DIY Solar Powered LED Lights: 5 Steps (w/ Videos)

In this guide, I’ll show you how to make DIY solar powered LED lights in JUST 5 steps.

Soon you’ll have your own homemade solar powered LEDs that look something like this:

And you’ll be able to put them wherever you want — in your shed, van, RV…you name it.

Here’s how to make ’em.

Materials & Tools

Materials

Note: I’ve listed and linked to the materials I used in my setup. Feel free to copy this list as-is or adjust the sizes of the various components for your energy needs.

Tools

Step 1: Identify the Positive & Negative Wires on the LED Lights

I’m going to connect my 12 volt LED lights directly to my 12 volt battery. So I need to identify the lights’ positive and negative wires.

That’s right — we’re gonna modify some wires.

But first!

Inspect the wires connected to the LED lights’ wall adapter. We’re going to cut this adapter off. So — and this is important — make sure that you’ll be able to match up both wires on the adapter’s end with their counterparts on the LED strip’s end.

You may have to mark them, such as with a pencil. Or, if they’re like mine, they may have writing on only one wire and not the other.

Basically, make sure you can keep track of which wire was connected to which after you cut them. You’ll see why this is important later on.

Alright! Let’s begin.

Cut the LED lights’ wall adapter off, split the wires apart, and strip all the ends about 1/4″.

Now we need to find which of the wall adapter’s wires is positive and which is negative.

Sounds like a job for…

…our trusty ol’ multimeter.

Set your multimeter to the DC voltage setting. (The wall adapter converts the 120V AC coming from an outlet to 12V DC to power the LED strip lights.)

Clip your multimeter’s probes to the wall adapter’s wires. Plug the wall adapter in. Make sure the probes don’t touch!

Your multimeter should read either -12V or +12V. If the voltage is positive, then you know the probes are oriented the right way — the positive probe is connected to the positive wire, and the negative probe is connected to the negative wire.

If the voltage is negative, the probes are reversed. Just reverse ’em like I did in the video above.

Now we’ve identified the positive and negative wires connected to the wall adapter…

…and we need to do the same for the wires connected to the LED lights.

Remember what I said about keeping track of which wire was connected to which?

Match up the positive and negative wires connected to the wall adapter with the positive and negative wires connected to the LEDs.

The positive wires in my kit had writing on them, while my negative wires had long minus symbols along their coating. (Wonder what that could mean…) So that’s how I was able to match up negatives and positives. If you marked your wires somehow, just match them up that way.

I matched up the positive wires (left one in each pair) by the writing on their coating. I matched up the negative wires (right one in each pair) by the long minus symbols on their coating.

I shrink wrapped some red heat shrink tubing on the positive LED wire to make it easier to identify moving forward. *Highly* recommended.

Step 2: Crimp the Ring Terminals to the LED Wires

Crimp the 1/4″ ring terminals (or connectors for whatever terminals your 12 volt battery has) to the positive and negative LED wires.

You can check the lights by connecting them to your 12 volt battery and turning them on. They should light up.

The LED lights are good to go. 👍

Step 3: Connect the Charge Controller & LED Lights to the Battery

Connect the battery tray cables to the solar charge controller by inserting the positive and negative cables into their respective terminals and screwing the terminals shut.

Note: It’s recommended you add a fuse on the positive battery cable. The easiest way to do this is to buy an ANL fuse set and some fuse cables. Or you can DIY it by adding an inline fuse holder like I did. (Not sure how to add one? Check out my full instructions on connecting a battery to a charge controller.)

Connect the negative battery cable and negative LED wire to the negative battery terminal. Connect the positive battery cable and positive LED wire to the positive battery terminal.

Your charge controller should light up to indicate that it’s properly connected to the battery. Your LED strip lights should also light up when you flip the switch on.

Now just one more thing to connect and your homemade solar power LED lights will be complete.

I wonder what it could be…

Step 4: Connect the Solar Panel to the Charge Controller

..the solar panel, of course.

Connect the MC4 inline fuse and positive solar adapter cable to the positive solar panel cable. Connect the negative solar adapter cable to the negative solar panel cable.

Now connect the solar panel to the charge controller by inserting the negative cable into the negative solar terminal and the positive cable into the positive solar terminal. Screw the terminals shut.

Your charge controller should light up to indicate that the solar panel is properly connected.

Now, you’ve effectively connected the solar panel to the battery. Put the panel in the sun and it will start charging the battery.

The solar panel charges the battery, and the battery powers your LED strip lights!

Tip: Find out how long it’ll take for your solar panel to charge your battery with our solar battery charging calculator.

Step 5: Test Your DIY Solar Powered LED Lights

Your solar LED lights are all set up. Now to test them out and see if they work.

Unravel your lights, turn them on, and watch them glow!

Here’s what my finished system looks like:

Peel the adhesive cover off the back of the lights and stick them in your shed, van, RV, garage, or wherever your heart desires…

…and you’re done!

Now you know how to make solar powered LED lights.

Congrats — that’s no small feat. You essentially built a small solar power system to power them.

Pretty cool.

3 More DIY Solar Power Light Projects

I’ve got even more DIY solar light projects for you.

Check ’em out:

1. DIY Solar Shed Lights

Like I said, you can add these solar power LED lights to your shed! I do just that in this tutorial.

2. DIY Solar Powered String Lights

This solar lighting circuit is similar to the solar powered LED lights you just made. And it’s well-suited for indoor and outdoor use.

You can hang the lights outside as solar outdoor string lights. You can hang them in your room as solar fairy lights. You can also put them up over the holidays as solar Christmas lights.

3. 15-Min DIY Solar Mason Jar Lights

This solar mason jar lantern makes a great outdoor solar light. It’s a “set it and forget it” type of solar light. You just turn it on, put it outside, and it does all the work — charging during the day and turning on at night. And it takes a mere 15 minutes to make.

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Alex Beale
Alex Beale
Hi, I'm Alex. I started Footprint Hero to help people reduce their environmental impact. My current obsession is DIY solar power projects, which I've been building since 2020.
Alex Beale

Alex Beale

Hi, I'm Alex. I started Footprint Hero to help people reduce their environmental impact. My current obsession is DIY solar power projects, which I've been building since 2020.

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Contents

4 thoughts on “DIY Solar Powered LED Lights: 5 Steps (w/ Videos)”

  1. I want to wire up a G23 2 Pin UVC bulb, or several, to run when the sun hits the 100w solar panel I have. So far, having a hard time with the configuration. Do I need a ballast? How do I wire the G23 socket? Do I run the bulb off the Load of the controller or the battery. If you can solve this I would be ever so grateful. I have an off grid camper and mold control is an issue when I am not there. Thus, the UVC light.

    1. Hi Gary, I’m not familiar with that bulb so not sure if you need a ballast or how to wire its socket. If you want the bulb to run during the day then I recommend running it off the battery. However, to turn the bulb off at night you’d have to wire in some sort of timer that automatically cuts off the bulb at a certain time or a switch so you could turn it off yourself. The load terminals on all the charge controllers I’ve tested only work when the solar panel isn’t charging the battery, i.e. at night.

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