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This Instructable will show how to add inexpensive solar ambient mood lighting to your favorite backyard gathering area. These are in no way expected to give much light, simply to mark an area or a little glow. Hence, why I used 8 of these jar lights along the front of our backyard Pergola.
Perfect Mood Lighting for Parties, WEDDINGS, Patio Decor, or any outdoor venue!
These lights can either be hung or placed on a table top.
I came across an unopened box of 16 ounce large mouth Mason jars, rings, and lids. It has been many years since we have done a vegetable garden, so I knew these would not be used anytime soon for canning.
After doing some searches on how I could re-purpose these mason jars I got the idea of a solar light/lantern.
Now came the task for finding solar lights. In the past I had used some of those cheap solar path lights for my yard to illuminate a walkway. The older ones I had purchased were kind of bulky and not so attractive. But, they did last a couple seasons before replacing the factory batteries.
Then I discovered a set available at both Harbor Freight and Rural King. Rural King had a much better price at only $19.98 for a set of ten. Harbor Freight is currently selling them for $34.99 a set. Not a very good price as they basically are a $2.00 light.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Cost for this project for me was only $19.98 +tax to make 10 lights since all I needed to purchase were the lights. Already had the box of jars, molding clay, hot glue, wire, and hooks.
Tools: Limited number of tools needed for this project.
Drill: Need drill to neatly drill holes in jar lids.
Drill Bits: Depending on the lights you purchase and the light/switch configuration you will probably need 2 drill bits a little large than the light and switch diameter. For me I think I used 1/4 inch bit and a little larger.
Wire Cutters: Used to cut the hanging wire.
Hot Glue Gun and Glue: Used to glue solar light to lid. Use a liberal amount! May help in sealing out the rain.
Hack Saw: Used to cut the light spikes down for the lanterns.
Solar Lights: At time of this instructable only $19.98 for a set of 10. Great deal. And they look cool with the faux copper finish. Got them at Rural King.
Mason Jars: My jars are 16 oz. wide mouth. You can probably find a box of 12 for about $10 or less.
Copper Wire: I stripped out the grounding wire from 12 gauge romex and cut into about 9 inch lengths for each light.
Screw Hooks: Used to hang lights from on my wood Pergola.
Molding Clay: this was used as an after thought to add lights to some other hanging lanterns I have in the yard. My first thought was to use hot glue to mount the lights inside the lanterns, but the patina would not let the glue adhere.
Step 2: Lights and Jars
Chose these lights due to their copper finish and very small light/solar head as compared to other spike lights. Single LED is powered by one AAA battery.
CHARGE (in the sun) and TEST LIGHTS
My 10 light set had one bad light unit. After taking it apart I discovered the battery was not making good contact. After some tweaking of that connection it worked just fine.
Jars can be larger, but I would recommend no larger than pint size as anything larger would be overkill for the amount of light from the single LED in the light.
Step 3: Drilling Jar Lids
Here you see the before and after of the jar lid for drilling.
- 2 drill holes on the sides to install wire hanger
- 1 drill hole for LED light to protrude through
- 1 drill hole for switch access. Don't forget this hole or you will not have access to switch after gluing light to lid
The spacing of holes for light and switch will be dependent on the model of light you purchase.
Step 4: Disassemble Light
The light units disassemble into three parts.
Light head, Lens, and spike. For the jar lights all you need is the light head that includes solar panel, LED, battery, and switch.
Keep the other parts for some other project. Spikes are a 6 inch metal tube.
Step 5: Glue Light to Lid
Get that glue gun hot and loaded. I use the short glue sticks and need about a 1/2 a glue stick per light.
- Add a very liberal bead of glue around the entire circumference of the bottom side of the light.Really heavy with the glue might help seal out rain.
- Quickly, before the glue dries, align center holes with LED and Switch.
- Press and hold firmly for about 30 seconds.
Step 6: Install Wire Hanger
I used 9 inch 12 awg wire for hanging.
Simply bend some angles and insert into hanger holes.
Step 7: Screw It Together
Insert your light assembly into the jar ring.
Screw it onto the jar.
OH! Did you turn the solar light switch to ON?
Step 8: Turn Off the Room Lights
Assuming you have a charge in the battery...
Make your environment dark and BAM! Light!
Step 9: Hang Them Outdoors
FYI... After a full day charge in the sun the factory batteries hold about a 3 hour charge.
My set has been running for about 3 weeks. In the past couple days we had some substantial rain and wind. About have the jars had collected 2 inches of rain water. Simple enough solution... unscrew the lid and empty the water.
Step 10: Lantern Lights
In addition to these jar lights I have 3 yard lanterns. Occasionally we will throw a citronella candle in these to give some ambience to the yard. With a simple cut of the spikes on the light assemblies I installed lights into the lanterns. I cut the spikes to about 4 inches to allow sunlight to charge solar powered battery.
The problem I had was how to mount the spike inside the lantern. At first I thought a big glob of hot glue would work. That idea failed quickly as the glue would not adhere to the patina metal bottom. Solution... big ball of molding clay my son had laying around that he bought at the local Dollar Store.
NOTE: The spike tubes are very thing metal. For a clean cut use a hack saw slowly. Sawzall will rip through with a not so straight cut and pipe/tube cutters will just crush the tube.
Step 11: Summary
The lights have been operating nicely for about 3 weeks. Jars do collect some water with excessive rain conditions. Simply unscrew the jar and empty water. Hope somebody finds this useful.