How to Make a Solar Powered Walkway

I sure loves me some sun jars!  They incorporate several of my favorite things to mess around with:  LEDs, Solar panels, hot glue, man it's all there and they look great to boot!

However, there is one big fat problem:  the sun!  When it's dark out, oftentimes the places I'd really like to have a little extra light are just the spots you can't leave a sun jar due to lack of direct exposure to sunlight. 

The obvious solution to this dilemma is to separate the solar panel from the sun jar.  I extrapolated this a bit further and realized that the only thing you actually need in the jar is the LED, and since you don't have to cram all the other electronics in there, you don't have to stay with the classic sun jar shape.

With this in mind, I combed craigslist for some suitably shaped glass blocks, went to Home Depot for the appropriate solar light, stocked up on speaker wire and came up with the Solar Powered Walkway!

***UPDATE 5/5/10:  If you build this project yourself, or something similar, post some pictures and I'll send you a patch!***

****UPDATE 1-1-11
If you are the first person to post a picture of your completed light-up walkway to the comments, I've got a 3 month pro membership to instructables that's all yours!

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Lyattaw2 months ago

maybe I am not understanding this project completely but are you gluing/sealing a light bulb that you get with the solar panel kit you buy to the side of the glass blocks? Or are you breaking open the glass blocks and putting the light bulbs inside the glass blocks?

Lyattaw Lyattaw2 months ago


depotdevoid (author)  Lyattaw2 months ago

I am gluing the bulb to the side of the block, but I don't use the one that comes with the solar panel kit. Those are almost always white or yellow, so I got some other colors and used those instead.

byurczyk2 months ago

I'm planning on making these but instead of glass bricks, using the bottoms of wine bottles. :) thank you for the wonderful idea and instructable!

depotdevoid (author)  byurczyk2 months ago

Cool idea! I'd love to see how it turns out!

cflorer4 months ago

If you are going to take apart an existing solar light set and use it, you will be just FINE. Basically, all you're doing is extending the wires on the LEDs using speaker wire. However if you try to hook up LEDs to a solar panel without a charge controller and knowledge of the LED voltage, you're just going to fry a lot of LEDs and get frustrated. What I did was get the Solar Powered Multi-colored LED light sets from Harbor Freight (3 set ups for 12 bucks, batteries included) and lengthened the wires and put the LED itself inside a white spherical glass lamp shade and it was WAY cool and changes colors smoothly.

i haven't read through all the comments so i am not sure if this was asked or suggested...
would it be possible to place solar panels under each glass brick... then they would be just like the cheap solar stake lights you buy at walmart. Buy a few of those, take em apart...have to rig up the light sensor differently, just a thought. I rent so i like things to be portable for now. Easy self contained units are very easy to pull up and move.
depotdevoid (author)  MohawkMarine1 year ago
Yep, definitely doable. I did it my way are several: the main one is that where the blocks actually lay in my path is in the shade for most of the day, but I'm able to run the panel up onto my roof. There's also the matter of keeping the panel clean while mounted inside or under the bricks.

Sounds like you've got an instructable of your own brewing here though, I'd like to see what you come up with!
I am right in the middle of a move at the moment. But if i do decide to do this at the place i am heading (my parents) i will post a picture on here and give credit where it is due.
Tweinzerl1 year ago
Looks like the Kmart link is dead and the Northern Tool doesn't stock them in store in my area. What do you think of these? It would be separate solar panels but I could hide those in garden art.
depotdevoid (author)  Tweinzerl1 year ago
Sure, no reason they wouldn't work. Like you say, it would be one panel per block, but if that's not a problem in your location, there's no reason you couldn't do it that way!
Tweinzerl1 year ago
I have been dreaming of this day! I found some glass blocks dirt cheap. I have the solar panel...have wire and a few LED"S. Can't wait to do this!
depotdevoid (author)  Tweinzerl1 year ago
Cool! Post some pics of the completed project!
instead of adding more wires as you got closer to the house could you run them in series or parallel. Sorry if am not using the right terms, it has been a long time since I tackled anything like this. But it seems two wires run one on either side of the walkway from block to block would connect them without having a pile of wires where they would be so vulnerable. BY having just the two wires you reduce the chances of a critter interfering with it. Also it would be easier to find the break and fix it. How deep do you bury the wires? Just my opinion and if it would not work I would like to understand why before I start building mine. thanks for doing the amazing things you do. RuthAnne
depotdevoid (author)  ladyminister1 year ago
I haven't found any solar lights that come wired in series, they're all wired in parallel. It's just a matter of preserving the setup in the original equipment. If you found one done in series, that would be way better, I totally agree!

I buried the wires very shallowly, just below the surface. That way, I knew it would be easy to dig them up later on.

