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I've got a shaded area leading up to my front door that I want to illuminate with solar lights, but alas, it's so shaded I can't seem to generate enough juice to charge the batteries. I know that companies sell lights with a remote solar panel, but it's a bit too pricey for me. I was thinking of building my own remote panel in the following way:

  1. Buy a couple throwaway lights and remove their solar panels.
  2. Connect the positives together and the negatives together and attach them to a piece of plastic to make my panel. Place the DIY solar panel in a non-shaded area.
  3. Place additional lights where I want them in the walkway.
  4. Run wire from the remote solar panel array to the first battery terminals of the lights in the walkway.
  5. Run wire from the first light battery terminal to the second, and continue until all panels are wired.

Am I missing anything? Is there a piece of equipment I'm overlooking?

What happens when a charge maxes out? Suppose battery #1 in the series maxes, is the energy then passed to battery #2? What happens when they all max out?

What sort of wire do I buy?

I'm a noob when it comes to electronics.

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Am I missing anything? Is there a piece of equipment I'm overlooking?

Yes. Large solar panels can be bought individually rather than cobbled together from smaller ones. These are designed to feed from the panel as-built rather than having to be modified. Example here.

So what you need to do is find a low voltage garden light system (perhaps one powered by the mains as suggested by @longneck) then replacing its mains voltage converter with a feed from a battery pack charged by the panel. The battery packs could be central or at each light.

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Instead of trying to make one large panel to charge multiple lights, just hook up one panel to one light. Sure, that will require more wire but then you don't have to worry about messing with the charging systems.

A better idea might be to just forget about solar lighting and get a mains-powered garden lighting kit. These kits include a transformer and low voltage wiring that can be run across the ground.

  • Regarding mains - I decided to do some math, I hope my calculations are correct. I am using a figure of $0.25/kWh from eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a, thats a high rate for electricity in the US. Lets assume that one LED garden light draws 1W (thats a high value, a 1W LED is equivalent to a 25W incandescent light!). So it costs $0.25 to run that 1W LED for 1000 (one thousand) hours! I definitely seems more cost effective to plug in to the mains if a mains connection is available. – Freiheit Jul 22 '16 at 18:19

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