One of the most economical ways to go green is to re-use old items instead of tossing them out. And solar power is an easy way to power things that doesn’t require drawing from the grid. We thought: why not combine the two? One of our favorite DIY power-saving, recycling projects is these mason jar solar-powered yard lights that can be made with either old solar yard lights– or new ones if you just want the look!
Parts, Pieces, and Tools
For each light:
- Medium-sized mason jar, lid, band
- Solar-powered yard light (like these) with the same diameter as the mason jar at its widest point (or with a diameter at MOST ½ inch smaller than the mason jar mouth)
- Glue or hot glue gun
- Frosted glass spray paint, or coarse sandpaper
- Colored spray paint, or colored transparent film
- Glass marbles, beads, or other reflective objects
Getting It Done
The basic idea is to remove the solar panel and light from the light casing, and attach them to the mason jar.
Phase one is removing the solar panel, battery case, and light assembly. Covering disassembly of every type of solar yard light out there would require several instructionals. Fortunately, most of them are held together by plastic clips and the occasional screw, so a screwdriver is all you should need. If you find yourself reaching for your hammer, you might have taken a wrong turn somewhere!
What you want to do is to separate the assembly of the light, battery, and solar panel from the plastic housing. Most of the time these are all one big assembly. Just keep in mind you need the following pieces:
- Circuit board
- Battery housing
- Solar panel (and the frame it sits in)
Once these are detached, you can discard the rest of the components of your original lights. Just don’t set them too far away– in case you toss something you can use!
Now comes phase two: combining the mason jar with the light components. This should be fairly easy because your solar component should have the same diameter (or just a slightly smaller diameter) than the mouth of the mason jar.
If your solar panel assembly is the same size as the mason jar opening, all you need to do is place the solar assembly into the mouth of the jar and screw on just the top ring of the jar lid. Voila! Your solar light is complete!
If you want a little extra hold, set a small amount of glue in the interior corner of the band and press the solar assembly into it until it dries. Just be careful you don’t glue the whole thing to the surface of your work area!
If your solar panel assembly is slightly smaller than the mason jar opening, you’ll be making use of your mason jar band and glue. We’ll need to mount the solar panel assembly to the underside of the jar band. So be sure your glue is up to the task!
Carefully apply glue to the top of the piece the solar panel is mounted on, and press it onto the underside of the mason jar lid ring until dry. Be careful not to add too much glue or glue the solar panel to the ring in such a way that it interferes with the ring’s ability to screw onto the mason jar. A little weight or some clamps might help to keep everything tightly in place. Just be careful for the light and any exposed wires.
Something to keep in mind if you’re refurbishing old solar yard lights.
Check the batteries. Especially if the light is well old, or the casing has been cracked, exposing the battery to the elements. Some solar yard lights are powered by N batteries, which are about half the length of common AA batteries, and are pretty inexpensive. Swap them out if they’re looking worn out. While you’re in there, check for rust or corrosion on the battery connections. Give them a good scrub with a wire brush.
Get the Look
There are a few fun ways to punch up the look of these mason jar lights. Frosting the glass is a classic way to get nice, even, soft light from your lights. This can be achieved with either some frosted spray paint, or by brushing coarse sandpaper over the glass. The spray paint can be applied to either inside or outside of the jar, but take care to apply it lightly. You don’t want to gunk up your light!
A second option is to add a little color. Again, (light!) spray paint can come in handy here. Other good and inexpensive options are translucent plastic, like cellophane, placed inside of the jar.
Another option is to add texture to the light by adding small reflective objects inside the jar. Glass beads, marbles, old light bulbs– there are tons of options! You can even combine two options by adding crinkled cellophane to throw off textured, colored light.
Finally, adding reflective material to the bottom of the jar will help make the light appear brighter. All the light escaping out of the bottom of the jar is only lighting up the grass and dirt below. Some reflective glass, old CDs, or any other reflective material will bounce that light out of the sides of the jar, where people can see it.
A solar powered yard light is a nice, inexpensive way to add some light (and color) to your yard, using the plentiful power of the sun. With this fun project you can keep the light going even if the casing gets broken.