Cheap Solar Garden Light Hack

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Introduction: Cheap Solar Garden Light Hack

I purchased several of these little solar garden lights from Walmart for 97 cents each. From past experience I know that if you can get these to function for more than a month, consider yourself very lucky. The light output is very weak, and the rechargeable batteries they put in these are the cheapest they could find. They figure if they only charge 97 cents, it's easier to just buy more replacements than it is to complain about it.

For this Instructable, you will need:

Instead of buying more replacements, or complaining, I decided to go a 3rd route and make them function better by replacing two of the components that make them so cheap. I replaced the sad little white LED with a brighter (and yellow) LED to get some decent light output, and I replaced the cheap battery with a better quality rechargeable Ni-Cad so they would last much longer.

Step 1: What's Inside...

The clear plastic lens separates easily from the main black housing by twisting them apart. The housing will come apart into two pieces when you remove the two screws. Inside you will find the cheap battery, in this case a 2/3 AA. The link above is where I found my rechargeable Ni-Cads for about $11 for a pack of 4. The circuit board is (or should be) held in place by a bit of silicone adhesive. Pry this loose with a flat screwdriver and the circuit board should come out easily. Remove any excess bits of adhesive.

Step 2: Removing the LED

Get your fine tip soldering iron and some braided wick to remove the old LED. You can get by without the wick, but using the wick to remove excess solder makes this much easier. Some of these lamps have little sleeves covering the leads. Don't lose these. Not only do they prevent shorting, they also make a nice gauge to control how far the LED leads go into the circuit board.

Step 3: Adding the New LED

Once the old LED is out, insert the new LED (and sleeve on each lead) making sure to put the longer lead into the positive (+) side. If you reverse the polarity/leads, it won't work. Solder the leads in place and clip off any excess from the solder side of the board, then bend the LED 90 degrees so that it will fit into the housing, matching the one you replaced.

Step 4: Putting It Back Together

Slide the circuit board back into place so that the top of the LED goes into the hole in the center, and put a drop of glue or silicone on the board next to the housing to hold it in place. Put the two pieces of the housing together and replace the 2 screws.

This is my first instructable, and I hope you found it useful!

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    7 Discussions

    0
    eternal_fizzer1
    eternal_fizzer1

    2 years ago

    Nice job! I've got the same ones and I was wondering how to pair up (or triple) the solar panels so they'll recharge sufficiently up here at 47deg N. Mine are only AAA, but I have some rechargeable AAA's to replace these "solar" batteries". I don't mind the lights - just enough to see my way ... but they die an hour after dusk. (Not sure if the solar panel will give enough juice for AA.) Time to experiment ...

    0
    EugeneZ4
    EugeneZ4

    3 years ago

    great job..simple enough for me to understand. but i had a question about your "braided wick" method of removing the excess solder.im not familiar as to what the wick is? i know its more of a preference but im new to the solder world.

    0
    GregW20
    GregW20

    Reply 3 years ago

    The wick is just a braided wire that when heated next to solder will pull it away very cleanly. it's commonly available at Radio Shack.

    https://www.radioshack.com/products/desoldering-braid

    0
    GregW20
    GregW20

    4 years ago

    Thanks, glad you liked it! The yellow lights are much nicer and more natural to look at than those super-white LEDs

    0
    Uncle Kudzu
    Uncle Kudzu

    4 years ago

    Great idea! And I like yellow lights outside. Thanks for sharing!

    0
    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Good idea. I have a bunch of these lights. I might have to try this.