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Since I really like this light (featured in a different video) I thought I'd make sure it's not going to succumb to damage from water ingress. It's the biggest destroyer of solar garden lights, and a little bit of waterproofing could make them last many times longer than they normally would.
For the PCB and where connections are close together I recommend a clear lacquer like cheap nail varnish. It's very easy to apply with the included brush.
The switches in these units are notorious for corroding inside, so bridging them out with a blob of solder will prevent that from being an issue.
The waterproofing of the solar panel itself is often the trickiest bit. On some panels a bit of water wicking along the edge can cause electrolytic corrosion that gradually eats away at conductive layers over time.
Another common point of corrosion is the terminals of the LED. They are often made of coated steel and corrode readily, aided by their close vicinity. A blob of lacquer or grease will block the water from sitting in that area.
The main issue with the batteries is corroded terminals. Smearing them liberally with grease will prevent that by excluding water and air. If you really squish it around the positive pip end it will also prevent the conductive schmoo forming between the anode and cathode of the battery case where they are close together.
Doing these things will have a huge impact on the life of your lights. Other things for the future are to note that you can solder in some new LEDs if you wish, and the batteries do gradually fail due to the high number of charge/discharge cycles they get. With AA or AAA NiMh (Nickel Metal Hydride) cells you can just swap in a new one. It doesn't have to be an expensive one - dollar store rechargeables are fine as the capacity doesn't have to be high and self-discharge is less of an issue with daily charge/discharge cycles.
For the true geek you can also change the inductor to get higher or lower intensity/run-time. Generally using lower values like 47uH will result in higher intensity, while 220uH or higher reduces the intensity, but results in much longer run time. Ideal for low sunlight applications.
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13 thoughts on “Waterproofing your solar lights to make them last longer”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Austin D says:

    Would smearing the works in healthy gobs of dielectric grease do just as well?

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Oldfartinthenight says:

    Outstanding! Thanks Clive, I've had to bin a few 'cheap as chips' but nice lights in the past.

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Phonotical says:

    Solar panel under plastic? Hell no, it'll get 30w less energy!

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Phonotical says:

    I did this to my phone line, still corroded 😞

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars ipissed says:

    Could you do a video about the cause and possible fixes of LED lights that are going on and off intermittently PLEASE!

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Ten Minute Tokyo 2 says:

    DOOD!

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars CNCmachiningisfun says:

    Another benefit of this is that you get to sniff the nail varnish 😉 .

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Paul Stubbs says:

    An outdoor device that is not waterproofed from the factory – they are stupid.

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Brad DrunkenTraitor says:

    any grease should do, but copaslip is inadvisable.

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Stolen ElectionFJB says:

    DowCorning 5

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars KJ6EAD says:

    Is it okay to use conformal coating and dielectric grease like I usually do in similar situations? 😉

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars halbvoll1 says:

    Great hints, thanks a lot, I always put a big blob of Vaseline in summer on the top of the lamp what is mostly the solarpanel and wait until the hot sun melts it, because that flows same like water and gets stuck every where, so that seals the system pretty well

  13. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Ted McFadden says:

    A few years ago, when you did a whole series on these solar lights, I stopped by a dollar store and picked up five. Two lost their plastic bits almost immediately by our dogs (but the electronics were salvaged), and one lost its plastic spike in the ground. Two of them are still operating on our back deck, though one of them is about to receive a parts transplant from one of its destroyed brethren. Turns out NiMH batteries get quite messy when they explode. 🤷‍♂

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