I had several solar garden lights left over from the original Solar Shrub project, so I decided to hack a few of them for some colorful indoor decorative lighting.
Typical solar garden lights pack a lot of electronics into a small cheap device. Most contain a solar cell, a Ni-Cad battery with charging circuit, a photoresistor, a booster circuit for the LED, and the LED itself.
Of course garden lights are normally plain white boring lights. I decided to add some color to them by replacing the LEDs and wrapping the electronics in a decorative frosted container.
Step 1: Materials
Here are the materials I used:
Step 2: Disassembling the Garden Light
The garden lights I used had three screws holding the cover to the base. I removed the battery and screws, then cut the wires connecting the solar cell to the circuit board. Next I had to pry the solar cell from the base with a screwdriver(being careful not to crack the cell).
Step 3: Wiring Up the Board
The garden light circuit board contained battery clip wires and a white LED. I desoldered the battery clip wires and replaced them with the red and black wires of the AA battery holder. Then, I replaced the white LED with a colored one. And finally, I tie wrapped the wires and battery holder together so they could hang down from the solar cell and point up into the plastic cup.
Step 4: Attaching the Solar Cell
I drilled a 1/4" hole in the bottom of the plastic cup for the solar cell wires to pass through. Then, I pushed the speaker wires up through the bottom of the cup and soldered on the solar cell. I left just enough wire to allow the battery holder to hang down but not touch the surface the cup will be sitting on. I attached the solar cell to the bottom of the cup with silicon sealant.
Step 5: Trying Them Out
I made three lights and placed them in my kitchen window, which gets a good amount of sunlight during the day. I let them sit there for several hours before dark. When the sun went down, the decorative lights lit up as expected!