Make Your Own Solar Powered Led String Lights. ($5 Bucks Max)

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Introduction: Make Your Own Solar Powered Led String Lights. ($5 Bucks Max)


  Making a basic solar powered string of led lights isn't too difficult.  This instructable will require no electronics knowledge and no programing. 
  What were will be doing is upgrading some old battery powered mini lights to LEDs and then using some basic components, charging the batteries with a small solar panel.  With the aid on 1 IC and 1 inductor, we can automate the string so it turns off and charges during the day and turns on at night. 
Let's get started.

Step 1: Let's See What We Need to Get Started.


Step 2: What We Will Need.



I'll tell you what I used, but you can improvise your own parts.

1 Battery powered light set with battery box.
1 Solar Panel 2.0v @ 80mA (I'm using two 1.2v NiMHs in parallel. If you want to use one -then you need 2v @ > 20mA.
1 IC (QX5251F) Will discuss this one later on
1 Inductor 220uF (This is not exact and you can change it to meet your desires.)
10 LED's (White, Blue, Green or Pink) (Red and Yellow are a little different, but you can use them if you really want.)

Tools
A soldering iron.
Wire Cutter




Step 3: Let's Make an LED String.


You don't have to make your own string.  You can buy battery powered LED string on Ebay for about $2 - $4 depending on the number of LEDs.  Then you can just hack the battery box which you'll see in a few steps. 
If you have an old Christmas string mini lights, they need to be Battery Operated.  If you use AC powered ones, the wiring is not in parallel.  You can cut up the AC strings and rewire them in parallel, or you can just get two long wires and solder on the LEDs. 

Anyway here is a close up of the prep.

Step 4: Let's Start Putting the Circuit Together.

These are the connections we will need to make to properly have our circuit turn on and off automatically as well as properly charge the batteries and power the lights. 

This is the entire layout.  You can add 15 leds per QX5251F @ 20mAh per LED.  The max current for the QX5251F is 300mA so you can play with different configurations.


I purchased my QX5251F from a vendor for $20 for 100pcs.  He'll sell as little as 10pcs, but the shipping is still $9 plus $2 for paypal.
Here is the vendors contact info.  ic@thanku.cc
If someone just really wants one or two, contact me and we'll see if we can work something out through paypal or something.

Here's the secret.  You might be able to scavenge the entire circuit from any Chinese made solar lawn lamp.  US ones use about a dozen different components, but I guess you could use that too.

Step 5: Working on the Housing Connections.

A few soldering points and we are almost done.  So let's put it all together.

Step 6: That's It.

That it.  I've tested this set up with two 1000mAh (The real capacity) and they ran all night.  If you use a real 2000mAh battery you can obviously just use one.  Just keep in mind that max output of your solar panel.  If your solar panel can only put out 20mAh, in 8 hours of sunlight you'll only be able to charge your battery(ies) with 160mA so that's what it can put out.  That's only enough to power 8 LEDs for about 1 hour at Full power.  The circuit uses only a fraction, about 5ma per LED.  Also you can't use the complete capacity of the battery.  The QX5251F can use about 35%.  It won't take the batteries down past 0.8volts.

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    49 Discussions

    0
    rcisneros
    rcisneros

    10 years ago on Step 2

    String of lights - $2 new (Second-hand was $0.25)
    Solar panel - $1.5 off ebay.
    QX5251F (IC) - $0.20
    Inductor 220uF- $0.02
    Battery(ies) - $0.50 x 2 = $1
    __________________

    > $5

    0
    ivanvector
    ivanvector

    Tip 6 weeks ago

    The "inductor" pictured in the instructions is a 220-Ohm resistor. If you use a resistor like the one pictured this is a good project. If you use a real inductor in this circuit you will destroy the IC the first time the circuit goes dark (inductors release stored charge if current is interrupted, often at high voltage) and you might destroy or explode the batteries too.

    0
    DanDiego
    DanDiego

    Question 3 months ago on Introduction

    I have several solar strings that have a few bad LEDs. Do you know now I can cut into the wires to replace the bad ones? I can identify the positive and negative wires but I don't know how to proceed from there. I have one string that has many good LEDs to harvest. Appreciate any advice. The strings are hot-glued to my backyard planters so I would prefer to replace the few bad ones if possible. Thanks!

    0
    radcock
    radcock

    3 years ago

    Does it matter if my solar panel o/p voltage is 5v? I wanted to have the 5V panel charge 2 1.2V batteries in parallel, giving a long 'light' time to my bulbs. Would this be okay doing the same configuration?

    0
    The real Hellhound
    The real Hellhound

    3 years ago

    i made this and it blew up giving me a second degree burn on my hand

    0
    ninadt23
    ninadt23

    4 years ago

    Please give me details of this ic QX5251F to buy this.

    0
    Tempest2
    Tempest2

    4 years ago

    I am wanting to do this with a reel of LED lights from eBay.

    LED Chip Model: SMD 3528
    Beam angle(°): 120°
    Input Voltage: DC 12V
    LED Quantity: 300 leds/5 Meter
    Working Current/meter: 0.35-0.4A
    Output power: 21-24W /5 Meter

    Would this set up work for this? Unsure how to figure how big of solar panel? Would like to run Dusk to dawn....
    Can you help?
    Thanks

    0
    barsam
    barsam

    4 years ago

    I have now a more explicit question. If I have about 33 tiny lights on a string, how big a solar panel do I need???

    0
    barsam
    barsam

    4 years ago

    I am not able to find a solar panel on Ebay. I am finding only rather expensive panels for i-phones. what term should I look for in the search engine of Ebay or Amazon??

    0
    KarlaE1
    KarlaE1

    5 years ago on Step 2

    can I use battery filament lights from IKEA ? They look like LED but are hard wired (can't replace burned outs).

    0
    RigoC
    RigoC

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 2

    I'm not sure. If they require 3.1v - 3.4v, then I'd say yes. If they are not LEDs, they will use up a lot of energy and run only for a short time.

    Good Luck.

    0
    leredmon
    leredmon

    5 years ago

    I need two to four "twinkling" lights that are solar powered via a cord approximately 5' long. I will be putting the lights under glass in one location, but need the solar cell placed away from the glass/lights. Is this something I could purchase from you?

    0
    rcisneros
    rcisneros

    Reply 5 years ago

    I'd love to but is not really worth it anymore. You can now go to a dollar store and but a cheap solar light for $1 or so. Rip it open and The components will all be there.

    0
    amajo37
    amajo37

    5 years ago on Introduction

    i have string lights but i wish to longer the wires to put them on the roof to get more light, can you help pls

    1
    amajo37
    amajo37

    5 years ago on Introduction

    i have string lights but i wish to longer the wires to put them on the roof to get more light, can you help pls

    0
    Lanoma
    Lanoma

    5 years ago on Introduction

    I put new batteries in my solar lights. They don't switch off when exposed to light and the battery dies after a few hours. batteries were 1.2 400mah replaced with 1.2 1800 mah. Can you help. Terminals are touchy too how can I fix this?