Solar lighting is also great for those living in RVs or similar housing types, who can’t always depend on having a stable electrical connection. Those who are looking to create a clean energy home could start with something easy like making a homemade solar lamp.
- First, gather all of the ingredients to make the solar light.
- Then, you should make the circuit connecting the battery, the solar panel and the LED lights.
- Next, build the lamp container and hanger.
- Put together a stand that can hold your solar lamp.
- Lastly, assemble everything together to complete the homemade solar lamp.
There’s no need to buy a solar light when you can learn how to make a homemade solar lamp with just a few household items and basic electrical components. Use our step by step guide to make your homemade solar lamp.
What You Need To Make A DIY Solar Lamp
You don’t need much to put together a homemade solar lamp. It requires just a few electrical components and typical items you can find lying around the house to make a functioning light. These parts include:
- A hanger (make sure it’s aluminum!)
- Solar panel. Depending on what you’ll be using the lamp for or how long you’d like it to last, you can choose between the energy capacities listed below. Lastly, ensure that the solar panel is appropriate for the size of your container.
- Rechargeable NiMH battery
- Recommend using the Eneloop AA batteries
- Note: Do not use a standard alkaline battery. You will not be able to recharge the light and will need to replace the battery, thereby eliminating the functionality of the solar power.
- LED Driver IC QX5252F
- This provides constant current to your
- Note: Keep in mind that these are typically used to provide power to small, standard solar outdoor lights, such as those designed for gardens. So, you may not want to use this if you’re looking to build a larger, more substantial solar lamp.
- Straw hat 0.5W LED
- 33uH Inductor
- Electrical switch
- Battery holder (fit to AA battery size)
- Plastic container or jar, depending on your preference (make sure the chosen container has a sealable lid)
- 18 awg project wiring
- Printed circuit board (PCB)
- Breadboard (you will be using this to piece together your circuit)
To assemble all these items into a functioning light, you’ll need the tools listed below:
- Hot glue gun*
- Soldering kit*
- Wire stripper
- Power drill
*If you are building your DIY solar lamp with children, please use extreme caution when handling the hot glue gun and soldering iron. Restrict the use of these items to adults only to maintain the utmost safety.
Now that you have all the necessary components, you’re ready to construct your homemade solar lamp using the steps below.
Create The Circuit
The circuit is a crucial component of your DIY solar lamp build. It allows the electricity to flow through the device, moving the electrons from the negative end of a power source to the positive end.
As the electrons migrate through the connecting wires to the terminals (the ends of the power source), they will flow in a full circle (the circuit) and power the emitter to create light.
The most important component in this homemade solar lamp is the QX5252F LED Driver. This is going to act as the central functioning piece of the light bulb.
Before getting started, get familiar with this piece and note that the “teeth” coming from the top black portion are ordered from left to right: 1, 2, 3, and 4. This is essential to remember, as this will come into play now as you put together the circuit.
Follow the description below to create the circuit. (You’ll be putting this together on the breadboard. You must first test out your circuit on the breadboard because this allows you to make sure that all your components are working as they should before you commit to soldering them.):
- Pin 1 should be connected to the solar panel’s positive terminal.
- Pin 2 is comprised of a connection between one inductor leg and the positive end of your battery.
- Next, connect all “ground” components for Pin 3. This includes:
- Solar panel
- LED negative terminal
- Complete the circuit by connecting the inductor’s other leg for Pin 4.
- Test the circuit by placing your hand over the solar panel. This will simulate low lighting conditions, which will cause the LED to light up, if all has been assembled correctly.
- Once you’re sure that the circuit is working as planned, solder the circuit (not the wires and solar panel) in place. You’re now ready to begin modifying the container to house the circuit and light!
Modify The Container And Hanger
For this step, it would be best to choose a plastic container. Although you can do this with a glass container (e.g., a jar), it’s much easier to do this with a spare tupperware, as you’ll see in the instructions below:
- Using your power drill, make two holes near the top of the container. (Right beneath the lip of the container, below where the bottom of the lid would sit when screwed on, is perfect.) Make sure they are precisely opposite each other.
- Take the wire cutters and cut the hanger at the bottom curves. This will separate the entire bottom portion of the hanger, leaving one long aluminum piece.
