Intro: Upcycled Hanging RGB LED Solar Yard Lights
What to do with all the cheap old solar yard lights you accumulated over the years? The don't work anymore, the batteries got wet and exploded, everything is in a pile ready for the trash. Well, my wife really liked the RGB LED globes on a stick, so I decided to re-wire them and hang them from our pear tree. The pictures don't do them justice, but now they look really nice lighting up every night.
Step 1: Round Up the Parts
For this project I used:
- 6 old glass globes along with their plastic light fixtures.
- 6 slow change RGB LED lights. I had a pack laying around from a previous project.
- 100 feet of 16/2 outdoor low voltage wire. You could easily use 18/2 or 20/2 if you can find it. I got mine at a big box store.
- a solar panel that still works. I had one that formerly powered a set of 3 spot lights. It holds 2 AA-sized rechargeable batteries, puts out 3.5 volts and easily powers the 6 RGB LED lights that I connected to it in parallel for 8-10 hours every night.
- Some electrical tape
- Some liquid electrical tape
- a pair of 6-pin Molex connectors.
Step 2: Solder in the New LED Lights
The old LEDs in the orbs were probably good, but the wiring was cracked and worn and the fixtures were gobbed up with old silicone glue. I stripped that all off, washed the orbs, and set them aside to try.
For the new LEDs I split the 16/2 wire into 7 lengths, one for each light and one to run to where the solar panel would be placed. I then sliced the end of the wires, inserted the LED into the wire with the long lead always associated with the side of the wire with the writing on it (to keep track of positive and negative leads).
To keep the LEDs in place I soldered them to the copper wire.
I then threaded them through the fixture, tied a knot in the wire, and attached the orb. I hung the first ones in my workshop while I made the rest.
Step 3: Test!
Wire the orbs up in series and test them. I first tested each and then the set of six, starting with 2 AAA batteries and then using the solar charger.
Once it was all working, I dug out a set of Molex connectors and wired everything up so that I could detatch the solar charger from the LED leads. I did this so that I could bring the solar charger indoors during winter. I think the orbs will be fine outside.
Step 4: Liquid Electrical Tape!
About half way through the project it dawned on me that the orbs might slowly accumulate water if I didn't seal them, but what to seal with? Liquid electrical tape to the rescue! I love this stuff, it dries but stays flexible, it is the same color as the wire, and it looks pretty professional once it dries.
Step 5: String Them Up and Enjoy!
My wife and hung them in our tree and that night it was light a little wonderland. She says that she likes them more than when they were on the posts, and we have been getting compliments from our neighbors.
I'm glad I didn't throw them away!