We are all familiar with the traditional garden path lights. In this project, I am going to show you how to make them react to the wind so that they light up and flicker when the wind blows. These wind lights add an interesting visual element to your garden decorations.
Step 1: Materials
Solar Powered Garden Path Light
10 inch Flexible Insulated Wire
A Small Piece of Wood (about 1" x 3" x 1/8")
Paper Clip (or other stiff wire)
Drill and Bit Set
Soldering Iron and Solder
Needle Nose Pliers
Step 2: Open the Housing and Locate the LED Leads
Begin by removing the light assembly from the base and opening the housing. Most models will just unscrew. If not, you may have to cut or pry open a glue seam.
Once the housing is open, locate the leads coming from the LED and where they connect to the rest of the circuit. Cut one of the two leads at the midpoint of the exposed wire and remove any insulating material. This is where we will be connecting two new wires that will act as a wind sensitive switch. This switch will connect power to the LED only when blown on by the wind.
Step 3: Drill Holes in the Housing
First, drill holes for connecting the wires of the wind sensor. Carefully observe where all the internal components are positioned inside the housing. Find a location on the bottom side (the side where the LED is located) where no components are mounted. Then, in this location, drill two 1/16" holes about 1/4" apart.
Then, drill holes for mounting the hanging wire. Find two spots on opposite edges of the top side (where the solar cell is located) and drill holes that are large enough for whatever string or wire that you plan to use to hang the light.
Step 4: Connect the Wind Sensor Wires to the LED Leads
Take a straightened piece of paper clip wire and insert it into one of the two holes in the bottom side of the housing. Bend it down so that it can contact one of the two parts of the cut LED lead (whichever is more convenient). Then solder them together. If you are concerned that the exposed metal may contact other parts of the circuit, you may wish to add tape or heat shrink tubing.
Take the 10 inch piece of insulated wire and strip the insulation off one end. Insert the stripped end into other hole in the bottom of the housing. Line the end up with the second part of the cut LED lead. Solder these two wires together. Again, you may wish to use tape or heat shrink tubing if you are concerned about accidentally shorting to other parts of the circuit. After making these connections close up the housing.
Step 5: Position the Wires Outside the Housing to Form the Wind Sensor
Take the free end of the paperclip and use the needle nose pliers to bend it into a loop that is about 1/4 inch in diameter. Then bend the loop up 90 degrees so that it is perpendicular to the rest of the wire. This bent piece of wire will form half of the wind sensor.
Now you should have two wires sticking out of the bottom side of your light housing. Feed the straight wire through the loop in the paperclip wire. Strip/shave off any insulation in the area where the wires intersect. This will ensure that they can make a good connection.
Bend the looped wire so that the loop is centered vertically on the straight wire. This way when undisturbed, the wire will hang through the center of the loop and not make contact, but when the wind blows and moving it slightly, the two wires will make contact and the LED will light up.
Step 6: Add the Wooden Panel to Catch the Wind
Take a small piece of wood and drill a 1/16 inch hole near one end. Then feed the free end of the straight insulated wire through the hole and twist it around itself to hold the piece of wood in place. The wood panel helps to catch the wind and make the light more sensitive. It also makes the light a little more visually interesting.
Step 7: Hang the Light
How and where you wish to hang your wind light will determine the best way to hang it. I decided to use a loop of clear fishing line but you can use string or wire or whatever you want. Just feed the ends through the two holes that you drilled in the top side of the housing and tie them in a knot. The knot should be wider than the holes and prevent them from being pulled out. However if your string is not wide enough, you can tie the ends to a pair of washers or nuts or just apply glue to hold them in place.
Step 8: Finished Wind Lights
Pull the insulating tab out of the battery and your wind light is finished. The LED should light up whenever the solar cell detects that it is dark. Move it around and watch the light flicker as the wires come in contact. You may need to make slight adjustments to the wires to get them in just the right position. Hang the lights out in your garden and enjoy your wind lights.
There are a number of ways that you can modify the design. You can make it more sensitive by making the loop of wire smaller or by having the loop further down on the wire or by making the wooden panel larger. You can make the light less sensitive by doing the opposite of things that I just listed.
Step 9: Other Examples of Wind Lights
There are a lot of ways that you can setup and arrange your wind lights. For some additional ideas and inspiration check out the "Wind-lit" project. It was a series of art installations across Japan in 2001 and 2005.