How to Dress Up Cheap Solar Lights
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You can buy solar lights for less than a buck, but let’s face it: the cute ones cost four or five times that. My solution? Buy the cheap ones; then, dress them up.
When I first got the idea to do this four years ago, I shopped thrift stores and yard sales for interesting glass containers that I could put over top of the solar lights.
Here are some examples from those early efforts:
This one is sporting a votive candle holder that I found at a yard sale.
This one is wearing a light sconce.
It works especially well, since it has an open top.
And this one is rocking a vintage punch cup.
I picked up all of these solar light “shades” at yard sales for a quarter or less, so it was definitely an affordable makeover, and I found they worked really well.
This year I decided to up my game, and make some solar lanterns for my garden. I’m even more excited about the way these turned out.
Here’s one that I made from a sconce.
And here’s one that I made from a light globe.
To make them, I just bought some cheap solar lights that were big enough to cover the opening of my sconces and globes. I found that those little $1 cheapies fit the sconces perfectly, and that the bigger ones you’d normally pay around $3 for fit the light globes perfectly.
Since I only needed the solar panel and light portion of the solar lights, I looked for ones where the top could be separated from the body of the light. Let me show you what I mean …
Both of these lights have screw-off tops. There’s a small solar panel on the top, and a little LED light on the underside. That’s all you need for this project. Some of the lights that I looked at had tops that couldn’t be separated from the globe portion of the light. You don’t want those.
I spent a bunch of time studying all the options at various stores, and ended up buying my lights for the sconces at Walmart for $.97 a piece. They’re made by Mainstays. I bought my larger lights for the light globes at Target. They were $3 each, or $2.50 each, if you bought a boxed set of six. They’re made by Room Essentials. Just sharing a couple options that worked for me, in the interest of saving you some time. The designs may be completely different next year, but for now, these are good options.
To make my globes, I just used a bit of E6000 to glue the solar light over the opening of the sconce/globe. Once they were dry, I added a wire handle to each one. Since I didn’t want my handles to rust, I used 16-gauge galvanized wire that I found at Tractor Supply. I paid $9 for a big, 200-foot spool of the stuff (they also had smaller, cheaper spools available).
Tip: Be sure to pull the little tab to activate the light before you glue it to the top of a light globe. I may have forgotten that step on one of mine.
My neighbor gave me some tiki torches a couple months back. I decided to turn them into solar lights, too.
I had to buy bigger solar lights to fit the top. They were $3.72 at Walmart.
I can’t wait to see how they look tonight.
I have a few more solar projects in the works. I’ll be sharing them soon.
More Solar Projects
These are really cute. i use just the top of the solor light and hang them with chain or wire. i am going to try this idea too. thanks for sharing.
What a creative solution! I would love to see a photo of them at night!
Thanks, Michelle 🙂 If the weather behaves, I’ll try to snap some pictures this weekend.
What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing.
Does this work ok? I’m wondering if the thick glass at the bottom of the fancy glasses would interfere with the solar collection.
Yep, I wondered the same thing, but it works great.
Great idea how do you attach them ?
Hi Gwen. I don’t bother to glue them down or anything. The weight of the candle holder/light sconce, etc. is enough to keep them in place, and when the solar light eventually dies (as they tend to do), you can reuse your decorative cover on a new solar light.
Love it! So cute! Yes, I too would love to see them at night time all set up!
Really neat lighting idea Erin. You really must take a picture of all of them at night.
It’s a very nice idea for a porch light for night time use; but what about a battery for storing this energy collected during sunlight hours? I have to work on this – suitably rated battery and the solar cell charging capacity.
Thanks for sharing this bright food for thought..
I bought some solar lights from amazon they fit in lid of canning jars, little more pricy but they came with the rechargeable battery. Have used them in cheap knock off colored canning jars i found in local 99 cent store.
How do you change them out if the solar light quits working? I have wanted to do this, but when you glue in the lights and they quit working then you have to get rid it.
You can just pry the light off, and glue a new one on. These last a long time, anyway. I have some that are still going strong after four years.
I love your solar light ideas. I think I have an old chandelier in my basement too. don’t know if I am smart enough to figure out the nut thing tho. also I live in a house similar to yours. I have a lot of old stuff ready for the junkman, I should look it over first. LOL
Specially liked your lantern lights. Now get some gallery glass and paint the inside of your class for beautiful colored lights. Don’t forget to take pictures daytime and night and post them so we can all see.”
I was thinking of that also to make Christmas path lights
How do you make the handles so nice and uniformly round? Mine look awful .
Lots of practice and a pair of needle nose pliers. I wish there was a secret to it, but that’s really it.