AKA: Solar powered walkway version 2

This is my second use of a distributed solar lighting system, where the panel can sit somewhere in the sun and send power to the lights that are in a shaded spot.  I guess its kind of a half step between solar garden lights and wiring your home for solar power.  The result in this case is a single panel mounted to a sunny spot on a wall that sends power to a string of glass bottles underneath a grape arbor.

At some point after I built my Solar Powered Walkway, my brother and his family came over for a visit. Everyone seemed quite impressed with the lights, especially his wife. Ted had just finished building a massively oversized grape arbor for the gigantic grapevine that's been cluttering up his backyard for the last several years, and Michelle asked if she could have a set of the lights to put under the arbor. I thought this was a great idea and told them that if they paid for the materials I'd be happy to build something for them.

Of course, since I'm never happy to just leave well enough alone I decided the original design could use some work. So, I started tweaking things, a little here, a little there, and soon enough the result was something quite different from my original design.

About halfway through building this I got to thinking about the fact that I never get my sister-in-law anything for birthdays and Christmas, as I'm never really sure what she'd like. I am awful at buying presents for people. However, here I'd been presented with something that I knew for certain she'd like, and her birthday was even coming up soon! I ended up finishing the build the week before her birthday, and presented it to her the weekend before her party so we'd have time to set it up in the arbor.

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I see the term "goodwill" used a lot on here... would it be our version (in the UK) of a charity shop, where goods are donated to a charity and are then sold to raise funds for that charity.
Well done for the 'ible... very inspiring, we have a chain of shops in the UK called Poundland, everything is priced at one pound, and things like LED garden/christmas lights can be obtained here - very useful for us who make - do you have 1.59313 Dollarland I wonder?
depotdevoid (author)  I am in the shed!3 years ago
Hi JayDub,

Goodwill is just that, a national organization that accepts donations of old stuff and resells it.  They use the proceeds for job training, job creation, and employing those with special needs.  They're a pretty good organization all around!

We've got Dollar Tree here in the US, I imagine we must have lower quality stuff in our version, if a pound is currently going for $1.59!  LED gizmos are fairly common, but very crappy.  I've got a stack of their solar garden stakes in my shop, just looking for a project . . .
If I had a solar cell that puts out 6V , 50mA would this setup work if I put the batteries in series or is that a current requirement that needs to be met in order for all of the LEDs to be lit up?
depotdevoid (author)  solarstudent3 years ago
Batteries in series add their voltages--this will work fine if you need 2.4 volts, but if you need 1.2 volts, then you need to wire in parallel. This also provides more amperage to run more LEDs.
KittyF3 years ago
my problem is I don't understand the electrical terms. is it something I need to take a class for? is it something I could learn on the net? is it something I even need to learn or should I just follow the directions blindly and assume that I don't need to understand them?

I assume that this project will be a one off project without understanding though, so I always strive for understanding so I can use the ideas in another project.
depotdevoid (author)  KittyF3 years ago
Hi KittyF! You don't need to take a class, all that info is available on the internet. If you have specific questions I'd be happy to answer them myself, or google is a good tool. If general understanding of basic electronics is your goal I HIGHLY recommend Radioshack's electronics learning lab, that's how I got started.  It was very hands on and got me started on this path before I even found instructables.
I'lll have to look for that. it looks like it would be useful stuff to know. . thanks
bwelkin3 years ago
To those readers intending to make a similar project let me suggest that you use "heat shrink" instead of electrical tape to insulate your soldered connections. Heat shrink comes in many diameters; pick one just bigger than the twisted-wire-soldered connection will be and slide a two inch piece up one wire before joining your wires together. Slide the 'shrink down and heat with a lighter. Not only does it contract, the insides melt and coat your solder job with a weatherproofing kind of tar. It also make it a prettier job.
depotdevoid (author)  bwelkin3 years ago
True, it is prettier and makes a better seal.

I went with electrical tape for a couple of reasons though.  The ends are sealed inside the bottles, mainly you are insulating the wires from each other and don't have to worry about weather in this case.  Their location in the neck of the bottle, near the top, should make them hard to see so appearance shouldn't matter too much.  Also, electrical tape is cheaper and doesn't require a heat source to set up.

You are right though, in most circumstances heat shrink tubing is WAY better than electrical tape!
antling4 years ago
I totally liked solar projects and in the midst of coverting everything in my house to 12VDC and getting ready for all-solar-living (at least 80%).
in this instructible, the new panel you made consist of more than 1 "crappy" panels right?
how many to be exact? the shapes seems "off" can you tell me more on that?
depotdevoid (author)  antling4 years ago
Hi antling, that's a pretty ambitious (and awesome!) project, going mostly solar!

Take a closer look at step 5, there's a link to another instructable that I pilfered the idea from. Basically, there are several retailers that sell fractured solar panels for really cheap. All you have to do is properly wire them together and you end up with a nice solar panel for much less than you'd pay for it prebuilt.

