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Solar powered meteor light project.

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You can now buy me cake and things to take apart at:-
Finally I get round to combining a couple of recent teardowns into something new. This is a project to make the common ebay meteor lights solar powered, using a common ebay solar panel, an old or generic phone battery (lithium cell) and a few components.

The circuit will also run strings of parallel LEDs or even a single high power LED.

It’s been mentioned that the reverse biased solar panel will leak some current as it is connected between the positive rail and base of the transistor. I’m not sure what current will flow when a 10 or 12 cell array has a reverse voltage of 4.2v – 0.6v = 3.6V across it. A test with 5V showed a current of 300uA which would flow into the transistor base. Is a slight reverse current likely to damage the array? I’ve never really considered anything other than battery discharge through a reverse biased solar cell. Can such a low reverse bias voltage damage the array of cells?
Comments and thoughts on that are welcome.

You’ll need:-

A solar panel capable of putting out 5 or 6V at around 100mA or more. (But not too high a current as it will be charging the cell directly.) If you live somewhere with dull winters a higher current (larger area) solar panel will be a good idea.

A typical cellphone battery (lithium) with built-in protection. Many of the generic Nokia type are commonly available on ebay.

A set of typical meteor lights that usually come with a slightly dodgy power supply.

A transistor, either a BC547, 2N3904 or anything general purpose.

A rectifier diode like a 1N4001 to 1N4007 (all 1A just different voltage ratings.)

A 10 ohm resistor to limit the maximum current through the transistor.

A 10K resistor (10,000 ohms) to limit current to the transistors base.

And a little bit of solder, wire and time.

Here’s the Jaycar (Australia) link to their resistor dial.

And another Australian supplier:-

An American supplier of a different type of resistor substitution box in kit form:-–320-076


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35 Comments on "Solar powered meteor light project."

  1. it seems to me the solar panel is acting like a resistor turning on the transistor? so any resistor you add is only makinh it turn on sooner. transistors to not float, it's not a mosfet! :)

  2. them lights are wicked, great build clive.

  3. HolyCrapski says:

    +bigclivedotcom Hi Clive, I have just built this project and it is being tested out side, It turns ON very early & turns OFF very late but that's OK for now, more testing.
    This bit of info may be of some help to you some time, As you will know most cheep Solar panels can age badly over time as quick as 4 months, they white/frosted over and stop being as efficient.
    I have tested this for over 7 years on SP that are out side 365. I cover the panels with clear Fablon to seal them 100% ( I got the Fablon from one of the £ Shops but you can always get it from Wilco's) I even encapsulate some of the solar projects so only the LED wires are coming out through the joint seal so it dose not need a project box. It is not affected by UV and dose not yellow or seem to age in any way.

  4. you know for nerds like me (and i'm sure others) you should put together little "kits" of like the bulbs and boards that we could get from you and assemble while we watch the videos over! .. that'd be sweet!
    tho here in america we would use all different power factors, and connector types

    hmm ..

    didn't think this comment out lol

  5. GenBloodLust says:

    I dont think ive ever burned my self with a soldiering iron #knockonwood
    but i may not remember it

  6. fabts4 says:

    I don't get why the value of the 10k resistor should have such an importance in regards to the sensitivity.
    (I don't think it shouldn't, I just don't get it)

  7. Clive, Thanks for this.

    I added it to your Joule Thief I built yesterday. Using the PV panel as a light detector and switching on the negative rail is so simple, effective and minimal parts. It eliminates the use of the photoresistor/transistor used by many. OK we may have to tune the transistor base current, but that is a small price to pay.

    Please keep these videos coming as they show that we should never forget to understand and then apply the basics that some us us forgot a long time ago!

  8. Jim Fortune says:

    Stop apologizing for rambling. It's half the fun of your videos.

  9. Jim Fortune says:

    When "ballparking" resistor values, why not use a trim pot instead of fixed resistors?

  10. willyhoogs says:

    Wow! So cool. I cheered for you when the lights turned on!

  11. Its remarkable how much energy is in a these lipos. I was given a new bluetooth DOA speaker and swapped the dead chinese 700ma battery with a 1350mh samsung. Had to melt a few things with the iron to fit it together but its runtime is like two days at lower volumes.

  12. too bad the panel would take about a month to charge the battery… lol!!!!

  13. Yndostrui says:

    I had no idea what you were on about in the beginning at first. The schematic made no sense whatsoever to me.
    Then I saw the circuit in action and it all makes sense now :D

  14. Himmune says:

    hey big clive im from aus and have a local jcar if you would like me to see if they still sell the variable resistors

  15. It would be great if you could follow up this with beam bots. It's really enjoyable watching you design your own circuits instead of tearing other's apart.

  16. fpvrcstuff says:

    Great little project Clive ……….Love it  !Cheers

  17. I love your videos man. they are like talking with a friend. Love the spelling mistake and your reaction. Gave me a good little giggle.

  18. how many mA would you say are the leds in total for 32 meteors?, did you mention 18mA a led in one of your other videos?
    just thinking on making a floodlight that uses a panel to charge wondering what single led would work for at least 8 hours

  19. how many hours of battery or how many hours

  20. This is awesome!

  21. the23er says:

    Nice circuit, looking for that for a while. I am quite conservative when it comes to using LiPo. How can i check "from the outside" if the protective PCB is present? And what Voltages will these protections usually take? I dont want to have them explode…

  22. Aidan steel says:

    big clive! i have something that might interest you! can you try and get in touch?

  23. Have you tried using a high value cap instead of a resistor across the solar panel? In a circuit I use for a night light it delays the switch on time by storing some of the solar power, thereby tricking the light circuit into thinking there is sufficient light. By the time the light switches on it is completely dark…

  24. how many hours that battery runs if you have a 4 sets of led lights

  25. A nice little project. Since mine is targeted for indoors, I added a small switch to the output, so that I can turn the load off when I don't want it running. Otherwise, works well. Thanks

  26. i should salvage something and build this for the fun >_>
    looks so easy!
    and that would hang on my balcony, charge on the day. Maybe add a charging port XD
    Finland is not the brightest place in winter :p

  27. FireSwordl says:

    Hi Big Clive. Can you show us a video – how built in battery protection works?

  28. Shoppinguin says:

    I think the reason why it's coming on even without a resistor is the solar panel. It will conduct some current from the battery right into the transistors base. This is also the reason why large panels for power generation have diodes in the switch box that conduct while the panel is shaded to prevent damage to the panel. In your case the current will probably be low enough not to cause any damage. To be sure, just add a resistor right to the base of the transistor. 1k should be good.

  29. Steve Mayne says:

    A few months ago I helped my eldest with his optional homework, we connected a solar panel to a bunch of rechargeable batteries. What amazed me was how much energy a tiny solar panel put out. Here's is his project : ( I am just a dad I know very little about electronics)

  30. Since you have so many of them… I am thinking of hacking some, and was wondering if the pcb material inside there is stiff or flexible like on many LED strips

  31. icarus901 says:

    awesome, thanks for reminding us about BEAM..I haven't thought of tilden et al in oy, nearly 12-15 years? I'm sure I have some funky free-form circuits hiding in boxes dating back to 1999 or so. Remember photovores and the little walkers?

  32. I was thinking of trying to find a mosfet with a gate voltage compatible with the lithium voltage that has a low on resistance. Maybe help things out with two serial connected lithium batteries (will the internal protection circuit prevent the need for a balancing circuit?)

  33. Love Your Vids keep it up.

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