Solar battery charging….on the cheap!

Walking around my local Home Depot a couple weeks ago I saw some lawn solar lights on sale for $2.97 each. Taking a gander at them I found that each once  included a AA rechargeable battery. A few thoughts on how these could be used in a grid-down situation immediately came to mind and I bought a couple.

Of course the obvious use is to provide light. Now – you are not going to light up dark alley with the 1.2 lumens that the tiny bulb puts out. Placed in a dark area with no other light – it works fairly well. Removing the lighted end from the stand it can be carried and placed pretty much anywhere. When charged, they provide plenty of light to read by or walk around a dark house. Mount it on a weapon? Maybe for Elmer Fudd.


The main reason I bought these solar lights is to recharge AA batteries. Think about it – having an array of these spread out all over the yard all day can have the sun working for you…..proving power. The battery that is included with lights are only 250mAh. This is not a whole lot of stored power. Modern day regular rechargeable batteries run around 2000 mAh of stored power. I replaced the included batteries with some 2500mAh Energizer batteries for testing.¬†


I placed the Energizer filled solar lights out in my yard all day. Before dark I removed the battery to stop it from draining when the LED light came on at night. After all day in the sun Рthe battery was approx 50% charged. The following day I repeated and that night the battery was found to be 100% charged. 


I am pretty happy with these. What I do not know is if there is a built in charge protector to stop the batteries from over charging. What I do know is for $3.00 I bought a solar battery charger that will charge a typical AA battery within 2 days.

Not bad.



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22 thoughts on “Solar battery charging….on the cheap!”

  1. Rourke, if you haven’t migrated to the site Northwest, I would recommend it and go to the archives and check out what all he has done with el cheapo ebay devices. Very, very interesting.

  2. We have these lights all around our yard and also have bought extras that we keep stored away for emergency lighting during loss of power. They may not be bright, but close all of your curtains and turn off the lights with these placed in every room. You will be surprised how much they help you navigate your house. You are not going to do a lot of work by them, but they do work like night lights to get you by, especially if you have little kids.

    • Kenneth –

      Well – I couldn’t find my multi-meter. I know, I know – better organization. I have a small battery checker that rates the batteries at 25%, 50% and 100%. I just compared the reading with a new alkaline. Not precise but good enough for this simple test.


  3. Rourke, that is a great idea, and it’s affordable so you can purchase quite a few of them for future use if needed.

  4. This is so simple, this rates a face palm and a “why didn’t I think of that” moment. This is a fantastic idea that just happens to coincide with my next payday. I have about 20 or more AA rechargeable batteries laying around. I may have to make a trip to HD and snag a few. I learn something everytime I read your blog. Keep up the good work.

  5. I noticed the “made in China” sticker on your solar light and figure that explains the low cost and low capacity battery that came in it. Gave me the idea of upgrading the battery, even if planning to use this type of light in the yard. Usually, they only last four, maybe five, hours after sunset. A better battery should get you a full night of lighting. Good post, another outside the box idea.

  6. That is a hell of a good idea for those extra flashlight batteries. I am going to go get a few just for that reason.

  7. My solar light from Costco died after 2 years. The solar panels are not transparent any more. The batteries are still good. I stored the lights indie for winter. I guess it’s still an excellent option for $2

  8. Wow! Life changing stuff. Well, it will charge some little batteries to some point but real solar power is now affordable to almost anyone. A few solar garden lights might be fun and even useful but it won’t make a huge difference where a few 250 watt panels and some deep storage batteries can really make life more livable.

  9. If you have a mirror handy, put it next to the light. It will increase the amount of light output without increasing strain on the source of light.

  10. That is a freaking awesome idea.

    Thank you for sharing – something right in front of my face – but I didn’t make the connection.

    Thank you thank you thank you.

  11. This is a genius idea. I do have some rechargeable batteries lying around and the rechargeable case that you “charge” it with has gone missing. This would be a perfect replacement. Great post!


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