So there's no power left and as far as you can tell, it's not coming back on anytime soon. You're in a panic and have forgotten everything you learned from your survival and how to defend against zombie invasion eBooks on your smart phone... and the battery on that smart phone died out awhile ago. You need those survival eBooks!
What do you do?
Why... start sacrificing your yard that you've worked so hard on of course! No... seriously, in a post-apocalyptic world those cutesy solar yard lights can be reused to get your smart phone back up and running. And those yard stakes will make a great tool for zombie brain penetration!... WIN/WIN!
Materials That Will Be Used In This Project
* shoe string
* electrical tape
Tools That You Will Likely Need
* knife (a kitchen knife will do just fine)
(all links refer to the items I used in this project for those curious)
*** Please Note: There are many different ways I could have done this. Ultimately my goal was to get it done without the use of electricity, with as few items as possible, and using only items that would be typical to find in your own home. In addition everyone's phone will be different - this is how I was able to accomplish getting my smart phone running again with the above concepts in mind. So... having said that, let's get started!
Step 1: Dismantle Those Yard Lights
The only thing we need from those yard lights right now are the solar panels. The ground post and frosted cover on the one's I found (not in my neighbor's yard, I promise! ... at least, no neighbors that were still alive...) were easy to pop off as shown in the first image. So from looking at that first image it looks like we have two screws to tackle. Let's get that done.
Shown in the second image is what we're now looking at. There's no electricity to solder those solar panel wires off of the circuit board, so we'll have to cut them as shown in the second image.
Those solar panels still have a lot of plastic and such that they're stuck to. Ideally we'd like to get rid of all of that. In my case there was nothing holding the outer metal casing to the inside plastic and I was able to slide it right off by pushing down on the top of the solar panel area as shown in the third image.
Now, looking at the fourth image we have some type of glue on the wires. We need that stuff gone. I was able to easily remove this just using my fingernails.
I tried to just get the panels to pop out, but they were clearly glued down. So I took a kitchen knife and began to cut around the plastic casing being very mindful not to cut the wires as shown in the fifth image. This plastic was surprisingly easy to cut through. I did this on all four corners, however, I still needed to get the panel out, so I very slowly very carefully began a cut right at the edge of the plastic and the panel as shown in the sixth image.
With one plastic ledge finally gone I was able to start pulling the panel away from the plastic. I used a plastic measuring spoon to help me wedge between the two and gently pulled them apart as seen in the seventh image. (In hindsight I should have used a piece of plastic that I cut off from the casing to keep materials at a minimum... oops!)
Oh boy! You're going to have to do that 3 more times.
Well, move on to the next step when you finish.
Step 2: Assemble Your Solar Panels
We're going to need to strip the ends of the wires from our panels. Since we're not prepared and don't have wires cutters we're going to use a pair of scissors.
Very gently squeeze around the wire casing as shown in the first image (and when I say gently... I mean barely put any pressure on it. These wires are very thin and we'd rather take our time then lose wire length that we may need). Gently pull off the wire casing and twist your wires together.
Okay, so... if you had a multimeter you could test how much voltage these panels are individually producing to know how to wire these. But you weren't prepared! (You really should have made a solar powered cell phone before SHTF!).
Too late. So now what?
Well, we can make an educated guess. We know that each individual panel was charging a AAA battery. Those are rated at about 1.2 volts. I've seen my neighbors yard lights come on even after cloudy days. So I'm guessing these bad boys produce a voltage much higher than that. I'd double that number and guesstimate that they produce about 2.5 volts each.
Now, we need to charge a cell phone battery. Those are rated at 3.7 - 3.8 volts or so. We know that we need a voltage higher than the battery itself in order to produce a charge. So if we will put two panels together in series (which will double our voltage) we'd have enough to charge the battery. We have four solar panels. So we can wire two sets in series (to create an estimate voltage of 5 volts) as shown in the second image and then wire those two sets in parallel as shown in the third image to double whatever current these panels are producing (this will charge the battery faster).
I was able to determine which wire was positive and which was ground as the panels had a + label on the back as shown in the fourth image. So in this case the white wires are positive and the blue wires are ground.
Step 3: Decide How to Connect Your Panels to Your Battery & Prevent Short Circuits
We're going to have to open up our cell phone. If you've never done this before the back of your cell phone will come off. You can find the seams along the edge of the phone. Simply pull this off to expose the back of the phone. In the first image you'll see what I found when I opened my phone and removed the battery. It looks like the battery has little pincher connections that will require me to stick some kind of wire inside to make a connection. I found that a paperclip fit perfectly as shown in the second image.
So I straightened out the paperclip as best I could and bent it in half, then in half in the opposite direction until it broke into two pieces.
I then wrapped the "parallel" wired sides of the solar panels around the end of the clip as shown in the third image (pay no attention to that black thing and rubber band, it was a failed idea I had as I was creating this - you never saw them!). Wrap this with electrical tape to keep the wires from slipping off. Do the same for the positive side.
Now we're going to cover all exposed wire with electrical tape to prevent short circuits as shown in the fourth image.
I also taped down the series connections of the panels to get them out of the way as shown in the fifth image.
Step 4: Let's Make This Thing Travel Ready!
It would be a good idea if we set this up so that it can hang from our bug-out bag (or anything else really, your belt for example) so that our battery can charge while we're on the move as shown in the first image (yes, that's my bug-out bag... do you like it?).
Here's what I did:
I decided to use the case for the phone as a housing mechanism for the panels, battery, and to create a means to hang them from my bug-out bag.
First I bent the very tip of the ends of the paperclips to create maximum surface area for the battery connection area. To do this I put the end of the paperclip over the side of my table and bent them down with the handle of my scissors as shown in the second image.
I placed my panels face down and pulled the paperclip connections through a hole in the case. I then placed my battery inside so that the paperclip connections would be aligned as shown in the third image.
Making sure everything was snug I used my electrical tape to tape the paperclip terminals in place as shown in the fourth image.
I then took small clippings of electrical tape and wrapped them around sticky side out (as seen in the fifth image) and placed one on each of the panels to keep them anchored to the case.
Finally I found an old shoe string, wrapped that around the battery so that it won't fall out as we travel and looped it around the top of the case using holes that were already in the cell phone case to tie it to my bug-out bag as seen in the sixth and first image.
Step 5: Final Thoughts
Since we weren't prepared and don't have a diode to prevent current from flowing back into the panels at night (this will happen when your solar panels are producing less voltage than your battery) you will absolutely have to make sure that you unplug the battery anytime your solar panels are not exposed to the sun.
Also, this thing is going to take a long time to charge, but hey! ... it's better than nothing and besides, you can keep an eye out for more solar lights as you travel and use them to upgrade and create a faster charger.
Good luck out there! At least you've increased your survival changes by giving yourself the means to refer back to all those survival eBooks you bought and never finished reading!