Thanks for commenting and don't hesitate to ask if you have any other questions. Also, speaking as a person who's really into solar power, I'd love to see an instructable about how to go solar at home!
Basically My wife and I had just bought a house and moved in about 3 months ago. Since it is a new house, we decided first hand to change all the concealed cable from 1.2mm to 2.2mm (I'm using BS in Malaysia). you may need to calculate suitable cabling size for your cables if you are interested in going solar.
Fundamentally, in Malaysia, our general standard domestic voltage is 240V. bty changing to solar, I am looking at all 12VDC without any means of inverter as it is additional cost to me.

My plan is simple and will take up a long time to conceive (5 years)

By reducing the voltage to 12VDC, we will expect all equipment to have to utilize higher current (V=IR). Hence to avoid meltdown or cable fault. we decided to check all cables and finally stage 1 is already completed. all our cables are now 2.2mm instead of local developer standard of 1.2mm. this is an easy step.

STAGE 2. - Let there be light.
Lamp and all basic utilities are now running on 12VDC with the help of a little 12VDC power supply (inverter).

My staircase and night lamp is now consisted of 12V LED only!

STAGE 3 - Important appliances.
AIR-CONDITION UNITS (it is average 89F here year round!)
FRIDGES, WASHING MACHINE, Etc... All new machine will be checked before purchase. Only machines with 12VDC compatible is sought. That means, go for machines that runs on inverter, 12/24VDC is ok... It is just about when I will take off the inverters and run in DC. (This is almost complete except for our fridge and washing machine, which is quite new and I made a mistake purchase based on cost and not forward compatibilty)

STAGE 3 1/2 - Calculation.

STAGE 4 - Purchase of relevant power generation equipments.

STAGE 5 - Installation of the PG equipments and power up.

STAGE 6 - (5 years later) My solar home.. :-)
24 hours climate control and off-grid... yippee!!!
lancruz antling3 years ago
You probably don't have to deal with home owners association. Where I live you can't sneeze without HOA giving you a hard time.
antling lancruz3 years ago
Then you should cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze! actually, you can always do it descreetly as a part of small DIY stuffs. Just think of it as hanging a new flower pots somewhere, and also, do it in small manageable steps so it doesnt attract too much attention.
depotdevoid (author)  antling4 years ago
Very interesting, I like the idea of doing the conversion in small, easy to manage steps over a long period of time. My parents are crazy and think the American president is going to ruin everything, so they're currently in the process of going all solar. However, they're going to do it all in one go this summer. They showed me the estimate from the contracting firm that's going to do the work, and I was shocked! I don't have that kind of money to make the transition myself, but again, I really like your idea of doing it one bit at a time. That way, the cost would be minimal and there wouldn't be the problem of "sticker shock."
You are right!
The cost may not be reduced, but the pain can be minimized.. LOL.
Handshake for a person that share the same thought as I am.
At this rate, I guess, not only Obama is going to screw up. My country is going backward. Yet, this is for another forum.
Let us be less depending on the grid and do our part for the earth.
huttarl4 years ago
Nice project. But like many, I wish people would describe in more detail what a project *is* on the front page, before launching into the history behind it, who they presented it to, the materials needed, etc. Especially with an unclear title like "sun bottles". "Solar-powered walkway" helps, but it's not a walkway... My best guess at this point is that it's a string of solar-powered lights in bottles. But life is too short to read the whole instructable just to find out if it's something I would actually be interested in making.
depotdevoid (author)  huttarl4 years ago
Solid point huttarl, though I had kind of figured the pictures would speak for themselves. I've updated the intro step, do you think this would be better?
@saehn... touche. But with the complaint, I have the chance that the author will clarify the 'ible (which he did), and save time for both me and a bunch of other readers. Maybe it will even help influence other authors to make their front pages clearer.

@depot, thanks for being responsive! The pictures somewhat spoke for themselves, but they were mostly close-ups, so it wasn't clear what the big picture was. Much better now, with the extra pics and expanded description! Thank you.
saehn huttarl4 years ago
But it's not too short to write out a complaint, is it? ;-)
EngEC4 years ago
Awsome man! Great idea for an instructable, glad you made it. And sure your sister-in-law had saw that delightful work. Thanks man!
depotdevoid (author)  EngEC4 years ago
Thank you for the kind comment sir, I'm glad you liked it!
Very interesting and full of possibilities for different uses. Nice job. Thanks!
depotdevoid (author)  nicholas19514 years ago
Thanks Nicholas, glad you liked it!
Pedalit4 years ago
Great idea! It reminds me of solar indoor lights. In places with no electricity people hang water filled bottles in the ceiling. The light refracts and illuminates the structure. P.S. It rains a cumulative 5 days a year where I live. We only have a roof on our house so the sun doesn't catch us on fire.
depotdevoid (author)  Pedalit4 years ago
Thanks Pedalit! I guess I shouldn't complain too much about the rain, it's just what we do here in Oregon, grump about the rain while enjoying lush forests and beautiful waterways.