DIY Solar Powered Vibrator
We’ve all been hearing a lot of talk lately about alternative fuels and renewable energy sources. Maybe you’ve already gone green by using rechargeable batteries in your sex toys. But you can do better and take your vibrator off the grid all together. This tutorial shows you how to convert a battery powered vibrator to run on solar energy.
Before starting this project, you will need to check your vibrator with a multimeter to determine the voltage and amperage running through the circuit. You will need this information to determine how much total voltage and current you need to get out of the solar cells, and whether to wire them in series or parallel.
Testing voltage with the multimeter
To test the voltage of the vibrator, it helps to be able to take the case apart to get access to the wiring. Put the batteries in and set the multimeter to an upper voltage limit (20V in this case). Place the negative probe on the negative terminal of the vibrator, and the positive probe on the positive terminal, and open the switch. Our multimeter indicated that the vibrator was using a bit under 3V when turned on to maximum speed, and less at lower speeds.
Getting the amp reading is a little trickier
To test the amperage, the multimeter must be made part of the circuit. Break the circuit by disconnecting one positive terminal of a battery. Turn the vibrator switch to the On position. Set the multimeter dial to an upper limit for the amperage, then place the positive probe against the battery terminal and the negative probe against the battery contact in the case. We found this vibrator was drawing about 130mA of current when turned up all the way. This is typical for a bullet vibrator that uses 2 AA batteries.
This larger vibe uses a lot more current
For contrast, we used the multimeter to test a larger, more powerful vibrator. This rabbit vibrator uses 4 AA batteries and contains two motors, one for the rotating shaft and one for the vibrating rabbit (it also lights up, which takes extra juice). Turned up all the way, the vibrator drew between 1.3 and 1.5 amps, vs. the smaller vibrator's 130 milliamps. You can find (or build) small solar cells that rate at 1 amp or more, but they usually generate a lower voltage, like around .5V. So to get 3V of power, you would have to wire up 6 of them in parallel. Certainly do-able, but at some point your solar array will get too large or cumbersome to be easily portable.
Each cell stands in for one AA battery
We were lucky enough to find solar cells that were rated for 1.5V with 200mA. Since the voltage of each cell is equivalent to one AA battery (1.5V) and the amperage of 200mA is adequate current for the circuit, we can simply treat them like two AA batteries and wire them in series, as opposed to parallel. This adds the voltage together while the amperage remains the same. As a bonus, these cells came in a protective housing and had negative and positive leads already attached to them. These wires are just a few inches long, and we would like to have more freedom to move the panel around, so we chose to add extensions to them. If you want the option of placing the solar panel outside while you use the vibrator indoors, you could make these wires several feet long.
A simple schematic of the wiring
Here is a basic diagram of our circuit. As we said, we will be connecting the cells in series. This means that the negative contact of the vibrator is attached to the negative lead of one cell, the positive contact of the vibrator is attached to the positive lead of the other cell, and the remaining positive and negative leads of the two cells are wired together.
Attaching the cells to the backing
Before soldering the solar cells, construct a simple stand to hold them while the device is in use. As the sun changes position, you can elevate the panel to the best angle for maximum exposure. The first step is cutting a piece of cardboard on which the solar cells will be attached. This strip of cardboard also includes enough cardboard for the base, which is at least as long as the part covered by the solar cells, plus a few more inches for stability. By using self-adhesive Velcro strips to attach the solar cells to the stand, you can easily remove the cells if you need to work on the wiring or choose to repurpose them for another project.
We love glue guns
On the back of the cardboard panel, glue a support strut. This will be adjustable and will simply be clipped onto the base with a binder clip. To adjust it, just position the panel as desired, slide the strut so it’s supporting the panel, and clip it against the base.
Our mini solar array
The angle of the panel is fully adjustable for maximum sun exposure. When the sun is directly overhead, the whole thing can be folded down and the cardboard layers clipped together so the panel lays flat.
Insulated alligator clips make it easy
Rather than soldering the connections inside the battery compartment, you can use alligator clips to attach the wires. This has two advantages: the clips can be removed if you want to use the vibrator with batteries again, and the connections will not be prone to breaking, as soldered connections sometime do. Cut lengths of black and red wire, strip insulation from the ends, and attach an alligator clip to one end of each, leaving the other ends bare for soldering.
Bend but don't break
An alligator clip can be easily fastened onto the spring that serves as the negative contact in the battery case. The positive contact is a flat strip of metal, which makes it difficult to attach anything. To make the contact more accessible for connection, you could pry it out and bend it, but since we’re trying to keep this vibrator intact so it can be reverted to use with batteries, we’re going be less invasive. With a pair of needle nose pliers, pry up a corner of the contact, just enough to make a small space.
Extending the positive contact
Take a two-pronged wire connector, remove the plastic insulation from it, bend it at a 90 degree angle, and stick one prong into the space you just opened up. It should be wedged in there tightly enough that the connection won’t come loose.
These clips make solid connections
The leads can now be fastened securely on both contacts. The alligator clips are small enough to fit inside the battery compartment. In a later step, we’ll make an exit hole to accommodate the wires.
Testing with clips before soldering
For a test run, we clipped everything together with alligator clips and took it outside to see if it worked. The vibrator fired up immediately in full sunlight.
Strong artificial light works too
The cells can also be tested under a very bright light, such as a halogen shop light. When tested under direct light, we found the cells were putting out about 1.7V and about 120mA, which was enough to run the vibrator at a medium speed that would probably offer adequate stimulation.
Finally, the soldering
After making certain that the solar cells and circuit are working as intended, solder your connections. We soldered a positive lead from one cell to a negative lead of the other, then soldered extensions onto the other leads (the longer wires with alligator clips on the ends).
The wires need a way out
Using a Dremel tool, cut a small notch into the edge of the battery case to allow the wires to pass through and the case to be closed. Make sure the exit hole is located so that the wires don’t have to bend too much to reach it, as this can put strain on the wires and connections.
Now the case can snap closed
Cutting the notch just large enough to accommodate the wires can help keep them in place and prevent the connections from getting jerked loose. Here the wires lay side by side and the lid can easily be closed.
View from the back
If desired, you can give the project a more finished look and keep all the wires from getting tangled by spiral wrapping them together in electrical tape or duct tape, or using heat-shrink tubing to keep the wires together. (If you use heat shrink tubing, put it on before you add alligator clips to the wires. Cover the bare soldered connections with electrical tape, then insert the wires together into the tubing. Then add the alligator clips to the ends.) Cover the connection between the solar cells with electrical tape or a plastic nut connector, and tape the wires to the back of the stand.
The cells work. Now let's hook up the vibe...
Out in the real world, we measured the voltage and amperage output of the solar cells under full, direct sunlight. The cells delivered a little over 3V, making good on their promise of 1.5V each.
Powered by pure sunshine
With the solar cells hooked up to the vibrator, we cranked up the dial to found that the circuit was drawing 130mA, the same amount as when the device was running off batteries. Since the solar cells were rated at 200mA, this is less than they should be capable of, but it was all the current required to drive the vibrator at its maximum speed.
Face the cells toward the sun for best results
Our solar vibrator required full, direct sunlight on a cloudless day to run. Direct sunlight through a window did nothing. A bright halogen work light got the vibrator running at near full capacity, as long as the light was placed very near the cells; the vibrator ran at lower power if the light was further away. Of course, using an electrical light to run a solar powered device defeats the purpose, so get out there and turn the sun’s rays into good vibrations.
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