When Peter Rowan left corporate life to pursue a career writing fiction and teaching, he needed a little office in which to work. So he decided to convert his backyard shed in Seattle into an off-grid retreat, and built a nifty solar panel with 275 recycled aluminum cans to warm up the place – and it works! For a detailed look at how Rowan saved hundreds of dollars by making his own solar thermal panel, watch Fair Companies’ video after the jump.

It doesn’t take much to make a solar panel at home. Rowan used 275 recycled aluminum cans, three eight foot 2x4s, a 4ft x 8ft pane of Plexiglass, heat resistant flat black spray paint for the cans, plastic tubing, along with a drill and screws. Once the cans were drilled, painted and assembled in a homemade box, Rowan harvested a couple of fans from an old computer which blows cold air into the panel.

This air is then heated inside the box and evacuated by plastic tubing into the office. Despite Seattle’s notoriously grey weather, Rowan says his homemade panel heats up his little office by five or six degrees on grey days, while on sunny days, the small writing studio gets too hot. Combined with a small series of PV panels on the roof that provide just enough energy for a laptop and a light, the DIY solar panel allows Rowan to pursue his second career without relying on Seattle’s electric grid.

Via Fair Companies