Solar garden lights cost just a few dollars each and are an inexpensive solution for lighting at night — and they may just give you a useful piece of equipment to complete a technical project.

Whether you’re looking for a rechargeable battery, an LED, or even a solar panel, these devices contain a host of retrofittable components. Perhaps you are looking for a way to power your watch, harvest energy for another type of light, or even plan to simply recharge your batteries using sunlight.

With one or more solar lights, you can achieve all of this, but please note that the power on these devices is too low to charge a mobile phone or tablet.

Benefits of solar energy

There are obvious benefits to solar energy; even when the sun is behind light clouds, there is some conversion of energy (although thicker clouds heralding rain will end any energy generation). Over the years, solar energy has become increasingly popular as a means of powering central heating, street lighting, and signage, and various industrial solar power plants have been installed in North America and Europe. Satellites often use solar panels to power their equipment (although some military satellites in orbit use other power sources).

As a clean method of generating electricity and heat, solar energy has proven to be extremely popular as an alternative to fossil fuels. The only real drawback is the unreliability of the weather!

garden mopping solar lamp

In order to get your hands on the components inside the garden solar lamp, you will need:

  • Flat screwdriver.
  • Wire cutters.
  • digital / analog multimeter (for testing).
  • Optional hand drill / cutter / grinder, e.g. from Dremel.

By disassembling the solar lamp and breaking it into its component parts, you will find an LED, a rechargeable battery (usually AAA), a few wires and a photoresistor in the circuit.

recycle solar lights

This standard lamp can be opened first by turning the top and pulling.

reuse solar lights

After the stand is thrown away, the components you need are inside.

reuse solar lights

Remove the battery before opening. Please note that your lamp may not have a door; the battery can be sealed inside.

reuse solar lights

The screws must be loosened to open the lamp.

how to recycle solar lights

Here you should find an LED, some wiring, a small board, and a photoresistor.

Next you will need a Dremel type tool to cut the solar panel case. Be careful not to damage the panel as it can be used for a variety of purposes.

Finally, you should test the components with a multimeter.

How does the lamp work

The lamp — and any projects derived from it — work by collecting solar energy through a panel and converting it into electricity.

The electricity is stored in a rechargeable battery where it sits waiting to be used. Whether or not battery power is used depends on the photoresistor, which will allow you to supply electricity to the LED in the dark, thus lighting up your garden! As a result, it is necessary to collect about three hours of energy for every hour that the panel is exposed to sunlight.

By using a solar panel and a battery, you can create a variety of low power projects that might otherwise require the use of store-bought batteries.

Technical Project Proposals

There are various projects where you can try using parts from your solar powered garden lamp.

recycle solar lights


Tracking time outdoors or while frequently checking your wristwatch or smartphone. However, there are wall clocks up and down the country that show the wrong time, simply because the battery hasn’t been changed. By using parts from your solar lamp, you can put an end to this problem forever!

Refitted solar lamp/torch

The manufacturers of these solar lanterns are certainly counting on something, so why not take advantage of the whole principle and repurpose it for a torch? Again, as long as it’s in sunlight long enough to charge, you should find that you’ll never run out of light again.

Solar Radio

Probably the only multimedia application for solar panels in this class (more expensive panels will give better results) is radio charging. This has excellent features for keeping you informed and connected while in remote locations.

Embrace the possibilities of solar energy!

Taking sunlight into the garden is just the tip of the iceberg.

You can use the components for various interesting projects, saving money on batteries and reducing the consumption of electricity from the network for recharging.

If you are solely interested in the mechanics of a lamp, or want to spend time playing with a solar panel and the possibilities it provides for powering small electrical items, remember to use caution when using power tools.

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