DIY Tips: How to Build a Portable Solar Light

Interested in capturing the free energy of the sun? You can learn how to build a portable solar light by dismantling the solar circuits of readily available solar garden lights and retooling them. A portable solar light will give you a secure source of light, without the inconvenience of being attached to recharging cables.

The solar cells will recharge a battery during the day and a Light Emitting Diode (LED) will provide a bright source of light during the night. It can be used as a nightlight or a flashlight during an emergency situation.

Step 1: Get a Solar Patio Light

Purchase a solar powered lawn ornament or patio light. You'll want one that can output about 5 V with as much current as possible. The more power it produces the longer the light will last in the dark. To keep things simple, find a unit with at least 4 LED lights. It will have sufficient power for this application.

Look for a low-voltage unit that includes rechargeable batteries. This way the battery holster and solar cell will already all be integrated.

Step 2: Find a Bright LED

Purchase a penlight flashlight with a bright LED. This will be the new light bulb for the portable solar light as the ones on the patio ornaments usually do not provide as much light.

Step 3: Dissemble the Garden Light

On your solar garden light, open the housing containing the solar cell and disconnect the wires to the string of lights. You may need to de-solder the leads of the wires or carefully clip them with cutting pliers. Ensure not to short the two leads together as this may damage the battery.

Step 4: Dissemble the Flashlight

Dismantle the flashlight and remove the high-power LED and connecting wires. Note which wire comes from the positive (+) lead.

Step 5: Put the Two Together

Connect the + wire of the LED to the + terminal of the solar power and battery array. Connect the other lead to the - side. If the battery is charged, the LED should turn on.

Step 6 (optional): Add an ON/OFF Switch

The solar cell from the lawn ornament will usually have a day/night switch that will automatically turn on the light when the sun sets. If you want manual control, an on/off switch can be added between the + lead of the LED and the solar-cell & battery. Ensure the connection is solid to make the entire unit robust.

This is a brief introduction on how to build a portable solar light. Lights may vary, so modifications may be needed.