DIY Solar Garden Light Hack – Solar Battery Charger

Make a solar battery charger using some dollar store path lights. Using 4 cheap dollar store garden lights you can make a very good solar AA or AAA battery charger for one or two batteries. This is a simple solar garden light hack which gives you a decent solar charger worth about $20 if you were to buy it retail.

25 Responses to “DIY Solar Garden Light Hack – Solar Battery Charger”

  1. techman2015 says:

    A standard battery charger puts out about 80 to 120 mAh into the AA or AAA batteries for a slow charge. A fast charger will put out about what you have.

    I prefer the slow charge for longer battery life though.

    Please come over to thediyworld forum and let me know how it goes. Please upload some pics when done.

  2. shonuf1 says:

    Just a couple of things…AAA batteries are at *best* 1200mAh. Harbor Freight cheapies are 900mAh.

    Just bought ~3″x3″ 2V 410mAh cells (finished) off ebay for $8/ea. The cells in the video are probably at best 100mAh each, if not less. Yes, probably double the cost therefore, but less waste, and far more practical from a space/mounting standpoint. For two 900mAh batteries, at decent efficiency, a single 410mAh cell should charge them in about 5 hours.

  3. techman2015 says:


  4. peepmysteelo says:

    Great vid. Legend…

  5. techman2015 says:

    Thanks, it was a big storm.

    Come visit thediyworld forum and let me know how the project goes.

  6. rhooie says:

    I thought it might be to powerful. I will find some solar garden lights and do this project. BTW, glad you came out ok in the storm. Was thinking of you in up state NY when I saw the news. Many hundreds of years ago, I lived in Buffalo and tromped around western NY.

  7. techman2015 says:

    Normally the transistor acts like the one way switch. There is not normally a diode on the board, but depending on your particular circuit I could be wrong.

    It is hard to tear one of these apart, but once you start making things with them, it get easier and so much fun.

    These little lights can be used for so many cool projects. I will be uploading more projects later.

  8. girl600podcast says:

    We are building this now from my well loved Dollar Tree lights. Is there a diode on the circuit board? The little green or black pieces? W

  9. techman2015 says:

    Yes, it would be way too many amps. Your solar cells put out about 3.6 amps?

    AA batteries can only handle about 80 to 120 milliamps max charging current.

    I have often tried to think of ways to use my extra 0.5 volt 3.6 amp solar cells. I might end up using them with a boost converter one day just for fun.

  10. rhooie says:

    I have some left over 3×6 cells. I was thinking of wiring in series to 1.5 or 2 volt to charge batteries. Since it would have a bit more amps, would this be to much to charge a pair of AA or AAA bateries? I was thinking of using some battery holders from Radio Shack and wiring in both sizes so I could charge whatever was needed.

  11. techman2015 says:

    If I just bought everything it would be no fun and this video would not exist.


  12. laxwork says:

    why not to buy a solar paner 10×10 cm? or 20 x 10 cm? or any other ready for you work?
    if u can not find u can buy from me in 2/3 of the price!

  13. techman2015 says:

    Wow, lots of questions. I wanted to go off the grid to show people they can do it and to see how it would feel if society broke down and I was on my own. I started in May 2012. It was a scary move at first, but its so awesome to have done it.

    I am single, this is my only place, and I rent the land I am. I have a day job, which pays the bills and keeps the car on the road. But ads from my website help too.

    I highly recommend everyone trying to become somewhat independent for the peace it gives

  14. Existentialexplosion says:

    Thanks for your response. It would be very interesting to know your story and how did you turn to off the grid. How many years since you moved there? Is your only house? Do you have family? How do you cope with other costs, do you have a regular job as well? Do you recommend this lifestyle and other questions like this :))

  15. Classradiance says:

    Great video

  16. theinfedel says:

    nice video thanks

  17. techman2015 says:

    Thanks for the comments. The meter is a cheap no name $5 thing. You can sometimes find them on ebay. Think mine were on sale because I cannot find any meters below $10 now.

  18. Existentialexplosion says:

    Man, your channel is a treasure, I love this video, great presenation! Do you know whats the brand and cost of the voltometer?

  19. techman2015 says:

    Please do share your experience if you have seen these go bad. In my studies and experiments, I have made many solar panels out of smaller solar cells.

    Solar cells are strung up to make larger voltage solar panels. Then you can string up your solar panels to make higher output or current.

    Yes, there should be diodes on each one, with larger panels. These little solar cells do not put out much voltage or current though.

    I have multiple cells in order to overcome the voltage drop and still work

  20. SylwerDragon says:

    well i will comment it like this…you have low woltage power cells to begin with..and Voltage drop on that Diode is about 0.3-0.7 Volt…So please think about it again…,,btw try shade one panel and check what will happen :) you will destroy those panels fast if they will stay as they are ..:) there should be diode on each panel as well but that would make efficiency even lower…:) Good work anyway :)

  21. techman2015 says:

    Yes you can. Anything that can sense the strength of the sun’s intensity will work. Just set up a circuit that is triggered at a certain voltage level. More sunlight equals higher voltage output from the cells. Less light equals a lower voltage.

    Hook one up to a volt meter and play around with it. Hold it in different angles to the sun. Try it at dusk and dawn. It will work.

  22. techman2015 says:

    Thanks, yes they do work well.

  23. Iseekoutthetruth says:

    can you make a solar tracker with these solar cells?

  24. sythead says:

    Nice one, I`ve been playing with these cheap garden lights myself, to charge battries. and it works.

  25. techman2015 says:

    They should have some diodes or they should be shut down. Radio shack is supposed to have a set of drawers with small electronics parts in them. There should be a drawer dedicated to diodes. Anyway, you can get rectifier diodes off ebay as well for pennies each. Get 1n4007 or 1n4004, should be fine.

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