This past summer my father has been complaining about installing a lighting system for the back of his yard. The big issue being that he hates running wire 100 yards just to get three lights to turn on at night. Plus, being the over achiever that he is, he decided to bury the wires so that he wouldn't run over them with the lawn mower. This is when I stepped in.
I decided to make a high powered solar lighting system so no wires would ever need to be run to the back of the yard. Ever.
Oh, and I'm not talking about a few little wussy LEDs inside of a jar, I'm talking some high powered 3 watt LEDs inside real metal lighting enclosures. Ones that will probably attract every moth for ten miles. (And in defense of LEDs in jars, I happen to have 12 of those on the deck of my apartment. A couple slowly pulsing in and out.)
So for your enjoyment, here is a quick, easy, and inexpensive guide to making a high powered solar lighting system.
(If you like my project, vote for it in the Off The Grid Contest here at instructables, I'm the first entry. Seriously. A vote for me will bring you instant karma and a warm fuzzy feeling. WARNING: Warm fuzzy feeling may in fact be low levels of radiation. Seek medical help.)
Step 1: What You'll Need
Cheap Lighting System (With 2 or more metal "heads")
Heavy Duty Outdoors Wire
High Powered LEDs (1 Watt or 3 Watt depending on your needs)
High Powered LED Driver
18V or better Solar Panel
12V Solar Charge Controller
Dark Detecting Circuit:
PNP Transistor (I used a TIP42)
A Prototyping Board
10,000 Ohm Resistor
Wire Stripper and Cutter
Cost: $75 - 100
Time: 2 - 3 Hours
I bought all the electronics off of eBay on the cheap. The hardware parts I bought from a local hardware store. The total cost of this project was in the range of $75 - 100. Not overly expensive, but much cheaper than any store bought high powered solar lighting system. Plus a whole lot more powerful. I also bought a more expensive driver than I needed in case I wanted extra functions, you could easly shave $10 off the project by getting a cheaper one.
The majority of your time will be spent trying to figure out how to run wires into and out of things. The amount of real "making" work is rather small.