Illuminate your yard, patio, or man cave with the soft glow of solar-powered LED lights, without spending a mint, by building a homemade solar sun jar.
It’s not going to cost you $45, it’s not going to cost you $30, it’s not even going to cost you $26.99 to have your very own portable light source, powered for free by the sun. For about half of the cost of a premade sun jar, you can build a DIY version that works just as well, and you can customize it to your own tastes.
There is no shortage of different versions of the DIY solar sun jar, but they all begin with the same basic components — a solar garden light and a glass-topped (bail-top) canning jar, plus some good old homegrown ingenuity. The reason for using only glass-topped canning jars is because usually the small solar panel that powers the light of the sun jar is mounted inside of the lid, and these jars make for a great weatherproof container for the whole kit and kaboodle. It seems the IKEA Slom Jar is a favorite for sun jars, although there are a number of manufacturers of these types of jars, and many times they can be picked up cheaply at garage sales or thrift stores.
When it comes to the choice of which model of solar garden light to use for the project, Not Martha has done a bunch of the homework for you, and according to her piece, the best units have only a single battery and an easy-to-disassemble design. There are some solar garden lights now on the market which can pop right off of their mounting stake and be converted to a sun jar in a jiffy, without having to reduce them to their pieces, so a little extra investigation at the hardware store will save you tons of time and work in the long run.
Once you’ve got your jar and your solar garden light, the solar panel and battery/light unit needs to be attached to the inside of the lid (using glue or sticky-tack, usually). If you’re fortunate in your choice of garden light, it may be quite simple, but if you’ve got a unit which needs a bit of modification to fit the way you want it in the jar you’re using, then a bit more work may be called for.
For customizing these DIY sun jars, some people frost the outside of the jars with paint, or curl a piece of colored paper or translucent plastic inside the jar (or used different color LEDs for the light), or fill the jar the rest of the way with marbles or colored glass pieces. And since these bail-top canning jars come in quite a few sizes, you can build tiny sun jars or giant sun jars, with the only constraints being your budget and the number of kids or cats which might endanger any large glass jars you may have sitting out.
Once your DIY sun jar is complete, all that’s left to do is place it in the direct sun for awhile (or all day), and you’ve got a perfect patio light, nightlight, or runway marker for your remote control model airplane!