I thought I’d take a few minutes today and show you this light panel that I made.
Now this panel uses this nice little remote control. It’s used for adjusting the intensity of the light – brighten things up, makes things look pretty good and it costs about 25 dollars in parts and a few used things that you might have laying around. Now this really isn’t designed for lighting of plants, so if you’re here for plant lighting, you’re probably in the wrong spot, it’s really used for doing video taping and some camera work.
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We’ll start off with this old Dell laptop with a 15” display. You can also use an old flat panel monitor but I like how thin the laptop displays are, but if they aren’t old enough, they can be too thin to hold everything. I’m basically going to scrap everything except for the cover and the glass, which really isn’t glass, but probably some kind of polycarbonate.
The Dell displays are really easy to dismantle because most of them use the same screws and also snap together. With a little light prying, they come right apart. The lid latch can come out and this one has a nice little rare earth magnet hidden in there that I could use elsewhere. For now, I’m going to remove the hinges, but will probably put them back on later. I might attach a bracket to them.
The LCD panel is held in with a few more screws and pops right out and the rest of the support frame comes out, leaving just the plastic shell.
There’s a few other parts in the LCD panel assembly that I wanted to salvage. I’m not sure why this white tape is so sensitive, but it didn’t seem to cry out in pain when I touched it. Maybe it was in a good mood today.
The LCD panel is made up from a few different layers of materials. The first is the actual glass liquid crystal display, which I quickly cracked since the frame was no longer protecting it. What I was really looking for was this diffusion film which can be used to soften the light from the new light panel. There are also two polarization films which are of little use to me and a second bonus stronger diffusion film. There’s also a thick white film which I have a perfect use for in this project.
OK. Now’s we can finally start putting the light panel together. We’ll start with the empty shell and I decided to put the metal frame back in to help keep the plastic shell rigid. The while film is used as the backing which all the LEDs will be stuck on to. This is needed so the LED’s won’t short out against the metal frame. Then I may add a diffuser above the LED’s, then the polycarbonate protector and the final lid to the plastic shell.
The LED electronics are very simple. There’s a 12volt DC power supply which plugs into the dimmer controller, which then plugs into the strip of LEDs. The dimmer even has a few weird disco settings which can make the lights flash in various patterns. This may be great for some kind of party mode but it will probably give your friends seizures.
After putting the frame back into the plastic shell, I added the white film to the bottom, then used some black electrical tape to hold it in place. The tape also wraps over the metal frame to insulate it from the wiring in the next step.
For the main power bus, I’m using some scrap ground wire from some Romex wiring. In hindsight, it would be easier to use braided wire from a lamp cord since it’s easier to solder, but this is what I had laying around. Next bend the wire so it goes down the side of the panel, then a second wire along the right side. The two wires nearly meet at the bottom. It’s important to make sure they don’t touch since one is the 12 volt supply and the other is the ground. With some strategically placed hot glue, you can secure the wires in place. And yes, the heat from the glue quickly travels through the copper so watch your fingers!
The LED strips come with an extra power plug. I just stripped the ends and soldered the 12 volt red wire to one bus wire, and the white ground wire to the other. The wire is able to come out of the plastic case through the hole where the old LCD wire bundle used to be.
The reels of LEDs can be cut down to length in groups of three. I just started cutting them all to the proper length. Each section of LED strip has the +12 and ground connections on each side. To make the wiring easy, you just need to solder a little wire from the +12 on the left side to one bus, then solder another wire to the ground on the right side of the strip to the ground bus. Before taking the time to solder all the strips in, I tested the first strip, just to make sure it all worked!
I was hoping to offset every other strip so each row of LED’s weren’t so close together but there really wasn’t enough room in this enclosure to do that. In the end, all the LED’s were in a column…almost straight. I probably should have drawn a line on the backer to help keep them in alignment. Once the panel is turned on, you can’t really tell they’re that crooked.
And one more quick test before closing it up. I also covered up some of my handy-work with more electrical tape. I could have left the LEDs exposed but wanted to protect them a bit. After letting them run for a while, they didn’t get too hot so I’m going to try using this with no venting. I took the scrap piece of polycarbonate and hot glued it into the top cover.
Before closing it all up, I re-attached the lid hinges because I may mount this to some kind of a base or make an attachment so this can connect to a tri-pod.
The cover snaps back into place and is secured with the original screws. I decided not to add any of the diffuser film and may just tape them to the cover when needed.
For now, I can just hang it on my tri-pod with a piece of wire. It’s a hack, but works amazingly well!
So, that’s about it. It takes a couple of hours to put this together. It works really well and I’m really happy with it.
Thanks for watching!