Introduction: Puck Light Conversion, No More Eating Batteries
My wife purchased a set of six (6) LED "puck" lights (pictured above). They are the kind you can stick anywhere for some extra light. This set is even comes with a remote control to turn them on, off, dim, brighten and set a time delay for off. The remote control uses infrared so getting all six lights to respond at the same time can be a trick. We have five (5) in fairly close proximity under a set of kitchen cabinets and controlling all of them at once works out pretty well, just stand back a little so all the lights receive the iR signals. Individual lights in separate locations are not a problem to control. And, if you don't have the remote with you each light can be manually operated (on/off) by pressing the dome on the top. Hmm, sounds like a commercial for them so far, keep reading!
However, and this is a big HOWEVER, there is a problem with these puck lights. They eat AAA batteries for breakfast, lunch and dinner! After putting in 18 new AAA batteries (3 for each light) twice in two weeks I said that's enough of that crap, no more batteries for you!
Apparently there are thousands of these particular remote controlled puck light sets out there. They are being sold across the country at (can I say Costco here?). And I do not believe that the battery issue is an isolated one. As I was writing up this Instructable a friend happened to stop over and was very interested in what I was up to. He was interested because his wife bought the same set of lights and they also eat batteries like crazy. In fact they have stopped using theirs because of the battery issue.
This concludes this news flash, had this been an actual emergency you would have been instructed to ...
So anyway, it's time to hardwire these babies. I opened one up for a look see - the only really important points I guess are that the batteries are wired in series, so the lights are using 4.5v. And I also found not one, but two infrared receivers - one on either side of the puck light. That starts to explain the hunger for batteries as those have to always be listening for a signal. Though I can't imagine the power required would be that great for the IR receivers but maybe they went super cheap and those little suckers are using a lot more than we'd think.
Update: I looked at the spec sheet for a similar infrared receiver - HS0038A2 (no part number is present on the iR receivers in these lights). The power consumption for that receiver is listed as 50 mW. All of my calculators are telling me that a 50 mW draw on 5 V is equal to 0.01 Amps. Which shouldn't be an issue - right?
Hardwiring them was very simple, so if you find yourself in the same position keep reading. But, if it's not worth it to you and you're just going to throw them out, my mailing address is PO Box...
Items You Will Need:
one (1) USB wall charger
one (1) USB cable
small gauge wire (length depends on you and where you want the lights
one (1) 50 gallon garbage can (for all the dead batteries you've accumulated so far)
soldering gun and solder (Side Note: If you solder a lot, look into a "soldering station", it will make your life so much easier. The link is to the one I use and I've had it for 3 - 4 years with zero issues.)
Step 1: USB Chargers, What Else Are They Good For?
In the pic above all of the puck lights are on at 100% (two are missing their tops - no peaking boys). I'd like you to guess what's powering them. Oh come on, try and guess! Fine, I'll tell you - even if the title for this step should have clued you in. :-))
They are all being powered from one (1) USB wall charger.
These puck lights use three (3) AAA batteries each (in series) for a total of 4.5v. The USB wall charger puts out 5v. Those AAA batteries have the potential to supply 1000 mAh (not for very long). However, in normal use they'd typically be providing around 10 mAh. The USB wall charger is rated at 1 amp (1000 mA) which in this case is plenty.
We have the lights, we have a USB wall charger, and we have 36 dead AAA batteries; so where to next?
What do you say we figure out which wires to run where?
Next step please ...
Step 2: Where Oh Where Do My Little Wires Go, Where Oh....
All we have to do is determine the beginning (positive) contact and the ending (negative) contact in the battery compartment and hardwire to those points. If you have the same puck light set from Costco, remove the batteries from one light and look at the battery compartment. Turn the light so that the name "Capstone Industries" is at the top. Your positive contact is in the upper left corner and your negative contact is in the lower right corner. Even easier, look at the first pic above - those are your + and - contacts.
