House Numbers Solar Powered

You might be surprised by the fact that house numbers are a deco-thing []. We re-invented the front yard this year. One more reason to

2 years ago

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You might be surprised by the fact that house numbers are a deco-thing. We re-invented the front yard this year. One more reason to thank COVID from the bottom of hell where it belongs... I guess...

We built a pathway to be used when the driveway is busy with cars or otherwise deliveries. At the end of the pathway, there's a ramp and a short fence for decoration purposes. We wanted the numbers to stand out on that fence and work at night as good as during daylight.

So we went fancy and solar. This is the story of how we pulled that off.We purchased deco numbers, they are supposed to be used for interior but the plastic is mostly UV resistant and the LEDs are sealed with hot glue (as purchased). So effectively can be used outside as well or if you really want to go wild you can use them as a mold for concrete casting. Which was an option I considered before I realized how much welding I would have to do to make them stay in the location we wanted them to be.

Once we received the numbers, all of them (oddly you can't order all the numbers in one shipment), I opened them up, removed electronic parts that I didn't need it nor I wanted to insulate from rain and tested the polarity of the wires because in some were color-coded in others were all the same color.

At first, I wanted to re-use some yard solar lights that have a good charging battery and a light sensor built-in into the solar panel structure. Then it occurred to me that I would have needed one for each number. Increasing the overall packaging once installed. Didn't like that, so instead, I purchased one that had enough battery and was driving plenty of LEDs to match my power load. Ironically as most things built in China, it was cheaper this way than what I was originally going for.

Once the solar light arrived, I opened it up and start separating or eliminating parts. Merely, I needed the light sensor, the battery charging board, and the solar panel. I have been teaching electronics to my younger daughter since she was 8 so I outsourced this task to her while I was enjoying taking pictures of her collecting the screws in the back of her long groomed nails... Teens!

We kept the brain (black PCB) and the brown (LEDS) are going to be used for a nice and bright desk light which I will share once I have built it.

Between stripping and soldering, Scalet (aka doggy) was a faithful and sleepy accomplice and also a very good listener to my "what is this? Ah, I see.." sequences of solo moments.

The daughter left, the cat decided that catching moles was more fun than stealing my office chair so I was left with my trusted source of love, the wife.

Which took care of some soldering under strict supervision. And that is not for the task but to protect her from herself to not get burnt. :-) Or to burn me in passing on wires from my awesome thirdhand she was using.

The wife actually found a couple of computer cables (the ones used to attach CDROMs in the chassis) which with a few jumpers worked gracefully to allow attach/detach of the wires in the back of the panel. That is not a light (pun?!) detail because the numbers have to be the front of the fence and the wires have to be in the back to attach to the solar unit. This means you have to be able to detach and re-connect during installation or maintenance.

At this point, numbers were ready to go and color-coded wiring was ready to be plugged in for a quick test.

When we turned on the first time some small smoke came up from an SMD resistor and after carefully following the breadcrumb of wires I realized why I can't live without eyeglasses anymore and therefore the next project has to be a desk light on my electronics desk. That actually shines where I need it and not on top of my bald head.

The fix was easy. The board comes with two grounds and one positive because the LED driver has plenty of LED to run. We didn't need that much so I used only one. I had put the positive wire on the second negative as I mistook the - sign for +.

We took it outside, leveled, and spaced correctly upon wife approval and Houston conversation I had yet another validation that she is always right and I am definitely still learning how to be less wrong. I am a fast learner but yet perpetually in training. She was actually right and it looks better those 5 inches further than I was intending to set it :-) My logic of placement wasn't random (Golden Ratio) but after all, it all worked out lovely.

A lovely family project that end up being very cool, particularly at night. The green numbers flipping is an artifact of the iPhone that despite being as expensive as a kidney still not getting better night pictures than the cheaper Pixel phone!

That's all. If you have questions as usual fire away on Discord


UPDATESomeone on Discord pointed out that I haven't shown where is the solar cell. Here is it is. In the back of the post holding the fence. The cell points up for more UV as possible and the light sensor points down to avoid unnecessary on/off triggering as dusk sits in. There's a big cherry tree near the post and the shade/shadows of the branches can fool the threshold of the light sensor.

Mario Esposito

Published 2 years ago