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Water Bottle Lights

Updated on January 22, 2015

Water Bottle Lights

I recently learned of a simple idea that is being used to bring light to many homes and businesses in third world countries during the daytime that would otherwise do without. Some because they have no access to electricity or others because it costs so much that they would rather not use electricity except when absolutely necessary.

This innovation is known as water bottle lights or solar bottle lights. They use no electricity. Instead they act as mini skylights or solar tubes. Empty plastic soda bottles are usually the main material used to make the lights (although in one case I saw glass bottles have been used as well). Corrugated steel and sealant are needed as well. And the final materials are simply purified water and bleach. After they are assembled they are installed in the corrugated steel roofs of the home, church, or workshop, etc. with the top part of the bottle sticking out of the roof and the bottom of the bottle extending into the ceiling below. These "light bulbs" then work by simply harnessing the power of the sun by refracting the light that comes through the water in the bottle down into the room below. They provide up to the equivalent of 50 watts of light. They can last up to four or five years.

They have their disadvantages. The idea probably would not work in countries with climates that get cold enough that the water could freeze. And of course they do not work when the sun is not showing. But the advantages outweigh those. Some of the advantages are the savings in electricity can be used to help a family buy more nutritious food or pay for books for school.

I've included three videos about the water bottle light or solar bottle light concept below. But if you want to see even more, click on this link for more solar bottle light youtube videos.

Image source: y0s1a @ stock.xchng

Water Bottle Lights in Action

Step by Step Water Bottle Light Instructions in English


This video says the idea for using water or soda bottles for a light source seems to have originated in Brazil by a mechanic named Alfredo Moser who used the idea in his workshop during an energy crisis and blackout in 2002. Others say that an MIT student came up with the idea. And others say that the idea has been around for decades (maybe even longer), using glass jars or bottles. Whatever the origin is, as shown in previous videos the idea has spread to other countries, to the benefit of many.

Deck Prisms: Antique Skylights for Ships

Centuries ago deck prisms were used to bring sunlight to the decks below on sailing ships. Laid flush into the deck the prism part of the glass would refract the light to the room below. They served pretty much the same purpose as the water bottle lights being used today. Modern reproductions like these seem to be used for decorative purposes, such as paperweights, in homes. But it would be interesting to see if they could be installed in places similar to the "water bottle light bulbs" mentioned earlier. These perhaps could be used in places where water would freeze. Although of course they would be much more expensive than the water bottle method.

Reproduction 19th Century Deck Prism
Reproduction 19th Century Deck Prism

This deck prism is a reproduction from an original on the whaling ship the "Charles W. Morgan." Each Reproduction Deck Prism is hand-poured solid glass weighing over 2 pounds. This Reproduction Deck Prism makes a beautiful, historical, and intriguing conversation piece. It has a hexagonal base that is 4 1/2" wide and tapers to a point that is 4 1/4" high.


Solar Powered Water Bottle Lantern

While not quite the same concept as the solar water bottle lights for lighting the home, as mentioned above, this is a cool concept as well that uses water, light and solar power to bring light to you, whether camping or in an emergency situation. It has the dual purpose of being a water bottle and a lantern. It might not shine quite as bright as a battery powered lantern. But the mini solar panel on it means it can be charged by sunlight so you won't have to worry about your batteries running out.

Solar LED Lantern

This solar lantern does not use water, so it is not dual purpose. But it does seem to give efficient light...being 3 to 5 times brighter than a kerosene lamp.

Guestbook Comments

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    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 5 years ago

      I just love this idea. ~Blessed and I also linked to it from my plastic bottle reuse lens.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 6 years ago

      Useful Lens.

    • whodiesinthenew profile image

      whodiesinthenew 6 years ago

      Cool idea! I should try it in my bike shed :)

    • digitaltree profile image

      digitaltree 6 years ago

      Great Lens, the water bottle light sounds amazing, i have to make one, just for fun.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      Wow! I wouldn't have believed water bottle lights if I hadn't seen it myself. What a great idea. Super lens!

    • DreamsBloom profile image

      DreamsBloom 6 years ago

      @BLouw: By the solar powered bottle do you mean the "solar powered water bottle lantern SolLight LightCap 300" that I have the Amazon link to? That has a mini solar panel on the cap that captures and stores the energy from the sunlight. Which then powers LED lights that are cap. The LED lights then filters through the water (or other liquid) you put in the bottle making it "glow." I hope that makes sense (and that I have my facts straight).

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 6 years ago from France

      What a wonderful invention and what an excellent video the 'Step by Step Water Bottle Light Instructions in English' is. I'm intrigued by the prism as well. Lots of good ideas. How does the solar powered bottle work though?

    • DreamsBloom profile image

      DreamsBloom 6 years ago

      @Ruthi: I know what you mean...I wish I could apply this idea here where I live, but I think it would not turn out so well with the sometimes freezing temperatures. Actually I am going to be adding more to this lens about "deck prisms" which used to be used on ships to light the areas below. They make reproductions to be used for decorative purposes, but they could maybe actually be used practically too.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 6 years ago

      How very interesting and inventive! I need to move to a warmer climate so the water won't freeze, though!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      What a wonderful invention that brings light to many without the wires and cost of electricity.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This is so interesting. I hope it catches on and is used for more people.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

      Interesting concept. Thanks for sharing it.