build a solar panel

I am hoping that you would be kind enough to help me with a question. I would like to use 4 LED's for a solar powered lamp that I am building. Would you be able to tell me exactly what kind of rechargeable batteries I would need for the 4 LEDs and if I need resistors? Is it necessary to have a pcb board for this project? And finally, maybe it's a longshot but does anyone know if there was a kit available for an outdoor solar lamp? Using the solar path lights just wouldn't provide enough light in the lamp.
Thanks in advance.


  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,493 admin
    Re: build a solar panel

    You need to know the voltage and current required by the LED's you want to drive.

    Typically, "simple" outdoor lamps use 2 NiCad AA batteries to power them. NiCads take deep discharge well (down to 0 volts) and can be charged without a complex regulator (or with smaller solar panels, without a regulator at all if less than C/5 or C/10 charge rate--i.e., more than 5-10 hours to charge the batteries).

    If you need higher voltages to power your LED's--you either need to put more batteries in series or use a small "boost" converter (kits and completed boost converters designed to drive "flashlight" LED's are around and relatively cheap and efficient) to drive the LED from low voltage batteries.

    The problem is that with more than two batteries in series--if you take them dead (fully discharged), the two "slightly larger capacity" batteries can reverse charge the one battery that went "dead" first--which pretty much kills the battery.

    Also, LED's usually require some sort of current control for optimum operation (LED's are diodes, which are non-linear devices and will either not be very bright or too bright and overheat if directly connected to a large battery).

    So--you can size the battery pack using NiCads to the size of your LED's, use a boost mode current controlled converter to drive the LED (kit or built), and a diode to block current flow back into the solar panel at night, and you probably want some photo control to turn the LED off during the day and on at night (I have not looked--but you can probably copy the circuit from an old outdoor yard light).

    One big issue is picking your LED's--Many of the "cheap" LED's do not seem to last very long. They will drop to to 1/2 brightness or less in a year or less when used as yard lights.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • GreenerPower
    GreenerPower Solar Expert Posts: 264 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: build a solar panel

    Buy this solar security light or this one and save you the trouble to buy parts and assembled them together. Your parts (solar, battery, LEDs) cost maybe more than that.
  • D.I.M.1
    D.I.M.1 Solar Expert Posts: 59 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: build a solar panel

    I'd also like to know how to make one, but can't you guys dumb it down a bit or at least break it down into steps, cause I'm horrible with paragraph procedures.:confused:


    My only goal in life is to get my questions answered myself before they get answer and I can't tell anyone.