Intro: Ring Solar Sign Teardown: I Did It Wrong So You Don't Have To
I got a Ring Doorbell, which is pretty awesome. Yay for Ring.
Then I got a Ring Stick-up camera when all the circa-Thanksgiving online sales were going on. $50 off, and they sent me this nifty Ring solar sign for FREE (only a $49 value!).
I'm sure they want the advertising, but I don't think it's the smartest thing to do, to advertise what security system you are using. Sure, put a sign on the lawn... Try it! Hack me! I'm using Ring!
So I wondered... what else can I do with this?
For $49 I can get a solar panel to keep my ring Stick-up cam charged. But this free ($49!) sign has three solar panels and lights and a battery hidden inside. Can it help keep the camera charged? I don't know!
I thought there would surely be a guide to tearing this thing apart, but alas, I could not find one. So I figured I should just make one. I don't know how to figure out the electrical part of what to do with these components, but I'm driven by curiosity, and I have power tools, which can be quite hazardous.
So I can at least tear it apart and see what's inside, and how to retrieve the parts. Maybe one of you can come up with helpful hacks for what to do with these components?
As I said, I did it wrong so you don't have to. But no major disasters.
Step 1: The Challenge
The ring sign has no readily apparent opening.
On the front side, the blue & white plastic sign part of it is firmly adhered. I did try to pry it off with a screwdriver, but small sharp shards tended to splinter off the edge. So I looked for another way.
On the back side, there is a very fine seam visible about 2mm in from the edge. I took a razor knife and tried to cut the seam, but could not get a ready opening. You can see the seam on the photo above. It is more visible than it was because of the cuts. I was afraid of harming any wires or components inside, so I decided to try another route.
It turns out through the back is the right approach, but there wasn't a good way to uno that. The back appears to be hot glued onto the frame some how. It just takes more force than I ventured, and the right angle of attack.
Step 2: Tools
For my demolition, I used a rotary tool with a cutting disk.
For face and eye protection, I used a full face shield. YOU WILL WANT TO PROTECT YOU FACE AND EYES!!! Some of the components you need to remove, like the blue and white plastic front, shatter apart easily. And the cutting blade on the rotary tool, should you need one, threw off hot bits of plastic into my face.
I also found some "spudging" tools handy. Those I borrowed from a kit for cell phone battery replacement. A narrow bladed screwdriver was useful for prying things. Be gentle.
I used several colors of sharpies to color-code the wiring connectors for future reference.
Step 3: Breaking In... Through a Window!
I sacrificed the body of the sign to get to the components. You pretty much have to, it isn't made to be taken apart. It's made to be durable and water resistant.
Having failed with the seam line, I sought the safest route to brute force my way in with the cutting tool. I elected to go for the base of the sign. While I succeeded in getting in, it was nearly disastrous, because it turns out the electrics and the battery are RIGHT THERE. I was lucky to avoid them.
See? I told you... I did it wrong so you don't have to.
Step 4: Breaking in Through the Front Door!
I wasn't inside yet, but at least I could peek inside and see that there were wires and electronics around the inside periphery of the sign. So cutting through a side was not going to work.
So I decided to remove the front. I cut along the margin of the front panel, and then took a screwdriver to fracture it. USE EYE PROTECTION if you do this, as it splintered with some velocity. I did not use hand protection, but I should have. There were some sharp edges.
Step 5: What's Inside?
Here is a peek at what is inside. You can see the wires around the periphery. Note the location of the board and battery, and how the wires and components are around the inside edge.
Step 6: Breaking in the Back Door!
I'm breaking the seal of the back of the sign, and removing it. On the photo, you can see there is a channel for hot glue of some kind to flow into. That surface is the seal that needs breaking by prying the back surface up and off.
I can see now that the back is the best way in, but it took more force that I had used on my attempt to get in. Now that I know where the wires and components are, I would choose to cut a slot just inside that seam line, near the middle of the sign--away from both the solar panels and the battery pack--insert a prying utensil such as a screwdriver, and break the seams that way.
Step 7: Retrieving the Switch
There is a nice, water-resistant covered switch on the back.
In order to get it, you must disconnect the wiring harness from the board. There are 2 small, delicate tabs to the side of a central spine. Grip the white part which the wires are attacked to, gently lift the tabs with a small item, and pull it apart.
Carefully pull the wires through the switch hole in the back plate, and you have it!
Step 8: Retrieving the Battery and Board
Optional... Now is when the color coding comes in, so that you know what plugs into what when you use this some day.
Go ahead and disconnect all the wiring harnesses carefully by gently lifting the tabs and pulling on the white part the wires are connected to. The battery has a pad of adhesive on the back. Lift the battery and board free.
Step 9: Retrieving the LED Lights
Carefully peel the wires off the inside rim. Be careful not to tug on the wires. Some of those wires are still attached to the solar panels.
Lift each of the LED units off the 2 plastic pins holding each in place.
Step 10: Retrieving the Solar Panels
The solar panels are adhered to the outside of the sign. The wires for the solar panels extend through a hole in the plastic. Be careful of the solder where the wires are connected to the panel.
The panels need to be peeled off, but gently. Use something that won't damage them, such as plastic spudging tools.
When trying to figure out the best way to retrieve the panels, I cut away the excess portions of the sign to see how they were attached. That is visible in my pictures, but you don't need to do that. In fact, it was a bit risky, but it allowed me to see how they were attached.
Step 11: To the Victor, the Spoils
Here is what you get for your free $49 solar sign: A water resistant switch, 3 solar panels, a whole bunch of LEDs, a battery pack, and a circuit board.
Now I just have to figure out what to do with them. I'd love to hear some ideas! And better yet, some instructions for how to build them. Have at it!