- Take the remaining top of the hanger and bend the two free ends into a smaller triangular shape. Bend the tips of these free ends.
- Insert these bent tips into the holes you drilled into the plastic container.
- Check that it’s secure by moving the Tupperware around, making sure that the hanger stays in place and does not pop out.
You can remove the hanger once you have completed this test. The hanger is meant to hold up the light when in use; however, it is not meant to be hung up at all times.
When the light is low on power, you will need to recharge it in the sunlight. This is much more easily done if the light is at an angle, facing the sun directly instead of being potentially barred by the structure it’s hanging from.
Instead, you’ll need a multifunctional support to prop up your lamp when it’s time for your DIY creation to catch some rays. You can create this component using the step-by-step in the next section.
Note: Of course, if you are using a glass container, you will not be making such modifications. Instead, you can simply reposition the lamp or remove the lid as needed to recharge it during the day.
Make The Stand To Support Your Solar Lamp
Now, you will make a multipurpose stand to support your solar lamp. This way, you can prop it up while it’s not in use to ensure it soaks up the sun’s rays to power its nighttime glow. Use the instructions below to create this stand:
- Take the straight portion of the hanger you cut free earlier and bend it into two even halves. This will create a “V” shape.
- Measure 3.5 inches (~9 cm) away from the center bending point on each end and create another bend in the hanger wire. Now it should look like the top of an illustrated house.
- Bend the tips of each end. Make sure that they measure exactly half an inch (~1.5 cm”) in length. (This length will make it more difficult for the hanger to detach from the container incidentally.)
- Insert the ends of the stand into the container to ensure that it fits properly and will hold its position.
Your container is now completely ready to go! At this point, you are ready to begin assembling the full light.
Assemble The Homemade Solar Light
It’s now time to put all your components together. Remember that your circuit should be soldered in place on the circuit board, separate from the individual wires and batteries.
This phase is where you will begin finalizing the connections between the solar panel, the battery, and the circuit with your available wiring, and finally piecing together the final product. These directions will guide you through this process:
- Take your solar panel and position it to reveal the positive and negative terminals. Solder the wires according to the specifications below:
- Red wire should connect to the positive (+) terminal.
- Black wire should be connected to the negative (-) terminal.
- Transition back to your container for a moment and create a small hole in the lid.
- Place your solar panel on the top side of the container lid and weave the terminal wires through the hole.
- Apply a small amount of hot glue to the lid where the solar panel will rest and secure it in place.
- Take the battery holder and apply hot glue to the back.
- Once the glue holding the solar panel in place has dried, flip the lid over and secure the battery holder on the underside. It’s best to position it on one side of the lid, as you’ll need to fit other components alongside it.
- Take the red wire connected to the battery holder and solder it to the electrical switch.
- Attach another small segment of red wire to the electrical switch, and strip out the end of this piece.
- Finalize the connections by soldering the solar panel and battery terminals to the circuit board.
- Using the hot glue gun, secure the circuit board to the center of the lid. It should rest directly beside the battery holder.
- Secure the electrical switch next to the circuit board with hot glue.
- Place the battery into the holder and turn it to the “On” position.
- Close the lid and test the light once more by placing your hand over the solar panel. If it lights up, you’ve done it!
Now that you’ve learned how to make a homemade solar lamp, you see that the process of “greening” up your home is simple, fast, and, surprisingly, not too expensive! Still, remember that your project does not stop once you put the lid on.
To keep your homemade solar lamp in excellent working condition, you will need to replace the rechargeable batteries approximately every two years or so. (If you live in an area with extreme weather conditions, you may need to replace it more often.)
Furthermore, it’s best to keep the solar panel free of dirt and debris. This way, you can be sure that it’s functioning at its best, no matter what the environmental conditions may be. If you want to keep the solar lamps lasting a long time, read up on our 8 tips to extend their life.
Although solar panels aren’t dramatically affected by debris accumulation, if too much clutter gathers on the panel’s surface, it may not take in as much solar energy, resulting in a dimmer glow at night.
Whether you’re learning how to make a homemade solar lamp for your next outdoor adventure or engaging in a fun experiment with your kids, this guide will walk you through each step of the process, and get you one step closer to a clean energy lifestyle.