I recently made some DIY 12V solar shed lights for my dad’s shed.
Take a look:
Turns out, solar power shed lights aren’t hard to make. I’ll show you how I made mine with step-by-step photos and videos.
Let’s get started.
Note: If these DIY lights aren’t what you’re looking for, check out my reviews of the best solar shed lights.
Materials & Tools
- 20W 12V solar panel
- 12V 7Ah SLA battery
- Renogy Wanderer 10A solar charge controller
- 12V LED strip lights (this light kit comes with a light switch)
- Fuse block
- 5 amp fuse x2 (these come included with the fuse block linked to above)
- 14 gauge wire
- 16-14 gauge wire connectors
- DC extension cord
- Heat shrink tubing
- Wood screws
- Nail-in cable clips
Note: I sized this 12V solar lighting system so the lights would last 1-2 hours. You can copy it as is or adjust the sizes of the various components for your energy needs.
Step 1: Mount the Components
I started by mounting the 5 main components of this setup:
- Solar panel
- Solar charge controller
- Fuse block
- LED strip lights
Let’s run through each.
You can mount your solar panel on the roof, on the ground, in a window, or outside on the shed’s wall.
I chose the latter and built a DIY wall mount for my solar panel.
Here’s how it turned out:
If you also decide to mount yours on a wall, check out my tutorial on how to wall mount a solar panel.
Battery, Charge Controller, and Fuse Block
I placed the battery on a 2×4, then mounted the charge controller and fuse block to the shed wall with wood screws. (I mounted them all close together to limit the amount of wire I used.)
LED Strip Lights
Next I used nail-in cable clips to mount the switch and 12V DC extension cord for the LED strip lights.
This is what everything looked like at this point:
Lastly, I installed the LED strip lights. I used the cable clips here as well to attach the lights to the shed’s wooden beams.
Note: These strip lights have an adhesive back. If you are able to, I recommend just sticking them to your shed’s roof or a crossbeam. It’s a much simpler way to install them. I would’ve had my dad’s shed had a good spot for it.
Here’s a video walkthrough of what my setup looks like after I mounted all the components (sound on! 😄):
Now to wire the solar power system together.
Step 2: Prep the LED Strip Lights
The light kit I bought is meant to be plugged into a wall outlet. Since we’re using DC power instead of AC, we just need to cut off the wall adapter and add some terminal connectors.
Cut the wall adapter off the LEDs and strip the ends of the wires. Heat shrink some red heat shrink tubing to the positive wire for future reference. Then crimp on the right terminal connectors for your fuse block. (I used 22-16 gauge ring terminals.)
Tip: If you bought the same LED light kit as me, you can identify which wire is positive and which is negative by looking at the markings on them. The negative wire has long minus signs, while the positive wire has some text on it.
This is what the wires looked like after I finished:
Now your lights are ready to be wired up!
Step 3: Connect the Battery and Solar Panel to the Solar Charge Controller
Connect the battery to the charge controller. (Put a fuse in the fuse block, if using.) The charge controller should light up or turn on.
Note: I wired my battery to my solar charge controller via the fuse block because only one wire can be attached to my battery’s terminals. Typically the battery is wired directly to the charge controller, with an inline fuse on the positive battery cable.
Connect the solar panel to the solar charge controller. The charge controller should indicate that the panel has been properly connected.
At this point, you can program your charge controller for the battery you’re using. I’m using a sealed lead acid battery, so I chose that option. Refer to your controller’s manual to learn how to program it. (It usually takes all of 30 seconds.)
Your solar panel is now charging your battery. Pretty cool.
Here’s what my setup looked like at this point:
Now we just need to connect the LEDs and our solar-powered shed lights will be done.
Step 4: Connect the Lights to the Battery
Connect the positive and negative wires from the lights to positive and negative terminals on the fuse block. Insert a correctly sized fuse into the lights’ fuse holder. (I used a 5 amp fuse in my setup.)
I know it looks like there’s a lot of wires leading to and from the fuse block, so here’s a close-up of the wiring:
And just like that…
…your lights are connected to your solar power system!
Step 5: Test Your Solar Shed Lights
There’s only one thing left to do:
Test out your solar power shed lights!
Here’s a video walkthrough of my final system that ends with me testing my lights:
Turn the light switch on, and your lights should light right up. Mine work great and are plenty bright for my dad’s shed.