Or get out your multi-meter cause we are going to look for continuity between the contact plates in that battery compartment. With the batteries out, find a positive (+) contact in a corner of the battery compartment (hoping that makes sense), place the multi-meter positive test lead on it. Now, with your multi-meter set to test for continuity, probe the negative (-) contacts with the negative lead of the multi-meter. You will find continuity ONLY between the two plates (+ & -) that complete the battery circuit (remember these are wired in series). If you do not find any continuity move your positive lead to the positive contact on the other side of the battery compartment and try those negative contacts again - bet you find it this time.
Or, you could just open it up (as in the 2nd pic above) and follow the positive and negative leads on the board to see which battery contact plate they connect with. These pucks lights where easy, the board is marked + and - with the battery contact plates connected directly to them. Well, that made it simple for me!
And don't worry about any special wiring requirements for the USB wall charger, I didn't even bother to get inside of that because it works fine just the way it is. What I did do though, was to cut the component end off of a USB cable (not the end you plug into the charger please) and used the Red (positive) and Black (negative) wires in that cable to power up my Puck Lights. My USB cable was an older Iphone cable, not a lightning cable. You may need to verify which are the + & - wires in your cable (multi-meter to the rescue).
Step 3: Kiss Those Batteries Goodbye
The first pic above shows you how I wired my puck lights. Oh, I did daisy chain them (the wires from the first light continue on to the second light and those wires continue on to the 3rd and so on) without any noticeable loss of power at the end of the chain.
So, in a nut shell;
1. Positive wire out from USB charger to Positive battery connecter in 1st puck light
2. Negative wire out from USB charger to Negative battery connector in 1st puck light
That's it, your done. That light will work now. If you want the other five lights to work as well just connect the positive and negative from the 1st puck light, to the 2nd puck light and so on.
I did use my rotozip tool to put a slot on each side of the puck light for the new wires. Gets them out of the way so you can put the lights back into their bases. I also zip tied the incoming and outgoing wires together for a little strain relief.
I've included a quick wiring diagram as well, it has two wiring options for you. Mine are daisy chained as shown in the upper wiring example.
And finally, the last picture shows my puck lights back in place. See the wall outlet, see the USB charger in that outlet, follow the wire.
Thanks for reading and I hope you find it helpful. As always, please do not be shy about pointing out any errors or omissions in this Instructable. I'd much rather fix 'em then let it mess somebody up.
Question 1 year ago on Step 3
Hello. I am totally green in this. You said small gauge wire. What do you mean? Is there a number? If i have a 6 lights, can i cut the end of one USB cable and connect them all to it? Or individual to 6 USB cables?
Answer 1 year ago
Wire gauge (size) runs in reverse - meaning the smaller the number the bigger the wire will be. I used 22 gauge for mine. Following the instructable will get you through the rest. But, if anything is not clear, don't be shy about asking.
2 years ago
Great project. Looking to do something like this for under-cabinet lighting in our kitchen, but my current needs are for:
1.) Non-wired (rechargeable battery);
2.) Longer-life rechargeable than I've seen in commonly-available rechargeable under-cabinet lighting;
3.) Still keeping the price as low as possible. I've tried devices just for this application but are either pricey or less bright, or both.
I'm thinking a larger-mAh rechargeable battery pack (for longer run between re-charging; many of these bp's could be similarly-attached to the cabinet's underside).
3 years ago
Hey! Thanks a lot! I was wondering whether series or parallel was better for such a project. You went parallel. The term "daisy chain" is used for a series circuit. Power source positive connects to lamp1 positive. Lamp1 negative connects to lamp2 positive...lampx negative connects to power source negative, completing the circuit.
My concern was how to determine the voltage requirement for 9 of these. The site I first encountered, which was helpful went into a lot of theory. Except for the number of lights, you are doing the same thing I am doing, for pretty much the same reason - great lights, terrible battery consumption. I have nine mounted around and above my bathroom mirror. When the previous owners installed the basement bathroom, which is "my" bathroom, I think they were too lazy or cheap or myopic to move the overhead light just 3 feet south, or add one 3 feet south. It is useless in its current location.
