CFL + Bugzapper = Battery Operated Camping Light

CFLBugzapper_01_20

Knowing different ways of generating light is a great skill to have, so go ahead and add this one to your arsenal by combining a Bugzapper with a CFL Light Bulb.

Sure a CFL(Compact Fluorescent Lamp) works just fine on its own if you have AC mains, but what we’re talking about here is getting the light bulb to work off of a single D battery. We featured a similar hack a few months back by using a Joule-Thief to get the high voltage for the fluorescent tube, but if you can’t get your hands on discrete components, [Jan] shows us another way by gutting a tennis racket bugzapper for its booster board. Knowing that the bugzapper steps up the 3V to about 2000V, he decided to see if that same circuit would run off a single 1.5V D battery and achieve the voltage required to drive a CFL tube. After carefully removing the electronics from the CFL housing, [Jan] was able to directly connect the booster board to the electrode wires of the fluorescent tube, and voila; he now has a D-Battery operated camp light that has a run time of over 200 hours.

It would be interesting to see how this hack compares to the Joule-Thief method in terms of brightness and run-time. Before you go and scrap the parts out of the CFL light bulb, make sure you check out this detailed breakdown of popular CFL light bulbs.

51 thoughts on “CFL + Bugzapper = Battery Operated Camping Light

      1. Not saying it is wrong of you to be annoyed (we cant help those kind of things after all). but ‘viola’ is several (less bad than rape – unless you really dont like classical music i suppose) things in English and mixing up ‘oi’ and ‘io’ is a very easy typo to make on a keyboard (or mentally). it is like the ‘ie’, ‘ie’ mixup you often see too, and likely many people get it wrong because their accent sound slightly more like the wrong one.

        I always think that if i know what was meant, then just ignore it. it is likely not a mistake made to insult me. but i can understand it being hard not to mention (i have a personal issue with “would/could of” instead of “would/could have”, and seeing that mistake makes me want to do bodilly harm. but i sure as the sun comes up tomorrow make a lot of mistakes myself; typos, spelling, and esp. grammatical ones – so who am i to throw rocks :)

        I also believe the correct spelling of the expression voila is voilà (assuming the accent gets through on HAD).

        I know a lot of people correct mistakes to be nice and not just to be spelling/grammar-nazis. But the internet-tubes to hell are lined with good intentions :-)

        I am ofcourse not a grain of salt better myself, doing corrections of the one who corrected it, but hey – its meant with good intentions :)

        1. S prsmbly f y mssd t ll th vwls y’d stll b hppy?

          The whole point is – that’s NOT how it’s spelled. There’s a right way and a wrong way to spell a word. Fair enough if it’s just a typo, but I see the “oh, but you know what I meant” excuse used regularly by people who obviously have no idea how to spell things correctly. The whole its/it’s insanity really gets my goat (incidentally, you have an its in the last line!!)

          1. Yes, im happy with that. And if i werent (i often ignore the ‘ entirely) i would just not bother answering :-)

            But my point was that when you correct someone, you should be nice about it. saying “it is spelled…” and nothing more is, to me, more annoying than a couple of errors.

            I fully agree that it is not how it is spelled, but even the one correcting it was wrong in this case (notice the accent?) so cool down and accept not everyone speaks your native language fluently. And let us less bright people have our ignorant but innocent fun. Stupid people do occasionaly get good ideas too, even if they cant articulate them as well and perfectly spelled as you.

            I do not agree that “there’s a right way and a wrong to way spell a word” because some words can infact be spelled (correctly) in more than one way, and there are plenty of wrong ways. But i know what you meant ;-)

            (English is btw my third language (of 6 or 7, some closely related) and i openly admit to being horrible in each and every one of them, occasionaly mix them up, and that the punctuation rules also differ a lot between them (also many rules have changed since i was in school))

            You are however entirely free to ignore me.

          2. I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh?

            The point im trying to make with that is that just because there is a spelling mistake it doesnt mean you cant work out what it was meant to be, and not everyone can spell. I know i cant spell to save my life but put me behind a computer and i can run rings around most people, but do i judge them and think everyone should be able to use a computer and program? No i just accept the fact that people have knowledge in different areas then others, some can spell some cant, some can do maths some cant, some can use computers and some cant, etc…

            All im going to say is get over it its not the end of the world, ita just a spelling mistake…

          3. People make typos. Yes, we know the spelling is wrong. People just don’t let it bother them. There’s a difference between a mis-timing on your finger control muscles, and deliberately leaving all the vowels out of a sentence.

            The key is not to be driven to a killing rage over it. You knew what he meant, right? “He connected some wires to the fluorescent tube, and, I’ve been raped!”

            It’s just a typo. Worse things happen at sea. Nobody does it on purpose, and if that’s the worst thing that happens to you all day, I’d love to have your problems.

