Introduction: Repairing Solar Cells

Picture of Repairing Solar Cells

I fallow the three R rules of living green; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, as well as I try to find sources of renewable resources.

To achieve this goal I salvage many things from the garbage and one of the things I salvage from the garbage is solar garden lights.

Solar garden lights can be so inexpensive to buy people don’t repair them when they stop working; they just throw them in the garbage when they stop working and this is where I step in.
By salvaging the solar lights from the garbage I reduce the waste going to the landfill, R1.
By repairing the lights I reuse them R2.
And by stripping for the good parts and recycling the other materials, R3.
With solar lights and the solar cells you get a renewable resource, solar energy.
In this Instructable I will be sharing the special trick use for repairing solar cells.

Step 1: Attaching New Leads to a Solar Cell

Picture of Attaching New Leads to a Solar Cell

The most common repair to a solar light is replacing the battery with a rechargeable battery (Not a disposable battery,) please. Replacing the battery with a disposable battery is a mistake I see in many of the solar lights I salvage.

The next most common defect is oxidized wires and the hardest to replace is the leads on the solar cell. Whether by oxidization or breaking while striping the solar light you may need to replace the lead wires to the solar cell and you cannot just solder new leads onto the cell in many cases.

Liquid solder that does not need heat to bond the materials together don’t always conduct electricity however I have found something that does conduct electricity and connects the leads to the solar cell.

It is called “Quick Grid Repair Resin” and it is to repair the rear window defogger in your car, I buy it at the local automotive supply.

Step 2: Preparing the Cells for New Leads

Picture of Preparing the Cells for New Leads

First gather the tools and materials you will need and organize them:
A small paint brush
A multimeter
Quick Grid Repair Resin
Scrub Pad
Cells to be repaired

Clean the cells of all debris, (Do not use metal scrub pads or sandpaper to scrape clean the solar cells.)

Test the cells with a multimeter and mark the polarity.

Step 3: Attaching the Leads

Picture of Attaching the Leads

Cut the new lead wires and strip the ends.

Tape the wires in place and dab on plenty of Quick Grid Repair Resin.

Let the resin set and test the solar cell even under low room light you should get a reading on the multimeter.

Step 4: Finishing the Solar Cell

Picture of Finishing the Solar Cell

After testing and confirming the connections remove the tape and glue or use silicone calking to secure the lead wires and let the glue set.

When the glue or calking is set retest all the connections in low and bright lights and your solar cells are ready for your next renewable energy project. The trick in this Instructable the Quick Grid Repair Resin, it is like electric soldering without heat.


pfred2 (author)2012-07-04

So, what happens if you try to solder the solar cell?

Diaric (author)pfred22017-07-23

Most will not adhere to solder or only have the tiniest spot that does and it is usually oxidized. That is why so many of these cells lose their connection.

Josehf Murchison (author)Diaric2017-07-23

That is why I use Quick Grid Repair Resin, conductive paint should work well also.

Josehf Murchison (author)pfred22012-07-05

On plastic solar cells other than a little melting of the plastic I have never had a problem soldering a new lead on the cell.
With glass cells and an ordinary soldering iron, the glass sucks the heat away and when I finally melt the solder it stops sticking to the glass.
If you look closely at the cells in my instructable there is a lot of damage to the laminates on the back of the glass from oxidization. It could be that the cell is missing something from oxidization or the solder has the wrong flux.
With the method I use I don’t worry about any of those problums.

pfred2 (author)Josehf Murchison2012-07-07

I could see the outdoor cells getting weathered and oxidizing as a result. That would stop solder from adhering. Thank you for your reply. I recently noticed that this site is no longer sending me notifications when I receive replies. So now I am trying to backtrack and touch base with everyone that has taken the time to respond to me. Thanks again.

rachel.bowerman.7 (author)2015-04-06

Thank you! My parents have been insisting that we throw out the solar lights that arent working. Excited to see if I can prove them wrong. :)

foobear (author)2013-06-09

Fantastic, thank you!!

Schmidty16 (author)2013-04-17

thats alot of solar cells

The garbage is a great source I get more every once in a while.

Shateebough (author)2013-03-19

just the tutorial i was searching for

I'm glad you like it.

HomeMommy13 (author)2013-02-27

I would like to post this on my blog w/ full credits to you on this site. Please let me know!
This is my blog. so you can view. THX. HomeMommy13.

If I didn't say it before yes post it.

Frugal_Momma (author)2013-01-24

You said that the lights were salvaged from the garbage. Now did you go to the land fill or did you come upon them another way?

I found them in my neighbor’s garbage out to the curb, that is the actual bag they were in, in the photo.

You are supposed to take the lights in in the fall and remove the batteries.

Unfortunately people leave them out all year long in the snow and the freezing rain, and they are cheaper to replace then get fixed. So every spring I get loads of them.


OK, thank you. Springs coming up so ill see if i cant get my hands on some.

I made an instructable on solar arrays you might want to check out also.

Alright, thanks. I drove down a couple of blocks around my house and seen a lot of them left outside. I'm sure if i go for a walk and ask some people for them, i could get my hands on some. I'm exited, I have been looking in to getting some, but the cells are so expensive. This is a great up-cycle idea. :-D I might be messaging you sometime in the future if i need help. If that's alright?

that is cool

Upostionots (author)2012-11-05

Great added to favs, surely someday im gona need this

dont forget to colect them from the garbage I make small solar arays with the ones I get it is free power.

Schmidty16 (author)2012-07-19

what if ur cells arn coated in some waxy coat or plastic coating

Most solar cells are coated the spot where the leads contact the cell is usually bear and the cells you repair, clean the backs with a mild scrub pad not steel wool.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a photographer, a tinker, an electronics technology engineer, and author; I write short stories and poetry for the love of writing. I started ... More »
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