Tag Archive: LED’s

As of spring of 2013, I’ve seen hundreds of Westinghouse solar lamps (item number 577105-08W) being sold at my local Wal-Mart for .97 cents apiece. The value of the components (battery, solar cell, LED) well exceeds the cost of the product, so I decided to pick up a few of them and see how well they perform.

When night fell, I noticed that the Westinghouse lamps were not as bright compared to my existing lamps, and for .97 cents, I really shouldn’t complain. I removed the light cap from the Westinghouse and from one of my existing lamps and laid them side by side for comparison. Both lights were outputting the same brightness. When holding the Westinghouse lamp over my existing fixture, the brightness was comparable to the other existing lamps that I had in my yard.

I believe I had the same problem with my existing fixtures when they were new. What happens after a couple years is that the plastic lens deteriorates from being in the hot sun. When it does, the lens develops a foggy look. The fogginess of the plastic acts as a diffuser and evenly distributes the light in all directions. LED’s shine in one direction, and that direction is down when used in most solar lighting applications.

So what is this all coming down to? Well, if you read my post about the Compaq Presario Power Light, you already know that I placed a piece of matte finish Scotch tape in front of the extremely bright power light to act as a diffuser. So why not try it with the Westinghouse solar lamps and see if it helps improve their visibility.

The lamps have a small amount of “neck” below the LED. This neck is perfect for applying some matte finish Scotch tape around it. I wrapped the tape around the neck twice making sure the tape completely covers the LED. (2/3 of the tape should cover the LED). When done, the tape resembled a straw with a LED in the middle. All I had to do now was wait until nighttime.

westinghouse_lamp_1 westinghouse_lamp_2

The tape definitely helped, and the light looks brighter and can be seen from farther away. I was happy with the results, but the bottom-half of the lamp was still not well lit. I decided to improve the lamp by adding a straw inside the lens in order to help carry the light towards the bottom of the lamp. What I used was a clear wide straw from a fast food restaurant. (The Arby’s straws seem to work the best). I measured and cut off about 1¾ inches of the straw and then wrapped matte finish Scotch tape around the entire length of the straw in sections. Then I used some tape to hold the straw onto the base of the lamp, just below the LED.

westinghouse_lamp_3 westinghouse_lamp_4

When night came, I was surprised at what I saw. Although the straw allows some light to reach the bottom of the lens, it does give the lamp a cool fade effect, kind of like a flame. The straw makes the solar lamp look almost like a bug zapper with a long thin line in the middle of the lens. Overall, the modifications were worth the time and effort.

westinghouse_lamp_5 westinghouse_lamp_6


Zonet USB to Ethernet Adapter (ZUN-2210)

A while back, I bought a Zonet USB to Ethernet adapter (ZUN-2210) just in case I wanted to temporally connect an Ethernet cable to a computer that lacked an onboard Ethernet jack. The adapter works ok, it is somewhat slow if the USB port is 1.0, and Zonet isn’t a good brand name anyway.

If you have one of these adapters lying around in your house and you’re about to toss it in the trash, hold on there! The three blue ultra bright LED’s on the adapter are worth saving.

Take a small flat blade screwdriver and pry the two halves of the adapter casing apart. Once the

The ultra-bright blue LED’s you will find on the circuit board.

bottom of the adapter is off, pull the circuit board away from the top half of the case. You will see the three LED’s. The LED’s have a good amount of leg length, making them easy to remove from the circuit board. Using wire cutters, cut each leg of the LED’s at the circuit board until they are freed.

There you go! You just saved three perfectly good LED’s from ending up in a landfill. Use your new LED’s for your electronic related projects.

If you’re like me, you probably like to save and collect those LED lights from your old electronic equipment before you toss it out. But how do you know what type of LED it is? How do you know what color the LED is? How do you know if it works? You can create a small unit to test LED’s with some parts that are probably lying around in your house. Here’s what you need…

  • 1 battery case that holds two AAA Batteries (Radio Shack No. 270-414)
  • 1 resistor (Suggested: 39 Ohms – Orange, White, Black, Gold)
  • 1 two pin female connector plug (a plug from a computer fan works well)
  • Heat shrink tubing

You will also need wire strippers and electrical tape. You probably might want to use a soldering iron to solder the wires onto the resistor. I just twisted the wires on the resistor as the heat shrink tubing will help hold the wires in place.

The battery case will hold two AAA batteries totaling to 3 volts. Because fresh batteries may contain a little extra voltage, you will need to use a resistor to protect the LED’s from damage and failure. I recommend a 39 ohm resistor with an orange, white, black, and gold stripe in that order. This will step the voltage down to roughly 2.8 volts and will help maintain the brightness. You may use a resistor of a different ohm value, but the LED brightness may be dim.

The connector on the other end makes it easy to insert and remove a LED. The connector will hold the LED in place and will not fall out.

  1. Slide some heat shrink over the wires on the battery case, enough to cover the resistor when you are done making connections.
  2. Connect the positive lead from the battery case to one end of the resistor.
  3. Connect one of the two wires of the connector plug to the other end of the resistor.
  4. Connect the other wire of the connector plug to the negative wire on the battery case. Use some electrical tape to cover the bare negative wires.
  5. Slide the heat shrink over the resistor and the joined negative wires. Before heating the heat shrink, install the batteries and make sure the circuit works. If the LED doesn’t light, remove the LED and turn it around. Because a LED is a diode, it will only work one way. If the circuit works, remove the LED and batteries and heat the heat shrink.

There you have it! A portable LED tester that’s small and convenient.

Outdoor LED Solar Lamps

You may have notice your local Wal-Mart store selling those small outdoor LED solar lamps for about $3.00 a piece. You can’t beat that price since the rechargeable battery, LED and solar cells included in the lamp probably cost more than its price tag. We bought several of these lamps and so far we’ve been pleased.

If you don’t know how these lamps work, here’s a short description. The lamp charges a rechargeable battery connected to a solar cell located on top of the unit. As night falls, the lamps are automatically turned on by a photocell. When morning arrives, the lamps automatically turn off.

Don’t expect a whole lot of light since the lamp only contains a single white LED and one rechargeable nickel-cadmium AA battery.  Although noticeable from across the street, the lamps are useful for marking a walkway or just adding light to your yard or garden. Because the lamp contains one LED, the lamp may not provide enough light to light up the ground.

The rechargeable battery will last for a few days in cloudy weather. If the lamp is located in a constantly shady area, the battery may weaken and turn the light off in the middle of the night. This also brings me to the point on how well the solar cell recharges the battery. After popping out the 1.2 volt rechargeable battery and attaching a multi-meter to the lamp, I discovered that the solar cell puts out between 1.6 – 1.8 volts to the battery when it is in the shade. After moving the lamp into full sun, I found that the solar cell outputs a maximum of 2.2 volts to the battery, enough to recharge the battery if the lamp constantly receives full sunlight. During cloudy weather, the solar cell will charge the battery enough to last a few days if conditions persist.

The nickel-cadmium batteries can be replaced with nickel metal hydride batteries, which will give you better performance and will last longer from constant recharges.

In conclusion, you get a good deal with these outside solar lamps. The lamps will provide you basic all night lighting when installed in locations with continuous full sun lighting and a good quality nickel metal hydride battery.