How to make solar powered stepping stones

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Solar Powered Walkway

Do you need a little extra lighting on your walkway? Having sun jars in your yard is fine, but they don’t always get enough sun exposure, thus rendering them useless sometimes.

Solar Powered Walkway

If your yard doesn’t get enough sunlight during the day, especially if you have a lot of trees that provide some shade, then this project is for you! It’s still solar-powered, tweaked just a little bit to make it more effective. ;)

Instead of simply putting the solar lights on the ground, the DIY-er of this project basically took his lights apart so that he can replace the wiring with longer ones. This way he can mount the solar panel on his roof so that it accumulates enough power from the sun. But the LEDs are placed on the ground, attached to glass blocks that serve as stepping stones.

These stepping stones  are set just a little bit higher than the ground surrounding it, while all the wires are sealed and buried deep to protect and hide them from sight.

This DIY project doesn’t only give ample lighting, it also makes your walkway more attractive at night!

Is this the kind of walkway that you would want for your yard? Learn how to make it through the step-by-step tutorial below!

Click on any image to start lightbox display. Use your Esc key to close the lightbox.8-)

Materials:

  • Glass Blocks
  • Solar Lights (with separable solar panels)
  • Wiring
  • Electric Tape

Tools:

  • Shovel
  • Wiring Tools
  • Measuring Tape
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Staple Gun

Steps:

Solar Powered Walkway

The Walkway: Here is the little path that goes from my driveway to the front door.  I decided this was the best place to put the lights, mostly because I wouldn’t have to move a bunch of concrete, but also because I’d get to walk the path each night when I came home from work.

Solar Powered Walkway

I figured I’d put one of the glass blocks in the path first just to see how it would look during the day.  I dug a little hole, just a bit deeper than the end result would be.  I poured a little fine gravel into the bottom of the hole, so you wouldn’t just be looking at dirt through the glass.  I filled it back in around the block, and left the top just a bit higher than the surrounding gravel, as I figured it would settle out a bit.  Everyone who saw it thought it looked nice, so it was off to the next step.

Solar Powered Walkway

Solar Power: I found these awesome solar lights designed to clip on to a patio umbrella at Home Depot for about 8 bucks. I decided to go with these because the solar panel was separable and the batteries drove six separate LEDs.  If I’d used the standard solar lights it would have meant six little solar panels and a lot more wires running around.

Solar Powered Walkway

I separated the solar panel from the battery/circuit board case and extended the wires that connected them.  The panel went on my roof just over the front door (see picture) and the battery case went under my newspaper box, with wires running discreetly along the corners and the edge of the window.

Note: This type of solar light is no longer available, but you can search on Amazon for a similar product.

I just want to say that I don’t recommend the dealextreme lights for the walkway project, they were a bit dimmer than I would like for this.  They worked out well for a bottle lights project I did, but I don’t think they’d be so good for this one.

I also I don’t recommend ANY of the christmas light options for this, they are all too dim.

Solar Powered Walkway

Get to work: Crack open the solar lights and separate the panel from the body. There are three wires that connect them, so measure the distance from where you’ll be mounting the panel to where the body will be mounted, and then add several inches. Extend the three wires by that amount.

Solar Powered Walkway

Within the body of the light, unsolder the LEDs and replace them with about 6-10 inches of speaker wire. Make sure to seal everything up well with epoxy or silicone! Mount this whole assembly on your house first, make sure it works, then prepare your glass blocks. I used epoxy (because I’m an idiot) to mount the panel to the roof and the body under the paper box, and then stapled the wires in place.

Update: It’s been mentioned that speaker wire isn’t really meant for outdoor use — you may want to upgrade to something heavier or use some conduit. Also, silicone might not be the best option for sealing these, as it reacts with solder and copper and could cause problems down the line.

Solar Powered Walkway

At the corner of each of your blocks, mount an LED of your chosen color, tack it in place with hot glue, then cover the whole shebang in epoxy or silicone. Make sure you leave the leads exposed!

Solar Powered Walkway

Get to more work: I marked the spots on my path where I wanted the bricks, and measured the distance from there to the case of the solar light, and added about a foot.  I found out the hard way that I probably should have added more like three feet just to be safe!

Solar Powered Walkway

Cut wire to these lengths.  Make sure you label them for easy installation later.

Solar Powered Walkway

Strip the ends of the wires and solder up one end to each of the bricks.  After these are attached, epoxy or silicone any exposed wire or solder.

Solar Powered Walkway

As described in step one, dig the holes in the path, fill the bottom with gravel, and install your blocks.  In addition, you’ll need to dig out a little trench between each block, to run your wires through.  For this reason, I started with the one that was farthest from the solar light, accumulating more wires in the trench with each brick I added.

Eventually I ended up at the solar light and soldered each of the block wires to one of the loose wires installed where the LEDs used to be in the solar light.  Let me tell you, soldering outdoors in the dark is a little bit trickier than doing it at the workbench!  Make sure you coat all your exposed wires in epoxy to keep the rain out.

When you’re done, bury all the wires, flip the switch, and enjoy your Solar Powered Walkway!

Final thoughts: I guess the one downside (if you see it as a downside) to having a glowing path in front of your house and visible from the street is that it seems to draw in weirdos like moths to a flame.  I have on two separate occasions gone out of my garage for a smoke and caught someone on the path–one guy was just standing there staring, and one lady who was in her forties was hopping from brick to brick.  On the other hand, everyone oohs and aahs over it when they come to visit and I like walking on it, so on the whole it’s a good thing.

Thanks to depotdevoid for this great project!