Outdoor lighting is just as important as indoor lighting, because it not only aids as a security function, it also helps to decorate your outdoor space and bring out the best of it. Of course, there are a variety of different outdoor lighting options available, but if you are looking to invest in something that is not only eco-friendly but also very durable, then going for a solar lamp is the way to go.
Where is Solar Energy Today?
The past few decades have been spent researching solar energy and its potentials, and so far the results are incredibly promising. Solar panels were once a luxury, but it has now become affordable and is expected to become more affordable and readily available with time, plus you end up saving money in the long run. By switching over to solar energy, we are essentially switching over to clean, renewable energy that will not harm your planet or ever come with the risk of running out. So there is a lot of promise when it comes to solar energy, and even if you cannot afford solar panels, you can still opt for other solar-powered devices and gadgets to start making a greener change.
Building Your Solar Lamp
If you want to make your solar equipment then starting with a solar lamp is a great move since it is simple to build, and when done right, will last you a long time. So we will be going through a list of things you need to make your solar lamp and we will then go through the instructions so that you can easily follow through.
- LED Lights
- A single 2V solar panel
- Hot glue
- NiMH Batteries (either AA or AAA)
- Battery Holder
- A circuit board with a switch
- A drill
- A soldering machine
One thing that you need to be mindful of is to make sure that your circuit panel/board and your solar panel happen to have the same size, and that they are not bigger than your jar either since you will be gluing both of these parts to the jar.
This is pretty obvious but you need the solar panel to act as your medium to capture and convert solar energy into electrical energy.
When you are shopping for LED lights, the best one to go for is a 0.5W light since they are strong and bright enough. The color options are more of a matter of personal preference so we will leave that bit to you.
We will be talking batteries now and what you need to be paying attention to when it comes to the battery is their material and whether or not they are rechargeable. The size of the battery does not matter, and it does not matter whether it is an AA or AAA battery since both of them get the job done.
Rechargeable batteries come in two types, namely nickel-cadmium batteries (NiCd) batteries and Nickel-metal hybrid batteries (NiMH). Out of these two batteries, we would recommend opting for NiMh batteries. NiMH batteries happen to have a bigger capacity than NiCd batteries, they are more environmentally friendly and they work well in cloudy weather as well. These batteries need to be charged (but not overcharged) and will need to be replaced with new ones from time to time.
You want your circuit board to have a photoswitch since the photoswitch will ensure that your battery is not being overcharged and will cut off the connection once your battery is fully charged. This might not be easy to find and it might take some time on the internet or a couple of different store visits before you find it, but it is strongly recommended. Another thing that you need to remember, like we already mentioned above, is to make sure that your circuit board is not bigger than the lid of your jar because you will be unable to close it properly if your circuit board is bigger than your jar’s lid.
Your jar type does not matter but thinks of a standard pickle jar since they happen to be the perfect size for this setup. Once you have your clean jar, you will need to create a hole in the middle of your lid. You can use a drool or a sharp tool to puncture the lid and create the hole, or you can just ask someone else to do it for you.
Handling The Wires
The next thing that you will need to do is make sure that you properly handle, place, and trim the wires. The circuit board, solar panel, and the battery holder will only comprise of two colored wires, which happen to be red and black wires. These wires will be sticking out and will be too long, and this is why these wires will need to be trimmed properly so that they can properly accommodate your setup because they are too long as is. You will need to use the wire cutters to trim around 3.5 inches of wire. You will also need to remove the insulation that is covering the wire as well, so you will need to trim around 1-2.5 inches of that as well. You cut enough of the insulation off to expose enough bare wire that two ends can be tied together. To properly remove the insulating strip, you pull the wire cutter as it is gripped to the insulating cover, and at the same time, you want to be sure that you are holding the wires firmly or else you might end up pulling them out as well.
The black wires are used for ground connection, and the red ones are the positive wires. In the scenario where your circuit board does not have wires, you will need to make sure to connect the black wire to the positive part of the circuit board and the red or positive wires need to be connected to the negative part of the circuit board, so pay attention during this step because the correct spots are marked and designated already.
Connecting The Circuit Board
Your circuit board will have the ends labeled and marked as solar and battery areas. Now you want to read this carefully, and that is to make sure that your battery holder’s wires are connected to the wires that are specifically labeled as battery wires, and you want to follow suit when it comes to solar wires.
