A very simple automatic solar light system for illuminating your garden passages can be built using some LEDs, a rechargeable battery and a small solar panel. The system automatically switches ON the lamps at dusk and switches them OFF at dawn.
How it Works
The circuit design is extremely straightforward and may be understood with the following points:
As can be seen in the given circuit diagram, the design basically consists of a solar panel, a PNP transistor, few LEDs, a battery and a few resistors.
The transistor is the only active component which is positioned as a switch for preventing the battery voltage from reaching the connected LEDs during day time.
During broad day light, the solar panel produces the required amount of voltage which is applied across the rechargeable battery via the 1N4007 diode and the resistor R*. This voltage charges the battery gradually from dawn to dusk.
Selecting the Current Limiter Resistor
The resistor R* value should be adjusted as per the specs of the battery for limiting excessive current to it.
The resistor also serves as the current limiting resistor for the connected LEDs when the transistor is switched ON.
Here it has been calculated as 10 Ohms.
As long as the solar panel generates the optimal amount of power, the positive potential at the base of the transistor keeps it switched OFF.
However when dusk sets in the solar voltage begins to drop, and when it drops below the zener diode rating, the transistor slowly starts conducting, illuminating the LEds gradually.
With complete absence of sun light or when its completely dark, the transistor conducts fully with the help of the 1K resistor, and produces full brightness over the LEDs.
The next morning, the cycle repeats all over again.
The circuit can be modified in many different ways.
The above diagram may also be built in the following manner. It looks more sensible now as the resistor is removed from the emitter for facilitating efficient triggering of the transistor.
The diagram shows an incorrect transistor number (8050), use 8550 instead.
Recommended Solar Panel Specs
6 to 8V/2 watt
Voltage - 6V
Current - 330 mA
Using a 9 V Battery and High Bright White LED
The next shows an elaborate yet simple solar garden light diagram in pictorial form
R2 is the LED current limiting resistor which can be calculated using the following formula:
R2 = Battery Voltage - LED Fwd Voltage / LED Current
R3 is the charging current limiter resistor for the battery, and it can be calculated using the following formula:
R3 = Solar Panel Voltage - Battery Voltage / 10% of Battery mAH Rating
The battery voltage must be at least 3 V higher than LED voltage.
The panel voltage must be at least 3 V higher than the battery voltage.
Using NPN Transistors
The above explained designs can be also replicated using two NPN transistors as shown in the following diagram:
Solar Pathway Light Circuit with Constant Voltage
If a Li-Ion battery is intended to be used for the above explained circuit, a constant voltage feature becomes crucial for safeguarding battery life and prolonging it.
The following circuit show how this may be done by adding a simple voltage follower regulator circuit:
If a 3.7V Li-Ion battery is used, make sure to adjust the 10K preset to achieve precisely 4V across the output points where the battery is supposed to be connected, do this adjustment without connecting the battery.
The 4V level ensures that the battery is never overcharged (at 4.2V) and this also allows the circuit charge the battery without a constant current supply.
1.5V Solar Garden Light with Enhanced Features
The following solar powered garden light was designed by Mr. Guido which includes additional features such over charge and low charge cut off for the battery and with a Schmidt trigger.
This ensures that the connected battery is never allowed to charge or discharge beyond unsafe levels.
The main attraction of the circuit is the use of a single rechargeable AAA penlight cell, which is able to light up a 3.3V high bright LED through an attached Joule thief circuit.
High Power 12V Garden Light Circuit
The following image shows a high power automatic garden porch light circuit using a 12V 7 Ah battery. The LEDs used are high power 1 watt LED each. Since 9 LEDs are used the total power output becomes 9 watt.
The circuit is designed to automatically switch ON the LEDs when the darkness level drops sufficiently and the solar panel voltage drops below 3 V.
The LED series resistor values can be calculated using the following formula:
R = Battery Supply - LED FWD V Drop / LED Current
= 13 - (3.3 x 3) / 0.3
= 2.1 / 0.3 = 7 Ohms
Resistor wattage = 2.1 x 0.3 = 0.63 watts or 1 watt.
The solar panel can be rated at 18V, 3 amp. The battery specification is 12V, 7 Ah. The solar panel output voltage is regulated using the LM338 voltage regulator.
Make sure that the 5K pot of the LM338 circuit is precisely adjusted to produce 14V for charging the 12V battery.