Photos via Joshua Zimmerman

Here in San Francisco, you have to be earthquake ready. That’s why I simply love this emergency solar-powered radio (via Brown Dog Gadgets). It’s inexpensive to make and reusing Altoids tins is just plain cool.

The project will take about 45 minutes to complete or less if you are a skilled DIY-er. Make sure to visit Brown Dog Gadgets for even more solar-powered ideas.


1 FM Radio

2 Solar Garden Lights

1 Diode ($1 for 100 of them online, or take one out of any random junk pile)

Altoids Tin

Mini speakers ($1 Store, or take apart old headphones)


Soldering Iron



Wire Strippers



Hot Glue

1. Snip the wires going to the solar panel.  Depending on your solar light you can either pry it out with a screw driver or push it from behind.  I used a nail to push from the underside.  The glue they use isn’t very strong and the solar cell is quite sturdy.

2. Test your radio. You want to do this now because it’s kind of hard to return once you have gutted it. Trust me, I tried.

3. Unscrew the radio back and remove the radio’s circuit board and battery holder.

4. Place all of the parts into the Altoids tin to get an idea of the layout. For example, will the solar panels fit or will you need to place them on the outside. Or where the headphone jack should go.

5. Once you have the layout down you can then decide where to drill the hole for your headphone jack.

6. Since this is an emergency radio we want to get the most out of our solar cells. To do this, connect them in series which will double the voltage but keep the amps the same.

7. Solder a long wire onto the diode end with the black strip.

8. Solder the other end to a positive tab on one of your solar cells.

9. Solder another long wire onto the negative tab of the other solar cell. Now each cell should have a wire attached: one positive (with a diode) and one negative.

10. Connect the two remaining soldering points of the solar cells.

11. Wire up the positive and negative wires from the solar cells to your radio. You can either wire them directly to the board or to the battery pack.

12. Tape it up and you are done!

You can get the full set of instructions on this and many other solar projects over at Brown Dog Gadgets. If you are DIY-challenged, you can even buy this charger already made. But really, where is the fun in that!