Instructables
Picture of Solar-powered Emergency Lights
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I made it at TechShop

This is being entered in the GreenTech contest. If you like it, please vote for it!


Materials:

Solar-powered landscape lights (mine are from the dollar store)
Scrap 2 x 4 lumber

Tools:
Miter Saw
Drill Press with large diameter bit
Belt Sander (optional)
 

A little bit of background here
 
Not only did I make at TechShop, but I would not have been able to without TechShop. At 5:00 am, Thursday, July 5, 2012, lightning struck the tree in my back yard. A large limb broke off and fell directly on the power line connecting my house to the utility pole. The line ripped the electrical meter right off the back of my house, and it goes without saying, but we lost power completely.

The storms that occured in the three-day period knocked out power for 325,000 customers in Southeast Michigan. Because my problem only affects a single residential customer, I am at the bottom of the list for repair. Best estimate is that power will not be restored until 11:30 pm, Sunday. That's 3 1/2 days without power.

So since I could not work from home last night (Thursday), I headed into TechShop right after work. Not only do they have light, but AIR CONDITIONING! While I was there, I made a few of these to take back home for the night.

Grab some scrap 2 x 4 lumber. There were a few pieces in the scrap bin at TechShop. Using the Mitre Saw, I cut a few squares. The dimensions where not critical, so I just eye-balled it.

With a large diameter wood bit, I drilled through holes on the drill press. Not knowing the diameter I would need (my lights were still at home), I again eye-balled it. Notice that I clamped the workpiece down to the drill press table to keep it from spinning out of my hand.

Finally, I cleaned up the cut edges and corners on the belt sander.

Once I got home, I just pulled my solar-powered landscape lights out of the ground, removed them from the mount stake, and stuck them in the holes in the 2 x 4's. Because I didn't have the lights with me when I made the bases, the holes where a bit over-sized, but it got the job done. I can always make new ones the next time I'm at TechShop.
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Let there be light!

Since I made 4 of them, I had plenty of light inside my darkened house to get by before going to bed, and was WAY safer than candles. The bases are stable, and can be placed around the house, either on the floor in hallways, or on tables and countertops When I got up this morning, I made sure to put the lights back outside to recharge for tonight.

Again, there was no way for me to make this without TechShop!

About lime3D

I have been designing products in the automotive, aerospace, medical, defense and consumer products industries for over 30 years. I am an "Inventor for Hire", so if there is something you need designed or built, just send me a message, or stop by http://www.lime3D.net, and maybe we can do business!
JTomM1292 years ago
Love the concept . . . and the fact this is easy and "Folk ready" and maybe could be used for a CERT/Red-Cross type Prepardness class (give away the wood blocks . . .). Something small and usful that gets folks thinking DIY for their own needs.

The only other thing I can think of is paint the base gloss white to both reflect and light hitting it back up (not just absorbed in a dark wood surface) and make the whole thing more visable (the garden lights are black to "blend into" the surroundings but you don't want that).

Thanks for the post!
kickaha2 years ago
This is a great idea.
We did something similar in advance of the hurricane on the US east coast in August 2011. We didn't lose power, but it was a comfort to know we had the backup.
We also made sure to have a stock of pre-charged NiMH batteries as backups. The lights I use have plain ol' AA rechargeables in them. The stock batteries in my lights are 400mAH, so having a bunch of 2500mAH batteries at the ready seemed like a good idea. Also, if the storm you are riding out is raging during the day, it might not be possible to put the lights outside to recharge.
(We also stole a few lights from the back yard @ xmas time to decorate the windows for an additional festive touch)
That was my first ideas as well, replace the batteries with better ones. Or if you really really really want to be fancy you could always wire in a second battery into the mix for double the capacity. This would be especially handy if you can find lights that have an "on/ off" switch. Otherwise I doubt the solar cell would be able to charge up 2 batteries in one day.

(I found a bunch of small solar lights for $1 that had "on/off" switches which is why I mention it.)
justoldme2 years ago
great idea we use these lights camping to go to the john, sticking them in the ground is a pain think this year our lights will have a base
thomasready2 years ago
Yeah I also love this I'm going to put two on the rear dash of my car to light it up at night to defer the crooks
lime3D (author)  thomasready2 years ago
That's a great idea!
l8nite2 years ago
great idea ! Add a handle and you'll have a new twist on the ancient candle holder. I really dislike sticking the lights in the ground, then you have to pull them all up to cut the weeds and put them back, so mine are hanging from trees, floating in the pond in large jars, sitting on the fence in aluminum beer bottles and SOON set in wooden blocks....