Picture of Make A Handheld Solar Power Supply
I wanted to take a solar path light and turn it into some sort of self charging portable battery pack.

With a little bit of work it was surprisingly simple.

You will need :

- Some solar path lights (get the ones that can be easily dis-assembled)
- Some small gauge wire
- An 'Altoids' tin
- A 1/4" mono audio connector
- A soldering iron and solder
- Patience
- A brain

(Yes, we could probably use some hot melt glue, and shrink tubing and other fancy things, but lets be honest here, we're hacking something into an Altoids tin, this isn't rocket science.)

NOW, about that 1/4" connector...

I got a lot of comments from people asking about the connector and how it worked. Well here's the deal. It's just a plug. It isn't connected to an audio device, the pack doesn't send audio. it is just a nice shiny plug that has a +ive and a -ive part to it.

Most people are used to power going down a usb outlet, or some fancy 9V plug, or just a couple of alligator clips. What I wanted was something that was solid, robust and easy to handle.

My battery pack powers the lights on my bike (in fact I have 2 of them) so I need a plug that should withstand the weather, you could use while wearing gloves, didn't break easily etc. The 1/4" plug is all of these while also being easy to clean and has a large contact area which better handles bumps and dirt. the FEMALE connectors are also excptionally easy to keep clean (try getting dirt out of a USB plug...).
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Step 1: Get an Altoids tin

Picture of Get an Altoids tin
These things are great, no screws required, and they keep your breath minty while you work.
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ajensen279 months ago

i love all the feedback and criticism because that's what makes us think. but I have a question for you. could I use three to six solar panels and a three pack of rechargeable batteries like what come in those cheapy lights and then use this to power that same or a better led or do I need to use upgraded internals due to higher voltage/amperage

DanwiseG6 years ago
Why in the HELL would you use THAT connector.... i mean come on.... this isn't a guitar.
Oh please, does it really matter what kind of connector he chooses? What would you have him use? Screw terminals? Are you some kind of connector bigot?

ooh screw terminals sound nice lmao

slchorne (author)  DanwiseG6 years ago
Because it is BIG and easy to keep clean. I use this system in a place that gets VERY FINE corrosive dust everywhere. The female end isn't enclosed and this easy to blow air out of, and the male end has enough contact area to work around a few rust spots. Ask an audio engineer why they don't use USB for guitar or speaker cables.
Surely because the usb connectors appeared years later than jacks

sjohnson961 year ago
slchorne I love this tutorial. I do have a question. Be gentle because I know nothing when it comes to electricity. I wanna use this to charge my iPhone when I'm out and about because I often forget to charge it at night. Now the wall charger gives an output of 5 volts. Would the device you show in this tutorial be able to charge an iPhone? I don't care how fast it charges just as long as I have it for emergencies. Another question: the 1/4 audio cable have a red and white wire in it which one is positive and which one is neg. Thank you so much.
wladicus2 years ago

This was a nice idea.
This can be used as a solar-powered battery charger.
You can take out the batteries when they are charged and use them where you like.
In that case you do not need a jack and plug.

If, however, you want to use the package as a portable power pack to connect to some device (the author uses it on his bike for the bike lights), then you can add your own choice of male/female connector arrangements.

I could not tell from the photos whether the batteries are arranged in a 2.4 volt series configuration or in a 1.2 volt parallel configuration.  I am guessing 2.4 volt configuration (1.2 volts nominal, per rechargeable battery).

As the author has hinted, he leaves the details to the brain power of enthusiasts who are really interested in how some of these simple things work.


is there a way you could bypass the batteries and go from panel to whatever is hooked up, but then charge the batteries later? Should I just take the batteries?
Perhaps you could make 2- this & 1 w/o batteries (basically wiring the solar panel to the item being charged). u may need a resistor or something.
what kind of bike light is it that u charge with this?? im trying to find things i can plug this into since i already made it with the jack
If I wanted to charge something that required more than just one solar path light (something that needs more than 3v to work) how would I wire them together. Series? Parallel? Etc?
Lets say you want to charge something usb. It takes 5v. So if each solar light is 3v then you would have to wire 2 lights in series then probably use a regulator.
probably parallel. If one goes, the others work.
Pgadgets5 years ago
Hey, that soldering iron kinda looks just like a screwdriver. :)
history3235 years ago
dude in the pic you soldering iron is LAYING ON THE ELECTRICAL CORD!!! you r lucky it didnt melt through!
then again... how do we know it didn't melt?
Because its a screw driver ?
How much energy does this hold & put out
well, it uses 2 batteries which are both 1.5 volt, so 3 volts. i'm sure you could also use 2 small coin batteries to= 6v if you wanted more power. but you may need to use some sort of resistor that way or something because nothing that I can think of runs off of 6 volts. usb power is usually 5v, and a lot of things run off of 3 volts.
4662676 years ago

Where did u buy this solar path light at?

Nice vid

I've been trying to work at this project for like 2 months now

plz help me out =/

looks lke one from wallmart i have one and it looks like a small 4 dollar thats wut ima use
I've gotten a whole bunch from the 99cents store.
slchorne (author)  4662676 years ago
just go to any hardware store to get the light
wat can u charge with this thing anywayz?
Anything that it has enough power to charge
budjiman14 years ago
"but how do you get the power out?" ...Are you kidding me?! YOU could try asking it It "comes out" through the jack. Just because it's traditionally an "audio" type jack doesn't mean it can't transfer power. It still has a positive and negative and the current can still travel through it.
Why is everyone making such a big deal about the choice of "jack" here. If ya don't like it then just use what ya want.
master key5 years ago
What do you about the cds cell?
hooloovoo337 years ago
cool! You could forget the 1/4 jack and have a battery charger or something. I think i'll do that.
I intend to make it output at 5 volts and have it output to a USB mini male cord so I can easily use it for my PDA.
taco_guy937 years ago
nice, nice! I have been thinking of building something like this so as to charge my nintendo DS (I have the original and it takes 5.2 volts) so that I don't have to go home to charge it. but i can't seem to get enough power quick enough (I actually want to use it like a out let like bypassing the batteries) if u have any suggestions please help me.
never mind, i fixed it. i put 2 solar panels on it so that it doubled my power
slchorne (author)  taco_guy937 years ago
Correct. The standard Solar lights are 3 Volt. (2 AA batteries). But I'm now seeing models that are only 1.5V. So you are going to have to get creative to get something that can push USB power.
i am by no means an electrical engineer, but, if he added a 5v regulator, wouldn't that work? i mean, the battery would get drained quickly, but it would supply the necessary power, right?
soulmouse6 years ago
switch the female jack with a usb female jack
if u were to do this would u need any resistors to moderate the power output so your wouldnt harm the device? if so any idea what type would be used?
loki77147 years ago
I dont get it maybe im just ignorant of 1/4" mono audio connector knowledge but how does a 1/4" mono audio connector charge anything or is this thing just made to charge AA batteries that are rechargeable (lol humorously redundant).
cmlp13 loki77147 years ago
Yeah, me too. I would love for a pic or some video of it actually working. I would appreciate if he could be more clear and list where he got the items.
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