        2. I don’t think anyone was being “mean” about this. Here are the two comments that started this whole multi-page discussion:

          “It’s spelled voila, not viola.”
          “Yep. Viola is the past tense of the verb “to rape” in french. It always hurts my eyes when I read this word misspelled.”

          I don’t think either was particularly mean, and the average well-balanced adult could handle both without an issue and then correct the mistake.

          The second comment IMHO was more of an addition to the discussion than a criticism of the author.

          Regarding the importance of spelling and grammar, I think that we should try to keep our writing as correct as possible. On the internet and through any type of correspondance it is often the only way for the receiver to make assumptions about us. If we are sloppy in our grammar and spelling he could very easily make one of two assumptions; either that we are sloppy in other aspects as well, or that we don’t care enough about him to write something he can easily read.

          If I were to make a grammar or spelling mistake, I would have absolutely no problem being corrected on it, even through comments. I really am not sure what the difference is, besides one being public and the other private. Either way, it is not something to be taken personally, you just correct the mistake, thank the person for letting you know about it, and move on. If your self-esteem is so sensitive that you can’t take being corrected in public, you should be seeing a doctor.

      1. It is nice to get the errors fixed, but would rather it didnt have to go through the comments. is mailing tips@ a reasonable fast way to report errors? or is there another prefered way?

    1. After years and years of backpacking I have learned that using any kind of light at all is rather noobish. There really is no reason. The day is plenty long, human night vision is great, and your body adjusts to being outside 24 hours a day very fast.

      Sure bring a light in case you get stuck doing something precise after sunset, but if you know what you are doing, it will never be used at all.

      1. Do you sleep outdoors? Because it gets mighty dark in a tent regardless of how bright the ambient light is outside. Besides, not everyone wants to be a purist. Some of us have kids and friends that would like to actually be able to use their eyes.

  1. Mmmm this should be labeled as a gimmick. It’s kinda fun and interesting but totally impractical and a waste of time in the real world.

    1. Very true – if you come this prepared, then there are many other things that would probably be more useful to have packed/made/prepared from home.

      The oirignal author (if you follow the link) admits this in pratically the first sentence: “There are some nice LED-lamps available for your camping trip. But what’s the fun in that?” (and that is about the only real reference to it being used for camping) So I think it is just a side-effect of the write-up here on HAD that makes it sound more real-world-useful than it might actually be.

    2. It’s always good to learn that these things work, because us hackers could get stuck somewhere with, seemingly at first, incompatible devices and then recall there is a way to make them work together to accomplish a mission :-)

    3. It wouldn’t be the worst way of sourcing light in an extended blackout… 200 hour run time off one D battery is pretty useful, and the parts aren’t unreasonable to have kicking around the house.

      1. If it’s getting 200 hours out of a D battery, it’s not giving off much light. Which is at least 90% of the point of having a light. Either LEDs or a proper driver circuit would be better.

  2. Tried to replicate it with a Megaman Lilliput bulb. It doesn’t work, it just blinks if you put your finger close to the tube.

    1. I also tried with another Phillips tube, but it too just flashed. Increasing the batteries from 3 volts to 4.5 volts just caused the bulb to flash faster.

      1. It worked for me.
        Your not supposed to have any of the HV electronics remain on the zapper.

        And connect the tube to the 2 pins on the secondary at the x-former.

  3. You can also do something similar by modifying a disposable camera flash circuit, I would love to compare the runtimes of each and see which works brighter/longer.

  4. Is that thing actually on? It looks like the light is just coming from the warm electrodes heating up, not any actual discharge in the tube.

    1. I think you’re right. You need around 100V at a reasonable current, not 2000V at basically none. Even if the loading drags the voltage right down, it means the zapper circuit’s running well past it’s efficient specs. It just seems the zapper circuit doesn’t have what’s needed to drive a CFL bulb.

      There’s probably much better circuits you could build to do this properly. Even many better hacks to get it done quick ‘n’ cheap. A lot of old laptops must have inverters for their screen backlight. You could probably even drive it with one transistor, a couple of components, and a small mains transformer backwards. Or even wind a transformer yourself.

      1. he is only connecting 2 wires…and not to the same end of the tube (basically shorting the electrodes on each end of the tube) , so it would have to be discharging to be producing light….I believe

        1. Hi
          I’m am the one who built this.
          It looks yellowish because it’s a warm-white CFL. With a cool-white CFL it delivers the ordinary white FL light. The heaters are shorted and only used as electrodes.

          The tube won’t work with DC so if you don’t remove the rectifier, bleeder resistor and capacitor it will just flash. It needs AC to work.

          It draws about 50mA from the battery at 1.5v but runs down to 0.7v and I have tested it for 213 hours before going out.
          Yes it’s less bright at 1v than 1.5v but works

  5. Any particular reason it’s being run at 1.5V instead of the original 3V? Will it overheat with continuous use at 3V, or is it just personal preference for using a single cell?

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