You will now connect the positive wire (red) to the other red wires, and similarly, the black wire should be connected to the other black wire. If you happen to have experience working with a soldering tool and are comfortable using them, you can be sure to solder the black wire to the other black wire and do the same with the red wires, but in case you are not comfortable, you can skip the soldering step by relying on a wire nut.
You will have to take the positive (red) wire and place the exposed/stripped end inside the wire nut, and then place the other positive wire that you take from the part of the circuit board that is marked as the battery part and put the exposed wire inside the nut as well. This is easier said than done since the wire nut is pretty small, so always take the added step of straightening your wires a little before you try to push them into the wire nut. After that, the nut will have to be rotated and turned clockwise to ensure that the insides of the wire are tightly wound to each other. You will then proceed to remove the wire nut, and the result should be the two wires connected properly.
You will now repeat the same procedure with the black wires, so again you have to make sure to pick the right black wires, put the exposed ends inside the nut, twist it, and then remove it.
Connecting The LED Light Properly
Some circuit boards come with an LED light built into them, but if yours does not come with that light, you can still attach one on your own. You will direct your attention to the circuit board to find the LED lamp input mark. There should a positive marking and this is where you need to place the longer end of the LED diode, and the negative marked area will get the shorter end of the LED diode.
Now that you are done connecting your battery, circuit board, and LED lights together, you will now bring your attention towards the lid of your jar. After removing the lid, you will need to use either a drill or any sharp tool to pierce the lid and create a hole through it. You do not need to create a large hole, if anything, it just needs to be big enough for the red and black wire to push through. Another thing to be mindful of is to create the piercing in the center of the lid since you have to place the solar panel on top and you want the panel to have a stable base.
Connecting The Solar Panel
If you have gotten to this step, then you are doing great and we are more than halfway through here. You will need to pass the back and red wire through the lid as we mentioned above. You will now need to use the wire nut once again to connect the battery wires. So you will take the exposed end of the positive (red) wire that is coming out of the solar panel and place the red wire in the wire nut. You will then take the exposed end of the red wire that is coming from the circuit board (from the area that is marked as solar) and put that wire into the wire nut as well. You will twist and then remove the wire nut after. You can then repeat the same process with the black wires and once that is done, then you are good to go.
You will now start the process of gluing the different parts and components together. The first two things that you will be gluing will be the battery holder and the circuit board. You will glue the battery holder to the lid and the circuit board should be next to it. Avoid gluing the actual battery and the lid’s edges.
You will place your solar panel on top of your battery and circuit board now. To do this you will be applying the glue to the side of the solar panel and gently press it. Be sure to not use too much glue since that will be messy. Finally, you will screw your jar shut, and you are done. You have managed to create your solar lamp.
- Solar panels usually come with wires but in case yours does not, you can connect the wires yourself by looking for the positive and negative terminals on the panel. Red wires go in the positive end and the black wires go in the negative terminal.
- A soldering iron is great since it is flexible and does a better job than a wire nut, but it is okay if you skip it nonetheless.
- Ideally buy a circuit board that comes with a switch or else you will have to manually connect the switch and use a soldering machine as well.
- Similarly, if your circuit does not have wires then you will once again need to use a soldering tool to connect the wires into the correctly marked spots/terminals.
Lots of Options
You do not have to limit your solar lamp or LED lights to outdoor spaces you can make your own little solar powered indoor lamps and use them indoors. This will allow you to slowly integrate solar items into your normal life. You can even make a family activity out of it by having your partner or children decorate the jars accordingly.
Maintenance And Care
A certain degree of maintenance and care is required when it comes to your solar lights, and most of the concern, in this case, happens to go to the batteries. You want to make sure that the batteries are charged (but not overcharged) and you should ideally get the batteries replaced after every 3-4 months.
You will also need to keep the solar panels clean so that they can absorb sunlight better, so don’t let dust accumulate on the solar panel because it will hamper its performance.
- Do the assembling job on a dirty surface, especially when you are using the soldering machine or drill since things can get messy.
- Do not handle machinery if you are young or have no experience with them.
- The battery should be placed in the battery holder after everything else is done.
- In case it does not work, the problem most likely lies in your wiring so be sure to check all of the terminals and connections to make sure that they are in the right spot and that the wires are properly connected.
- Be sure that your battery is new and charged to ensure it works smoothly.