

A solar panel stand staked to the ground with a metal tent stake

One stake may be all you need. However, at low angles, the panel itself may slide forward.

You can prevent this by placing a second stake in front of the panel.

A metal tent stake staked in the grass in front of a large 100w solar panel

Done!

A solar panel mounted in a field on a sunny day

Paracord

Paracord is best when you’re racking your solar panel somewhere you can’t stick a stake — such as a roof or apartment balcony (or, in my case, an astroturfed patio).

Look for any pre-drilled holes in your panel’s frame that you can feed paracord through. You may have to drill a hole yourself if yours doesn’t have any.

Mine had two, fortunately on the correct side.

Feed one end of your paracord through the hole(s).

Paracord fed through a hole in a solar panel frame

Feed the other end through the hole in the base beam and tie your knot of choice. I went with two half hitches since it’s easy to adjust.

A solar panel with a portable solar panel mount laying upside down on astroturf

Stand your panel up and adjust the knot as needed until you reach your desired tilt angle.

A section of PVC pipe and a solar panel frame tied together with paracord

Finished!

A solar panel mounted in a yard

You’re Done!

You’ve made your very own DIY adjustable solar panel stand.

Now that your panel is mounted at the optimal tilt angle, it will collect even more solar energy for your solar power system.

The sun shining on a blue solar panel tilted at an angle in a yard

Not bad for $11!

3 DIY Solar Power Projects You Can Build Now

Not sure what to do with all that extra solar energy?

Here are some ideas for your next project:

1. DIY Solar Power LED Strip Lights

LED lights are incredibly energy efficient. A 100 watt panel could power most 18 watt strips for hours each day.

2. Connect Your Solar Panel to a 12 Volt Battery

Charge a 12 volt battery by connecting it to your solar panel. It’ll charge even faster now that your panel is mounted at the optimal tilt angle.

3. DIY Solar Panel Wall Mount

Got any other solar panels that need mounting? Sometimes the best place to put a panel is on the wall. Here’s a simple solar wall mount that’s great for small panels.

H/T to Guns and Gear Network whose video gave me the idea for this PVC solar panel stand.

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Alex Beale
Alex Beale
Hi, I'm Alex. I started Footprint Hero to help people reduce their environmental impact. My current obsession is DIY solar power projects, which I've been building since 2020.
Alex Beale

Alex Beale

Hi, I'm Alex. I started Footprint Hero to help people reduce their environmental impact. My current obsession is DIY solar power projects, which I've been building since 2020.

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12 thoughts on “$11 DIY Portable Solar Panel Stand: 7 Steps (w/ Photos)”

  1. Hi. Being new to solar power I’m on a information seeking mission. Really like the adjustable stand so I’m saving it. Do you have any plans of actually building the solar panel itself? Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks Chuck, and welcome to the world of DIY solar! I might build a solar panel at some point, I think that’d be a fun project. But for now I just buy them online.

  2. Alex, thanks for your ideas. This will be my prototype, with modifications, to lean my three panels against my 4′ high, vine-covered chain link fence for occasional emergency use. Since this will be on the north side of the house, ground level is in shade part of the year. So I need to raise the lower part of the panel about 3′ off the ground, with the higher side resting on the fence. So the installation will be reversed from what you show, with the legs on the lower side instead of the high side. The panels will be mounted vertically instead of horizontally.

    1. Hey Bobby, haven’t mounted any panels to a van myself. I have seen a couple YouTube videos about it. I’d search there. From what I remember there are plenty of mounting brackets you can buy for such a purpose.

    1. Nah didn’t use any glue. The legs move freely on the crossbar, so I hold them in place with a tent stake or paracord.

  3. I really liked the simplicity of this. In my design, I added a crossbar and tee at the bottom and a tee to the base beam and fashioned a couple of different lengths to allow for good generic angles for the areas I’ll be spending the summer and winter in to avoid the paracord. I was about to drop over $100 for aluminum to build something similar. That PVC was a real nice substitute all the way around. Thanks for sharing. I owe you a coffee!

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