Sorry for the late reply! If you make something like this, I'd love to see some photos!
harley11 year ago
Pease be very careful blocks are not desinged to be walked on!
the side walls are not thick enough for body weight,or point loading of a ladies high heels!
if walked upon when wet very slippery!
wickedq1 year ago

Here are a couple links I found, not sure if any of them are right...still looking because I think my mom is going to try this at my sisters house.
depotdevoid (author)  wickedq1 year ago
Thanks wickedq, patch and membership are on the way!
Krismiha1 year ago
Is the incentive still on as of Dec. 2012.
depotdevoid (author)  Krismiha1 year ago
Absolutely! Almost 100000 views, and not one person has posted a picture of a solar walkway. Hell, I'll give a full year pro membership to the first, and a 3 month to anyone that posts a picture of their completed project after that!
boaslad2 years ago
I just bought a new house and one of the things we are contemplating on is a patio in the back yard. When we get around to this, I am seriously going to consider adding some of your "Sun Stones" to the project. Very awesome idea. Patent this and sell them. No. Seriously. Do it!
depotdevoid (author)  boaslad2 years ago
I've thought about selling these, but I think a patent is out of the question. Still, thanks! If you make these I'd really love to see some pictures!

Oh, and congrats on buying a house, it's a great feeling to be a home owner!
3tbones2 years ago
love, love this project...I seen your updated comments about this project, informing that you would not recommend the dealextreme LEDs for this project (not bright enough), what would you now rcommend and where would you suggest I get some of them, cause I really want to make some of these this summer. If possible could you post a image of what I should be looking for when getting the LED lights Thanks for sharing this project, I really love them.
depotdevoid (author)  3tbones2 years ago
Hey, I'm so sorry for never responding to your comment, I try really hard to answer everyone's questions, but I guess I missed this one!

I don't know about a good alternatives to the light I used, I haven't been able to find one. See my newly edited step 2 above, if you've got any ideas, I'd love to hear them!
love2die1002 years ago
wow what an idea,thx4sharing.
Tabbytha2 years ago
Hey, I'm 37 and I would probably hop the bricks too... and I wouldn't be on anything... just let people have their fun and enjoy life!! you've created something cool and not often seen so live it up and let others do the same, long as they don't break anything or hurt anyone :)

Keep building and being awesome!!!
depotdevoid (author)  Tabbytha2 years ago
Thanks Tabbytha! It's not so much a comment on the act of hopping the bricks (which I do myself), so much as on the specific people I've discovered in my front yard--they usually have googly eyes and give me a distinctly creepy vibe!

On the other hand, I had one lady who was out walking her dogs compliment all the lights in my yard, and later on that summer asked me to come visit a science museum summer camp and teach kids about being a maker. So like I say, some good, some bad, but mostly good!
paverlight2 years ago
Nice to see the site it is really very awesome the sun jar is very good product of the solar lights if you want any more about the solar lights feel free to visit us at the solar paver lights
did you need to edit the battery holder to have all of the batteries in parallel? I find it common with LED projects that batteries are in parallel to help increase the brightness. Your LEDs look pretty bright tho, so if you left the battery holder as is I guess it works out pretty well too.
For the in-ground lights: isn't the circuitry on those limited to 1.2V usually (enough to charge the one battery it needs)? If so, could we just wire three of those in series to get the 3.6V we need? I'd prefer to not spend $25 for a solar light that has the circuitry to charge three lights if I am just going to be tearing it apart. Wouldn't mind spend like $6 on a few of those garden solar lights though.
depotdevoid (author)  solarstudent2 years ago
Really the main reason to use the single light is to have one source driving multiple lights. It's perfectly feasible to use one garden lamp for each in ground light, but then you have one battery, one circuit board, and one solar panel for each of those lights. If you're only doing two or three that should be fine, but I was going for six and that would have been a mess!
surf_frog342 years ago
Great project. I couldn't find if this was covered, but how long do the lights stay lit with that setup?
depotdevoid (author)  surf_frog342 years ago
Thanks surf frog! Depending on the time of year, they're good for 3-6 hours. I suspect dropping in some better rechargeables would extend that significantly.
lschwartz2 years ago
Around the 4th of July in the US, many stores, e.g., Walmart, Home Deport, Lowes, sell single stick-in-the-ground lights, decorated for the holiday, for as low as $1 each. The ones I found have everything contained in the cap that just snaps off. Next year, I'll get some and disassemble them to use as you suggest! Thanks for sharing.
depotdevoid (author)  lschwartz2 years ago
Awesome, I hope you share the results!

If you're going for the one light per block method, you might check Dollar Tree, every couple of months they'll get in a shipment of solar lights.
shilicious3 years ago
Right now I am living in an apartment complex, and am trying to find any excuse to make these! They are so whimsical looking, and the possibilities are almost limitless. Thank you for such a great instructable. I can't wait to make these. C:
depotdevoid (author)  shilicious3 years ago
Thanks Shilicious, I'd love to see the results if you do!
eamc3173 years ago
This is a great project and will try to make it soon! Do you know how much weight these can hold, like could these break if stepped on over a long period of time, or are they pretty sturdy. Thanks again!
depotdevoid (author)  eamc3173 years ago
They are crazy sturdy actually, you're in more danger of slipping on them when they're wet. I recommend getting some clear griptape if you make this, but you don't need to worry about breaking them!

If you do make something like this, please post some pictures, no one has yet!  If you do, I'll not only send you a digital patch, I'll send a 3 month pro membership your way!
Cool, thanks! Will try to make them soon. Thanks again!
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