Solar panels are an excellent long-term investment because of the energy they save and the independence they provide. For all the convenience solar panels provide, they create serious inconvenience when they stop working. Getting rid of an old solar panel can be a chore.
So, how do you get rid of solar panels? Here are 13 creative ways to get rid of solar panels:
- Use it as an RV battery
- Power your camping trip
- Use it for outdoor lighting
- Shed or dog house paneling
- Garden drawer
- LED-wall decor
- Upcycle it into furniture
- Elevated platform
- Recycle the glass
- Scrap the metal
- Donate it
In this article, you will discover different ways to repurpose solar panels and various avenues for reselling or donating them. By the end, you will have a fair idea regarding the feasibility of disposing of the panels and the best course of action for you. But before we discuss disposal, let’s address your reusing options.
Getting rid of the solar panel is a decision one makes after the panel is occupying space and becoming a nuisance. Since throwing away the panels can cost money, one must consider reusing them in a low-electric-demand environment. In doing so, one gets rid of the nuisance without parting with one’s solar panels.
A recreational vehicle demands far less electricity than the average household. That’s why a solar panel that’s beginning to lose its efficiency can still be a valuable energy source for an RV. The roof of such vehicles can support the weight of the panels, making the installation space-efficient.
When you do not have to make extra room for the solar panels, any electricity they produce is free energy at zero inconveniences. The only issue with this option is that it requires having an RV, which most people don’t have. Still, you can resell the solar panels as an RV battery.
You do not need a recreational vehicle to use the panels on camping trips! You can take the panels on different trips and use them to power your camping setup. The extent to which the panels can power other lights and charging stations depends on their efficiency.
At a certain point, solar panels do not offer enough electricity to be worth the inconvenience of carrying or storing them. If a panel can power two lights for twelve hours, it can be used for camping trips.
Repurposing solar panels for outdoor lighting isn’t restricted to camping trips. Since the inception of energy-saving LED lights, it has become relatively easy to use solar panels to power an outdoor light. Motion-sensitive LED lights can be connected to the solar power supply in areas without street lights to ensure that pedestrians get a better view of the street.
You can use the same setup to light up your backyard. You can technically use the same LED lights inside the house, but old solar panels aren’t efficient enough to meet the interior lighting demands.
Aside from using a solar panel for its remaining electricity-generating capabilities, you can use the panel for its ability to insulate the surface under it. These panels contain water and glycol and soak up heat very well.
However, they’re rarely purchased in a large enough quantity to cover up an entire wall. The next best application of their insulating advantage is on a smaller “house”. You can insulate your dog’s house or a small shed. And if you do not have either one, you can resell the old solar panels as dog house insulation.
A solar panel might not generate enough electricity to operate appliances but can be upcycled into a greenhouse for your drawer garden. The key advantage of this method of decommissioning your solar panels is that you don’t need to have something to use. You don’t have to own an RV or have a dog house to cash in on this benefit.
Anyone can start a drawer garden by filling an old drawer with soil. Drill a hole in the bottom of the drawer to allow water to move out of the saturated soil. The heat is amplified by the top layer of the solar panel. It can be reserved for winters if you live in an otherwise sunny state.
Mini-LED lights demand so little energy that they can work with as little movement as clenching your fists. Products like Evelots Hand Crank Flashlight show how easy it is to power small lights without paying for electricity. This flashlight is powered by cranking one’s hands and is perfect for emergencies.
Similar-sized lights can be powered for weeks with one day’s worth of solar power. However, a day’s worth of electric power can power the lights for a night with old panels. These lights can be used to decorate walls as they cannot light up an entire room. One can also connect LED Fairy String Lights to the panel itself and sell it as a decorative light board.
Aside from using solar panels in different low-energy-demand capacities, you can use the panels in a way that has nothing to do with their solar energy capabilities.
This section presents options you should consider if your solar panel cannot function at all. In that case, the frame and build of the panel become more critical. Here are a few things you can do with such a panel.
Multiple furniture items require a thick, flat surface, so consider turning a solar panel into a DIY table-making project. Of course, the table would have limited use and would be more of a creative display than a heavy-use table.
A solar panel as a tabletop is an exciting project and involves prying open the panel and emptying its contents before filling it with relatively durable material. The downside of decommissioning a solar panel is that you have to dedicate time and money to it. On the upside, you can sell it as a creative piece for far more than the scrap value of solar panels.