They are not so much for shaving, but I also cut my own hair. Before I go out, I have to reluctantly check with my Bride who pulls no punches in her response to a patchwork job that must be completed.
Thank you for sharing AND keeping me from making it much more complicated than it has to be. I will post pictures of the project once it is completed. Handling this project this way will make it easier to add a ceiling light that actually illuminates something. I will not have to worry about positioning it so that it serves to provide more area lighting AND mirror lighting.
Reply 3 years ago
I would just look for a USB adapter that output somewhere in the 2,000mA range. Or any power adapter for that matter, it doesn't have to be USB. I went that route because it was easy for what I needed. Any power adapter with a 5 volt / 1.5 to 2A output should do the trick.
Reply 3 years ago
3 years ago
Suppose you want to continue to run the lights on the internal batteries. How would you disable the rf receiver so that batteries would only drain when light was on? I just removed the little red bulb rf component from one light. Manual switch works, now we just have to see how long batteries last. Open to input.
3 years ago on Step 3
Thanks for the idea. Great mod to a slightly different set of puck lights which were advertised to last 1000 hours on one set of batteries... they did not!
Question 4 years ago
I am not tech savvy in any way, but I will relentlessly try to do something once I get it in my head! These are my favorite battery powered remote control lights! My question is, before I fry anything...Do I need a 9v power cable? Also, with
RF-OFF-ON switch, do i need to wire any differently then you did and will my remote still work? I'm anxiously waiting for your answer! I can't wait to say good bye to batteries and enjoy my favorite lights every evening!!!
Question 4 years ago on Step 3
So I'm following your instructions. I have the same exact Set of Lights. I wire one light and when I plug in the adapter it comes on. However it will not click on or off and the remote will not control it. Is this the way it's supposed to be? If not, do you have any clue what I'm doing wrong?
Question 5 years ago
Great write-up! I did it and it was pretty simple.... one question though. My remote turns them off but, not on.. any ideas?
5 years ago
So I have a question. I would like to put a set of these on the top of my cabinets also and I'm guessing the IR will not work very well there. As IR is pretty direct line of site. Is there any recommendations thinking of removing the existing sensor and wiring it to a location that I could easily point a remote at.
Would I need to do five IR sensors or could I do one and wire it to each puck? Looking for any help or ideas and thanks for all this great information!
Reply 5 years ago
Hi Jamie, sorry for the slow response. I've haven't looked at these in awhile. I don't remember where the IR receiver(s) are located. I'd assume there's only one but you never know. Yes, I'd do just want you mentioned, place the IR receiver in direct line of sight.
Reply 5 years ago
So my pucks have a single sensor in each puck. So I'm guessing I would need to take each one out and run individual wires from the pucks to each sensor and put the five sensors in line of sight. They are super small so five of them glued together will be basically invisible. I don't see how I could use a single sensor for all 5.
6 years ago
I have the same lights and the same problem. I put them in a cupboard so the remote was not as useful as it is under cabinets. I removed the IR sensors and now the batteries last for months and months. I just have to manually switch the light on/off as needed. But I think I will try your solution in my wife's curio cabinet!
Reply 6 years ago
Please forgive my ignorance, but how do I identify the IR sensors?
I have no mechanical/electrical skills so I suspect removing the sensors is the best route for me.
Reply 6 years ago
They are the two little black squares on the ends of the circuit card. You have to separate the two halves of the puck by taking out the four screws. I used a small pair of cutters to clip mine off. This will render the remote feature inoperable but the lights can still be turned on by pressing the light itself. Bill
Reply 6 years ago
THANK YOU!!! Works like a dream. The weird thing is, I only had one black square, not two.
Again, I truly appreciate your help. Thank you!
6 years ago
I've looked on and off for how to do this to some puck lights from Sam's for a while now. Thank you for this! Great job !
7 years ago
Thank you for this! It works very well. The only tiny little anoyance that I have (which has nothing to do with your inscrutable but the puck lights) is that on my remote I have a "dim" option and when puch the button, the lights flicker. Not much but just enough to notice it, especially early morning. Besides that, it is a great project that cost barley nothing to do! Cheers!