Intro: Easy Solar Lamp
I developed this project out of a two-fold need. First, I wanted a light in our backyard that would stay on all night yet not cost anything to run, and second, I wanted an easy and inexpensive emergency light that could be used indoors at night in the event of a power failure.
I looked into several solar alternatives, most of which were either expensive, or they required the installation of a large solar panel on our roof, which seemed like a bit of overkill for what I wanted.
I kept thinking about the little small solar path lights that you see in many stores, but they just didn't seem to be bright enough. Finally the solution came to me as I was walking through the clearance aisle at a discount store. The solar path lights would work, if I used several of them and elevated them a few feet off the ground!
I bought a package of 8 lights (on the clearance aisle) for $14 U.S., and then headed to a thrift store. At the thrift store I found an old floor lamp (the kind with a weighted base that stands about 5 feet tall) for 25 cents! Now I was well on my way!
Back in the shop, I found an old ceiling light fixture that had three metal arms (to hold a light globe onto the ceiling). After removing all the wiring from the floor lamp, I mounted the arms of this ceiling light fixture to the top of the floor lamp, and extended the center pole of the lamp to where it was slightly taller than the three outboard arms (using a piece of scrap tubing).
I then painted the assembly with primer first, then gloss black spray paint. After it dried, I mounted a yard light to each of the three arms and to the center piece.
Each of these yard lights put out about 2 lumens of light, so four of them together put out about 8 lumens -- quite enough for what I wanted in the yard, and enough for an emergency light if I wanted to bring the lamp inside. I keep the lamp outside where it gets plenty of sunshine, and I've found that it will stay lit all night. Since it normally stays outside, it is always charged in the event I needed an emergency light inside the house.
I also made a little table lamp for the patio (see the last photo) from another solar yard light that I already had. I mounted it on the stem and basket from an old coffee pot, and used an old pan lid for the base. Of course, it only puts out 1/4th of the light that the floor lamp puts out, but it is sufficient to light the little table at night. Plus, it can also be brought inside if necessary.
I used to think these little inexpensive path lights were sort of useless, but I've found that if you group them together and elevate them, they put out some decent light. And, they don't cost anything to run!