You can coat the solar panel with opaque paint to create an elevated shoe rack or other function-specific platforms. By stacking painted panels on top of each other, you save space while producing a stage for light objects. From placing books on top of the elevated platform to using it as a nightstand, there are several functions.
That said, one has to consider the difficulty of said project. The project is an ambitious creative pursuit but is not a practical option for most people looking to get rid of their solar panels. The panels have to be pried open and hollowed out, which requires effort. Then, they must be stuffed with weight-supporting filler, and getting that costs money.
Solar panels are pretty tall, with some averaging a 77-inch height. If you are getting rid of a 72-cell solar panel, you can use it to build a fence or a partition. This is a very context-specific project though, You’ll need:
- A 72-cell panel and cannot use a 60-cell one.
- A fence.
- As well as have enough panels to build the entire fence.
The chances of all these being true are pretty slim, which makes this the least likely use of a solar panel.
Finally, the third option for decommissioning a solar panel is recycling it or throwing it away. This option is different from reusing or upcycling because a third party handles the processing. You have three options for getting rid of a solar panel, and this section covers each of those.
10. Recycle the Glass
When you give a solar panel to a glass recycling facility, everything else in the panel goes to a mixed-junk dump while the glass is separated and crushed to form reusable cullets. These can be mixed with limestone and melted before being reproduced as fresh glass.
If you’re wondering how much you’ll be getting paid for giving your solar panels to a glass recycling plant, you’re in for a surprise!
You have to pay the recycling facility to process a solar panel in most cases because it costs more money to recycle the panel than the plants make from the retrieved glass.
Check with your local glass recycling facility if it accepts glass for free. There are some facilities that the government subsidizes. Many private facilities accept solar panels because of their “all-glass welcome” policy but end up landfilling most of the problematic products they get. Solar panels contain 75% of which 90% is salvageable if the processing plant is well-equipped.
Since a majority of the solar panels end up in landfills, you might as well use a recycling alternative that is profitable to you. Solar panels have scrap value, so you can drop them off at your local scrap yard and get a few dollars.
You’ll not get enough money to brag about, but it will be better than paying a glass processing plant. To read more about the scrap value of solar panels, check out our post dedicated to the subject. A bulk of the solar panel material will be forwarded to a landfill.
You also can cut out the middle man and directly landfill the solar panels. Depending on your state, you’ll have to pay the landfill to dispose of your waste there (most garbage collection facilities handle this on your behalf). All solar panels disposed of as electronic waste are landfilled.
Electronic waste facilities allow you to drop off all electronics, including solar panels, without paying for the service. The facility then disassembles the unwanted electronics to be safe for disposal. The process costs money, but the public is not charged for the service because the government usually funds this to ensure the safe removal of hazardous waste.
If you feel guilty about taking your solar panel to the electronics waste bin/facility, you can give it away to someone who wants it. If the solar panel is not efficient enough to power your home, you can donate it to someone who needs it for his RV or camping trips.
Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are good places to find people who can take the panels from you.
There are many questions and (incorrect) assumptions about disposing of solar panels so we put together this FAQ section to set the record straight.
You cannot throw solar panels in a dumpster because such disposal can create a fire hazard. Even though dumpsters aren’t guarded by law enforcement, you should seek out dedicated electronic removal to safely remove your solar panels.
If dedicated electronic disposal is not found, you can look for hazardous waste disposal. In the absence of both these options, you can talk to your local garbage disposal service/staff and get further guidance regarding solar panel disposal.
You can resell well-functioning solar panels for a quarter of their listed retail price. But if the panels have lost efficiency because of long-term use, they sell for ten to twenty dollars over their scrap value.
You can donate solar panels to classrooms, where they can be used for demonstration and education. You can also give the panels to anyone who needs them for a project that uses less electricity. An LED Decor wall is an example of such a project.
Getting rid of solar panels can be hectic. While you’re putting off the final disposal, you can still use them for low-electricity projects like campsite lighting. Ultimately, the old and damaged solar panels need to go, and for that, you have to choose between recycling, scrapping, and landfilling.
You can get rid of your solar panels by donating them, sending them to a recycling facility, or selling them to a scrap operation. Alternatively, you can upcycle the panels for decorative use or repurpose them to power low-electric-burden systems like LED lights.
The most profitable is scrapping, while the most eco-friendly yet costly is recycling. Landfilling is the neutral one. Simply find your local electronic or hazardous waste and dispose of your solar panels.