Last year at the Defender spring sale I bought a Davis Windex light as I do end up sailing after dark rather frequently, and running the anchor light to see the Windex just goes against everything that I stand for. I had every intention of hooking up a Windex light to my Nav lights this spring while re-wiring the mast and adding spreader lights, but then I realized that between finding a deck fitting for the extra circuit, and the cost of the wire, it was going to be at least a hundred dollar solution. So about 3 weeks ago I was in Target and saw they have mini garden / walkway path lights for $2. I took a look at it in the store and figured for $2 it was worth trying out and worst case, I occupy myself for a few hours and it’ll only cost $2. I opted for the one with what appeared to be a brushed stainless steel housing, although they have black and brown plastic, as well as copper options. The operation of the lights is already wired to be perfect for the needs of a Windex light as it automatically turns the light on whenever the amount of light hitting the solar panel drops below a certain amount, with the solar panel doubling as a photo-voltaic cell to turn on / off the light.
Small solar panel on top, but how much does it take to charge / power a single LED?
As you can see from this picture, the functional portion of the system is entirely contained in the little “puck” that twists on / off the lens below, and the LED just comes out of the center hole supported on it’s leads, which they thoughtfully covered to prevent shorts.
Removal of the 2 screws in the bottom allows removal of the entire plastic base, and access to a small printed circuit board, the battery, and the LED. I can’t find the pictures I took of the internal components and assembly so you’ll have to use your imagination, but removal of the LED was simple. I used a good pair of wire cutters and left about 5mm of lead coming off the board to use as soldering terminals for the new wires, setting the LED aside. I then took the wires from the Davis Windex light and tinned them, and the 5mm of wire left on the board with solder, then soldered them together. I then bent up the center tab from the socket on the Windex light and tinned it and the end of the positive lead for the LED, and attached them together, leaving just the negative lead to solder to the sidewall of the socket.
Finished LED assembly with weather cap on.
Original bulb for Windex light.
Before attaching the wire to the board, I also took a piece of heavy plastic (cut from a defender shopping bag from the previous week’s spring sale visit) and poked the wire through a small hole. When closing up the back, I stretched this plastic over everything inside and then trimmed the excess off. This gave me a solid inner barrier to seal all the holes in the black plastic back. The black mark you see on one of the wires was to indicate the negative wire.
With everything hooked up, it’s time to test the light. Not terribly bright, which is a good thing as it’s a Windex light, not an Anchor light, and it only needs to make those little red reflectors glow at night.
The final step was to pick up some UV-Resistant Mounting Cable Ties. I used a heat gun to melt a small portion of the ring on the end of the cable tie, and stuck the melted cable tie to the back plate of the solar puck so that tie was standing straight up in the air. I did this with 2 ties on opposite sides of the puck. The only reason for this was I needed to keep the tie in place long enough for the next step, which was to bed the entire back of the unit with epoxy, permanently sealing it. I poured the epoxy into the recessed area letting it fill the entire space, but with the plastic shopping bag in place, it prevented the epoxy from getting down into the rest of the unit. I don’t think it would have hurt one bit to completely fill the unit with epoxy, but I didn’t want to at the time (in retrospect, it may be better to do so as there is still an air pocket inside there that could allow moisture and corrosion to get at the battery and connectors, although I think I’ve sealed it well enough to not worry about that).
Attached to the Windex mounting arm with zip ties still in place