Here’s what the shed lighting looks like at night:
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. 😉
DIY Solar Shed Lights Wiring Diagram
Here’s the wiring diagram for DIY 12V solar lights for a shed:
Note: This wiring diagram doesn’t include the fuse block I used because it’s unnecessary if you are able to connect multiple wires to your battery terminals.
How I Sized My System
My goal was to make solar-powered shed lights that could run for 1-2 hours.
With that in mind, here’s how I picked my components:
LED lights are the best option for solar power systems because of their energy efficiency. So I picked out some 12V LED strip lights that consume a maximum of 18W when running at peak brightness.
I knew I wanted to use a lead acid battery to keep costs low. I also needed a big enough battery to keep the shed lights running for 1-2 hours.
Running 18W lights for 1 hour consumes 18Wh of energy (18W * 1 hr = 18Wh). Running them for 2 hours consumes 36Wh of energy (18W * 2 hrs = 36Wh).
With these things in mind, I settled on a 12V 7Ah SLA battery, which on paper has a capacity of 84Wh (12V * 7Ah = 84Wh).
However, I knew a lead acid battery only has 50% usable capacity, so in reality the battery could only provide 42Wh of energy (84Wh * 50% = 42Wh.)
No battery is perfectly efficient at discharging, and discharge rates and temperatures affect a battery’s capacity as well. I did a back-of-the-napkin factoring in of these inefficiencies and determined that 7 amp-hours was still enough for my needs.
My dad rarely uses his shed at night, so I didn’t need a panel that could recharge the battery in a day. I just needed a panel that could recharge it eventually.
I picked a small 20W 12V solar panel. Using my solar charge time calculator, I calculated that with a 20W panel — and PWM charge controller, which I’ll discuss next — it’d take 7-8 hours of direct sunlight to recharge a 12V 7Ah lead acid battery.
That means a 20W panel could recharge the battery in 1-2 sunny days — plenty quick for my purposes.
To be frank, I could’ve sized my panel a bit smaller, but I found that 20 watt panels are only a few bucks more than 10 watt panels. 20 watts was the best bang for my buck.
Solar Charge Controller
I knew I wanted to use a PWM solar charge controller because they’re much cheaper than MPPT charge controllers.
The charge controller also needed to be compatible with 12V solar power systems and able to handle the maximum current output by the solar panel. (A 20W 12V panel will put out around 1-1.5 amps in optimal conditions.)
These aren’t exactly demanding requirements, so I just picked up a cheap and reliable PWM charge controller from Renogy, the Wanderer 10A. It’s compatible with 12V and 24V solar power systems and has a current rating of 10 amps.
Add-ons and Upgrades
This is the simplest solar power shed you can make — it just powers some lights.
Here are a few ways to add on to the system to improve its performance or power more devices:
- Protect the battery from extreme temperatures. Extreme heat and cold can worsen a battery’s performance and shorten its lifespan. You can limit the chance your battery overheats by connecting a temperature sensor to the charge controller. The sensor helps the controller provide accurate temperature compensation. (Note: The PWM charge controller I used and linked to above doesn’t have a port for a temperature sensor. You’ll need a different charge controller if you want to use one.)
- Power more 12V DC devices. Want more than just solar power lights for your shed? Good news — you can easily expand this system. Decide what other devices you want to power with solar energy, calculate your energy needs, and then upgrade the components and wiring as necessary. You can still use the wiring diagram above and simply wire the other 12 volt DC devices (such as a 12 volt fan) to the fuse block. Insert the correctly sized fuse and you’re good to go.
- Power AC devices. Interested in solar-powered power tools? Decide what AC tools and devices you want to add. Then calculate your energy needs and upgrade the components and wiring as necessary. Use the wiring diagram above and then connect an inverter to the battery. You can plug your power tools into the inverter like you would a normal wall outlet. Aww yeah!
3 More DIY Solar Light Projects You Can Build Now
Now that you’ve added solar lights to your shed, I’ve got a few more solar light project ideas for you:
This is a simplified version of the solar shed lights you just built. It’s ultra versatile and can be installed in your van, RV, garage, and beyond. You lit up your shed with solar, why stop there?
Here’s another versatile solar lighting circuit that you can use in places like your patio, porch, and bedroom. You can even hang them up over the holidays as solar Christmas lights.
Here’s a DIY solar light that’s a lot easier to make. Using a spare mason jar, you can make a lovely outdoor solar lantern in about 15 minutes.