Make Your Own Solar Powered Led String Lights. ($5 Bucks Max)





Introduction: Make Your Own Solar Powered Led String Lights. ($5 Bucks Max)

  Making a basic solar powered string of led lights isn't too difficult.  This instructable will require no electronics knowledge and no programing. 
  What were will be doing is upgrading some old battery powered mini lights to LEDs and then using some basic components, charging the batteries with a small solar panel.  With the aid on 1 IC and 1 inductor, we can automate the string so it turns off and charges during the day and turns on at night. 
Let's get started.

Step 1: Let's See What We Need to Get Started.

Step 2: What We Will Need.

I'll tell you what I used, but you can improvise your own parts.

1 Battery powered light set with battery box.
1 Solar Panel 2.0v @ 80mA (I'm using two 1.2v NiMHs in parallel. If you want to use one -then you need 2v @ > 20mA.
1 IC (QX5251F) Will discuss this one later on
1 Inductor 220uF (This is not exact and you can change it to meet your desires.)
10 LED's (White, Blue, Green or Pink) (Red and Yellow are a little different, but you can use them if you really want.)

A soldering iron.
Wire Cutter

Step 3: Let's Make an LED String.

You don't have to make your own string.  You can buy battery powered LED string on Ebay for about $2 - $4 depending on the number of LEDs.  Then you can just hack the battery box which you'll see in a few steps. 
If you have an old Christmas string mini lights, they need to be Battery Operated.  If you use AC powered ones, the wiring is not in parallel.  You can cut up the AC strings and rewire them in parallel, or you can just get two long wires and solder on the LEDs. 

Anyway here is a close up of the prep.

Step 4: Let's Start Putting the Circuit Together.

These are the connections we will need to make to properly have our circuit turn on and off automatically as well as properly charge the batteries and power the lights. 

This is the entire layout.  You can add 15 leds per QX5251F @ 20mAh per LED.  The max current for the QX5251F is 300mA so you can play with different configurations.

I purchased my QX5251F from a vendor for $20 for 100pcs.  He'll sell as little as 10pcs, but the shipping is still $9 plus $2 for paypal.
Here is the vendors contact info.
If someone just really wants one or two, contact me and we'll see if we can work something out through paypal or something.

Here's the secret.  You might be able to scavenge the entire circuit from any Chinese made solar lawn lamp.  US ones use about a dozen different components, but I guess you could use that too.

Step 5: Working on the Housing Connections.

A few soldering points and we are almost done.  So let's put it all together.

Step 6: That's It.

That it.  I've tested this set up with two 1000mAh (The real capacity) and they ran all night.  If you use a real 2000mAh battery you can obviously just use one.  Just keep in mind that max output of your solar panel.  If your solar panel can only put out 20mAh, in 8 hours of sunlight you'll only be able to charge your battery(ies) with 160mA so that's what it can put out.  That's only enough to power 8 LEDs for about 1 hour at Full power.  The circuit uses only a fraction, about 5ma per LED.  Also you can't use the complete capacity of the battery.  The QX5251F can use about 35%.  It won't take the batteries down past 0.8volts.



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    String of lights - $2 new (Second-hand was $0.25)
    Solar panel - $1.5 off ebay.
    QX5251F (IC) - $0.20
    Inductor 220uF- $0.02
    Battery(ies) - $0.50 x 2 = $1

    > $5

    1 reply

    I am very interested in building one of these but I have some questions as I do not know what I am doing. can you email me at

    and I can give you my number or I can call you if possible.

    Does it matter if my solar panel o/p voltage is 5v? I wanted to have the 5V panel charge 2 1.2V batteries in parallel, giving a long 'light' time to my bulbs. Would this be okay doing the same configuration?

    i made this and it blew up giving me a second degree burn on my hand

    Please give me details of this ic QX5251F to buy this.

    I am wanting to do this with a reel of LED lights from eBay.

    LED Chip Model: SMD 3528
    Beam angle(°): 120°
    Input Voltage: DC 12V
    LED Quantity: 300 leds/5 Meter
    Working Current/meter: 0.35-0.4A
    Output power: 21-24W /5 Meter

    Would this set up work for this? Unsure how to figure how big of solar panel? Would like to run Dusk to dawn....
    Can you help?

    I have now a more explicit question. If I have about 33 tiny lights on a string, how big a solar panel do I need???

    I am not able to find a solar panel on Ebay. I am finding only rather expensive panels for i-phones. what term should I look for in the search engine of Ebay or Amazon??

    can I use battery filament lights from IKEA ? They look like LED but are hard wired (can't replace burned outs).

    1 reply

    I'm not sure. If they require 3.1v - 3.4v, then I'd say yes. If they are not LEDs, they will use up a lot of energy and run only for a short time.

    Good Luck.

    I need two to four "twinkling" lights that are solar powered via a cord approximately 5' long. I will be putting the lights under glass in one location, but need the solar cell placed away from the glass/lights. Is this something I could purchase from you?

    1 reply

    I'd love to but is not really worth it anymore. You can now go to a dollar store and but a cheap solar light for $1 or so. Rip it open and The components will all be there.

    Where do I buy the materials for the light? Thanks.

    i have string lights but i wish to longer the wires to put them on the roof to get more light, can you help pls

    i have string lights but i wish to longer the wires to put them on the roof to get more light, can you help pls

    I put new batteries in my solar lights. They don't switch off when exposed to light and the battery dies after a few hours. batteries were 1.2 400mah replaced with 1.2 1800 mah. Can you help. Terminals are touchy too how can I fix this?

    The inductor is 220uH (uF is used for capacitors).

    Is it possible to buy 5 sets (blue, yellow, red, green, pink) from you? I need them to light up my fairy houses please.

    I have a question that doesn't pertain to this Instructable so I don't know if I should ask it.

    Can the QX5251 be destroyed if the battery was to be placed in backwards?

    One of my lights quit working and the LED is still good.

    Rather than trying to fix this module I found a circuit on the internet that uses a 3906 transistor, 4007 diode and two resistors (47K for the base and a 47 ohm between the collector and LED. It does not use an inductor. I still can't get this circuit to work. I've compared it many times to the one I found.