Are you looking to increase your property’s aesthetics and curb appeal by adding fancy lighting to your garden, patio, or backyard? While you can buy landscaping lights, learning how to make a solar light from scratch makes more sense, especially for the budget-conscious homeowner.
Making DIY solar lamps is not as complicated as some people believe. With the correct tools and materials, an admirable can-do attitude, and this guide, you can make solar lights that will have your neighbors asking you to teach them.
So, are you ready?
- Things You Need for This Tutorial
- Steps for Making a Solar Light from Scratch
- Step 1. Prepare the wires.
- Step 2. Link the solar light to the system circuit board.
- Step 3. Join the battery holder to the circuit board.
- Step 4. Create a small opening in the center of the jar’s lid.
- Step 5. Make a connection between the circuit board and the solar panel.
- Step 6. Test your DIY solar light.
- Step 7. Secure the components with glue.
- Step 8. Place the DIY solar light in a suitable location.
Things You Need for This Tutorial
Making a solar lamp from scratch requires a few things, namely the following.
1. Circuit Board for Solar Lamps
These products are smaller than your average electronic circuit board. However, they have connections for the power source (battery and solar panel) and output device (solar light).
Many circuit boards have a physical switch for cutting and reestablishing the electrical connection between the power supply and the light.
2. Solar Panel
It would be best to check the solar panel’s wattage and voltage rating you want to buy. It is also crucial to check the solar panel’s efficiency rating, which is the percentage of solar energy the solar panel can convert into usable electricity.
The industry standard is between 16 and 18 percent. Hence, it would be best to get a solar panel with an efficiency rating within the range.
3. Solar Light
You have many options for a DIY lighting project. It makes sense to get an energy-efficient light, using as little power as possible from the battery without undermining its illumination capabilities.
Many solar lighting projects use LEDs because they are energy-efficient yet produce enough luminosity. Some people choose incandescent bulbs because of their warm yellow light. Unfortunately, these lighting fixtures can drain your solar battery faster than LEDs.
4. Solar Battery
You have three choices for a solar battery: nickel-cadmium (NiCd), nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-ion). You can pick almost any battery type, as long as it is rechargeable. However, if you want a longer-lasting battery, Li-ion products are your best bet.
5. Other Materials and Tools
You will also need a battery holder, a transparent jar with a lid, and electric wires for this project. As for the tools, you need a drill and bits, a hot glue gun, and a soldering machine.
Steps for Making a Solar Light from Scratch
Step 1. Prepare the wires.
I suggest drawing a plan for the DIY solar lighting project to help you determine the correct lengths of wires you must use.
Not only must you cut the electrical wires to the precise lengths, but also cut them properly. You will want the wires to have uniform edges to ensure a better connection.
It is also essential to strip the wires correctly. If you are unsure how to cut and strip a wire, you might want to check this video by HelpfulDIY.
Step 2. Link the solar light to the system circuit board.
Get your circuit board and examine the different contact points. Many circuit boards have electrical diagrams, allowing you to link a solar light to the right connecting point.
Your solar light has two wires you must connect to their respective contact points on the circuit board. The best way to ensure a secure connection is by soldering the wires to the board’s contact points.
Here is a video from Toy Adaptation Program explaining how to solder wires to a circuit board.
You might also want to check the connection’s voltage before wrapping up this step. You can use a multimeter to measure the system’s voltage.
Step 3. Join the battery holder to the circuit board.
Some people think that solar lights do not need batteries to operate. After all, sunlight should provide the system with sufficient energy to light up the backyard.
Unfortunately, solar panels only generate electricity when there is sunlight. You also do not turn on your outdoor lights during the day, only at night. It would be impossible to operate your outdoor solar lighting at night because there is no sun to provide the power.
That is why you need batteries to store DC electricity (converted from solar power) during the day, allowing you to light your DIY fixture at night.
Linking the battery holder to the circuit board requires the same procedure as connecting the light to the CB. It would be best to solder the wires to ensure stable, secure, and better electrical continuity.
Step 4. Create a small opening in the center of the jar’s lid.
Get your mason jar or any jar with a lid and remove the cap. Place the cap on a stable and even surface and mark the center where you must drill a hole into. The opening must be sufficient to accommodate the wires.
I recommend filing the inside edges of the hole to smoothen it. A rough surface can scrape the electrical wire’s rubber coating and cause problems in the future.
Step 5. Make a connection between the circuit board and the solar panel.
Place the solar light, battery holder, and circuit board into the jar, and insert the wires through the hole.
Check your solar panel’s instructions for connecting it to the circuit board. Solder the joints to ensure stability and security.
Try placing the solar panel on the lid to check for stability. You can also tilt the solar panel at an angle to maximize its solar-gathering capabilities.
Step 6. Test your DIY solar light.
I recommend trying the solar light first before securing the different components. Many solar circuit boards have a manual switch for powering the system on and off.
Place the battery in its holder, turn the switch on, and flip the solar panel upside down. You should see the solar light turn on right after inverting the solar panel. Flipping the solar panel moves the photovoltaic cells away from sunlight, preventing them from gathering solar energy.
As such, the circuit board draws power from the battery and channels it to the solar light, turning it on.
If the solar light does not come on, you might want to recheck your connections.
Step 7. Secure the components with glue.
If you are happy with your project, you can start gluing the different components. Most DIYers secure the battery holder, and circuit board on the lid’s inside surface, hiding it from view.
Of course, you can use other transparent containers. If you want removable components, you might want to secure the components using screws instead.
Apply hot glue on the lid’s top and place the solar panel. Give it a few minutes to set before wrapping up your DIY project.
I found an interesting video by Low-tech Lab, showing how to make a solar powered light from scratch. The materials and procedures might be slightly different, but the general steps are similar.
Step 8. Place the DIY solar light in a suitable location.
DIY solar light projects are never complete without placing them in the correct location. It would be best to place the solar panel in direct sunlight, allowing it to gather as much solar energy as possible.
If you want to set the solar lighting on the ground, having a sturdy frame should stabilize the fixture. Alternatively, you can hang it on a post.
Learning how to make a solar light from scratch is as straightforward as soldering wires to various components to establish a secure and stable electrical connection. You can complete this project in less than an hour, from the circuit board to the solar light, battery holder, and solar panel.
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