A Better Solar Garden Light

I think most commercially available outdoor solar lights suck…even the high-end offerings at HD and Lowes are meh. Here’s my version - 28 3V light strip lights, the guts out of a Harbor Freight solar rope, 3mm birch and lots of PolyAcrylic. Going to build a series of these and try to figure out a way to blow mold some clear polycarbonate.






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Ohhh nice!

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I’m curious about how you’re handling power for these. Are you planning to use a central panel and feeding a string of them or are you putting solar on each of them? What are you using for power storage?

I’ve been playing around with different commercial lights for years trying to find the best combination of light and longevity. It’s also a very interesting topic for me.

On this particular project, I used a 3 volt LED strip light wired in parallel and a circuit harvested from a Amazon garden light.

I’ve messed around with these things quite a bit, and it’s hard to beat the circuit that is in some of these cheap Amazon garden lights…I buy the 2-fer packs that have the multi-mode option for about 12 bucks. I’ll change out the 600 ma battery and use a 1000 ma instead, and sometimes, I’ll use a larger solar panel. If they get a good charge, they’ll last about 8 hours or so.

You can buy the circuit board on eBay or Amazon, but it’s hardly worth it considering the cost. It’s a very clever little piece of engineering that boosts the1.2V battery to 3V to fire the white LED with a timer circuit and an inductor. Additionally, the installed chip continually reverses the polarity of the output, and the provided light string is alternately wired in reverse polarity which allows for different effects.

There’s a lot circuit diagrams on Google, but from my experience, the expenses doesn’t warrant building them.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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Well, the results are great! I’ve wondered about gutting the cheapo lights for custom enclosures and now you’ve provided inspiration to move forward.

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I have used solar spot lamps from our 99 Cent Only Store that sells them for $2.99. These have a great solar cell and led that is very bright.

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I’m going to give this a try. I have a small selection of solar lights that have been driven over. I always salvage the panel and any parts that are serviceable. I’d not thought about replacing the built in bulbs with a string. I’m going to give it a try.

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They look great.
I have not had luck with any kind of finish on plywood for outdoors.
Will be interested to see how long they last.

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As I recall, I made this project in 2019, and now 3+ years later the plywood is coming apart. If it were ABS or something like that, then it would pass the test of time. Still, all told, given the furious Texas sun, I’m pretty happy with the result and durability.

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That matches my experience. You could also get good results from Cyprus, cedar, and teak if you wanted to.

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