Friday, December 31, 2010

Making a Solar Jar - Amazing ..

Making a Sun Jar - Amazing ..

We used Ikea jars - the smallest in the Slom series (about $3) which you can find in the kitchen marketplace area. The jars seem really small in the store but we found the medium jar too large for the reach of the LED light to do a good job.
Happy surprise: the Ikea jar wire bits come off easily with a little pushing and pulling.
The only part which needs some help is the hinge:
This makes painting the jars far easier. We used a glass frosting spray paint which worked nicely. You don't want to spray the jar top, it needs to stay clear as that is where the solar panel will be mounted to collect sunlight. We put the jars up on some skewers so they wouldn't stick to the paper.

Say hello to Scott.

Two coats, it dried pretty quickly.
Now we prepare the light guts. In these pictures we used a silicone sealer glue (it's essentially clear caulking, I think), but the Instructables project uses Blue Tak, aka that sticky moldable stuff you used to hang posters in high school. We decided to use glue because we were shipping the jars across the country and didn't want them to shake apart in transit, but when we make our own I'm going to use the tacky stuff as it worked plenty well in my test. Also, if the battery should need to be replaced it will be easier to get to.
This is what we'll be doing: attach the solar panel to the inside of the jar top so that it catches light during the day. But first we'll attach the battery and light to the bottom of the solar panel so that when the jar is closed the light is pointing down inside.
Stick the battery and light to the bottom side of the solar panel with the light at the center, pointing straight up:

(In this picture we're using a skewer to prop up the battery back while drying.)
Then dot the four compass points of the inside of the jar lid with the sticky stuff of your choice:
And put the solar panel, with the top of the solar panel facing towards what will be the top of the jar, on the sticky bits, centered carefully:

(Those wooden things are simply propping up the battery while the glue dries, they'll go away.)
Now, reassemble the jar and you're done.

The solar panel, mounted on the inside of the jar lid.

You can see the dark bits through the jar, and also the strip blocking the battery which will be removed to use.
This was a lot of fun, but of course the homemade jars won't look as good at the real thing. Also, we tested these during a rainy, overcast Seattle December and found that the battery was barely charged by the end of the day. We got a few hours of light before it faded. We're sure there will be stronger light during the summer months, but we're pretty happy anyhow.
update April 2007: My homemade sun jar made it into the pages of ReadyMade Issue 28, thanks ReadyMade.
UPDATE: It's been a few years since I first made this tutorial and the option for lights to fit inside a jar are easier to find. I found the following at Lowe's, they are individually sold garden lights and the small top portion simply pops off of the ground stake they are mounted on. The top component is small enough to fit inside the top of a jar and wouldn't need any modification. All you need is some glue to mount it underneath the lid of the jar. Neat, eh?
garden lights on stakes
garden light, popped off of stake
I also found these being sold individually:
individual garden LED light, easily removable top
individual garden LED light, easily removable top
individual garden LED light, easily removable top
individual garden LED light, easily removable top


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