Here you can learn how to build your own solar balloons using nothing but black trash bags, tape & scissors. This page will help you get started, then you can use the links near the bottom to start building.
Select the right bags
Bags should be no thicker than 0.5 MIL for best results!
Use 30 gallon size, black twist tie trash bags (not flap tie or drawstring!)
Bags that are 0.5 MIL or thinner can be hard to find. Look at every store that carries trash bags, and get the thinnest bags you can find.
Best kinds of tape to use
The tape you use should be between .7 inches and 2 inches wide. My personal preference is 0.7" wide Duck brand masking tape, but just about any lightweight, strong tape will work. Here are a few suggestions:
And a few tapes to avoid:
Any other heavy tape
Here are a few questions & answers you may want to read before emailing us.
Do I need to tape the mouth of the balloon shut to keep air from escaping? No, all that may be necessary is a little weight to keep the balloon upright. Hot air rises so it won't go out the bottom, and the mouth also allows more air to be sucked into the balloon to keep it full.
How big should the mouth be? Anywhere from 5 to 14 inches wide (depending on size of balloon) will work. A larger mouth on larger balloons allows air to be sucked in faster since the balloon carries a lot more air than a smaller one.
How much weight should I use? For a 5-foot tetroon, only about an ounce. The larger the balloon, the more weight you need to keep it from capsizing. Use stones, bolts, etc to add weight to the balloon to keep it upright. Experiment till you get it just right.
What weather is good for flying in? Full sun, little or no wind, and cool air. Keep in mind that the colder the outside temperature, the better your balloon will fly. This is because in colder weather, the temperature difference between outside and inside the balloon is greater, resulting in more lift. Smaller balloons, such as the 5-foot tetroon, usually can't fly in hot weather because they don't get enough lift to carry their own weight.
Is it legal to release these solar balloons? As far as we can tell, our solar balloons are legal to release in the U.S. as long as they do not create a hazard (I guess that includes releasing near airports). If you are releasing a larger balloon with a heavier payload, you should check before you release - click here. You may also want to check state and/or local laws and make sure releasing balloons isn't illegal in your area.
Now that you know a few things about flying solar balloons, read the instructions below.
Getting started: cut open the bags
The trash bags must be cut open so they are a 3x5ft rectangular sheet:
Take a bag off the roll and find the end with the seam.
Cut the seam off, making sure you cut as close to the seam as possible.
The removed seam:
Find the side of the bag where it is folded over several times. Slip the scissors into one of these folds and cut along the edge. Make sure you cut only one fold.
Cut all the way across:
Now you can spread the bag open. It should look like this:
Make a good seam
It is important when sealing balloons with tape to have a small overlap.
Not overlapping the edges will result in sticky spots that can ruin your balloon.
I prefer a 1/2 inch overlap, but you can make it a little wider if you like.
See the overlap taping illustration below:
Instructions for building
Ready to make your balloon? Click the links below to make: