Intro: Cheap Solar Charger
So you want a cheap and simple way of gaining electricity right? Well you've come to the right place. This instructable shows you how to make a solar charger that charges AAA's which can be used to charge a lot of other things (like your phone). The way I make this solar panel is not the best or most efficient way to make this project but that's simply because of the resources I had at hand. If you're like me then you don't have any special tools, a bunch of cash, or the right resources so you work with what you have and that's what I'm going to show you how to do today. So if you do have resources then this isn't the instructable for you and I recommend you search around because there are tons of awesome solar projects out there. This instructable only costs about 15 bucks and some time. Plus all of the materials can be found at your local Dollartree (not to be confused with Dollargeneral where all things are NOT a dollar!). So if your ready to get started read on!
Things you'll need:
1. A plastic tupperware: The bottom must be clear and it should be around 4in by 4in.
2. 9 solar garden lights: These should include a rechargeable AAA inside each one. Now at the time of this writing it's 2017 so they might not be there anymore if its a later date. I recommend you check your local Dollartree to see if these lights are still being carried. There is a picture of the light on step 1.
3. 3 diodes: these are little devises that make sure current only flows one way.
5. Knife: (optional)
6. Sharpie: (optional)
Step 1: Step 1: Getting the Panals
The first thing you need to do is extract the solar panels from your garden lights. Start by taking off the lamp's head as shown in picture 1 and throw away the body. Next open up the head and cut the wires coming from the panel. You want to give yourself some margin for error so leave as much wire connected to the panel as possible. Once you've done that you should have something that looks like picture 3. Now you need to remove the glue at the base of the panels wires using your pliers and a knife if you have one. This can take a while but it really is necessary because otherwise the soldering comes off the panel when you remove it from its case. It's really helpful to have a second pair of hands when you try to pry the panel from its case. I've found that if you apply pressure to the center of the case while someone holds it you can push the panel out enough for to slip a painters knife or something else flat under the edge of the solar panel. Now that you've removed the case you want to strip your solar panel's wires. I recommend you take the wire casing all the way off like in picture 5. Once your done you should have 9 panels that look like the last two pictures.
Step 2: Step 2: Putting Panels Together
The next step is to divide your panels into 3 groups of 3. Before you glue them together make sure all the panels negative wires are in a line so, for instance, all the negative wires are on the right side and all the positive wires are on the left. Now glue the panels together in three separate lines as shown in the first picture. Now you need to wire your panels together in parallel. Arranging the panels in this sequence will charge your AAA batteries 3 times faster then one panel would charge them. Once you've done that you should have something like picture 2. Lastly glue all three rows of panels together to make one big solar panel.
Step 3: Step 3: Finishing the Circutry
Great job, so far you've finished your panel and now all you have to do is make it work. In order for your panel to charge batteries you need to use your 3 diodes. Why you may ask? Well if you don't have a diode then when ever a cloud covers the sun or causes it to dim your battery will lose electricity through the panels. A diode makes sure your charge stays in your battery. Before you attach your diode make sure its facing the right way because if it's not then it your panel won't charge your batteries at all. You want to attach the anode (the positive side of the diode) to the positive wire of your solar panel line up and the cathode (the negative side of your diode) to the positive wire of your battery holder. Simply connect the negative battery holder wire to the negative solar panel wire. Do this three times and you should have something like picture 1. Now since i didn't have any pre-made battery holders and didn't want to buy or make any I just used part of the lamp. All you need to do to get the lamp battery holder ready is cut the black and white wires near where they attach to the circuit board and strip them with you scissors. If you don't know how to strip wire with scissors then click the link.
Step 4: Step 4: Give It a Case
We don't want our solar panel to break anytime soon so were going to protect it and the best way to do that is with a case. Start by taking your plastic tupperware and cut it so its super thin as shown in picture 2. You don't want it to be much thicker then the width of your panel. Once you've done that then trim around the lid so its the right size for your new case. Next place you panel inside and ducktape it in place as shown in picture 3. Then ducktape on the lid and flip your panel over. Next you need to bend your battery holders back so the sit on the back of your panel and ducktape them down like in picture 5. Lastly flip panel over once more and put ducktape around the edges of the case so it looks cooler. Just make sure not cover any of the panel in the process. There you have it your very own solar panel! I hope you enjoy it don't forget to shoot me a comment!