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How It’s was Done

 

This is the ins and outs of our Christmas Display.

Here is the place where I’ll show my ideas and designs; I have no trade secrets, just somewhat simple DIY projects.

 

26 Light-O-Rama Controllers

Hardware22 – Standard 120 volt LOR controllers (one CTB8 used to switch on the transmitter at address 99)

2 – CMB24D 12 volt RGB controllers

1 – CR150D Cosmic Color Ribbon controller, with 2 CCR Ribbons

1 – Pixie 16 controller on a second auxiliary 500K network.

 

 

The controllers are the hardware switches that turn the lights on and off as well as add several other effects such as dimming twinkle, and shimmer effects. The channels are the number switches we have to control light strings or groups of strings, for example, the big candy canes have 16 strings of lights on each, 8 red, and 8 white, one after the other going up the cane and around the hook. One 16 channel controller brings it to animated life.

 

Mega Tree [Upgraded in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and again in 2016]

mega_tree_smallIn 2006 and 2007, the “Mega-Tree” at our old house was 6 strings of incandescent miniature lights tied up high in a pine tree, it was a cool idea for the first tree, but as the show evolved and moved to Eclectic, I wanted more animation and lights, so I had to come up with an all new design.
The 2008 mega tree was made with 4” PVC pipe center, and a half inch- 6 foot in diameter PVC base that hung by the light strings themselves. It had 1600 LEDs on it and was controlled by one 16 channel controller plus one channel from another for the star. Supported solely by a steel fence post in the ground, it was a bear to put up and take down, plus the LED strings had failures due to rain rusting the Led leads in the sockets.
So for 2009, I went back to the drawing board, a 16’ 4×4 post with pulleys on top, and the light strings attached to a 6”x2’ PVC pipe that slides up and down the pole like a flag. The base of the tree is an old trampoline frame, 12.5’ in diameter and made of steel, I just added 32 closed loop bolts spaced evenly for the lights to come down to. I also upgraded to LED lights that were soldered in place to prevent moisture from rusting the wires. Each light strings is loosely tied to a guide string that comes from the 2×6 PVC top to the bottom frame, this takes the stress off of the light string.
In 2010 I used some guide wires in place of the string, this eliminated the stretching of the string, and I bought a new 16’ 4×4 pole and attached a 2.5’ section to the top to make it over 18’ to the top of the star.
When I pulled out the lights for the tree this year, I had string failures again, bbut I did not have enough spares to repair last years strings, so I had purchased a lot of the C9 LED strings from Wal-Mart when they went to 75% off, enough to rebuild the tree, so now the tree is the newer “Soft White” color.

In 2016, I replaced all the C9 style lights with 64 strings of the mini LEDs, 70 lights per string, now 4,480 lights for the tree body.

The star I use was purchased from Christmaslightshow.com, and has a section of LED rope light attached to the star frame.

 

Strobe Lights in Mega Tree [New in 2009]

There are 20 Xenon Strobe lights on a PVC frame inside the tree itself, these add some sparkle during 2 songs in the show.

 

Mega Canes [New 2008, Updated 2010, and updated again in 2014]

mega_cane_left_smallmega_cane_right_smallThe Mega Canes were constructed from one 10’x3” PVC pipe, and two 3” sweeping 90° electrical pipes, 14 strings of 50 LEDs each, 7 red, and 7 white.

In 2010, I have added 2 more strings to each cane to match the 16 channel LOR controller.

In 2014, I replaced the first generation LEDs with newer and brighter ones, that’s 16 strings of 60 LEDs each, and converted all strings to full wave power.

 

 

Windows [Upgraded in 2009]

window_smallIn 2006 I used red incandescent rope lights on all windows. In 2007 I used those 60 count 8 function Red Green Blue  LED light strings, cut the 8 function controller off and wired them into my LOR controller and worked them into a wreath. In 2008, we were in our new house in Eclectic, and I pulled the lights out of the wreaths and out lined the windows. For 2009 I made frames and upgraded to 3 strings of 60, one red, one green, and one blue, that’s 180 LEDs for each window. The frames make for easy storage and quick to put up and take down.

 

Christmas Trees 0n either side of “Merry Christmas” sign [New in 2015]

small_tree_l_2small_tree_r_2

Made on a wood 1×2 frame, these trees have 120 Red, Green, and Blue Christmas lights per tree, 720 total LED lights, These were the replacements for the window frames hidden under the “Merry Christmas” sign

 

 

 

 

 

 Grinch made from chicken wire

More to come on this one…

 

Icicle Lights [Upgraded in 2010]

ice_smallIn Christmas 2006 I used incandescent icicle lights; but I wanted to use LED icicle lights, so in 2006 Wal-Mart sold these star-shaped icicle lights in white and blue LEDs. To simplify the install and removal every year, I stapled the lights to 4 foot sections of 1×2 boards, and hung them on eye hooks placed under the eve of the house, each of 17 sections was a different channel, (that’s 2 LOR channels per section, one white and one blue, 34 LOR channels total) this allowed for animation across the front of the house, and made them easy to put up and store. In the years since then, LEDs have made significant changes, especially in brightness, so I decided to rewire them. In 2009, I purchased new Blue, White, and Multi-color icicle strings, during Wal-Mart’s after Christmas Sale of course, now we have 17 of each white, blue and multicolor, that’s 3 LOR channels per section, that’s 51 LOR channels total now. A 4 conductor wire from each section provides power to each light string and a common wire.

 

Porch Columns [New in 2009]

The columns are wrapped in multi-color LED rope lights purchased from Home Depot after they finally put them down to half price in January 2009.

 

“Merry Christmas” sign [New in 2008, rebuilt in 2011, updated in 2016]

merry_christmas_smallIn 2008, I bought a 150’ roll of red incandescent rope light and extra connectors, cords and end caps. but to move into the LED age, my wife and sister in law rebuilt this sign with red LED rope light, and a small section of white LED rope light for the “C” out line. Each letter has its own channel on a LOR controller, the “C” is highlighted in white rope light to give an effect during the Christmas with a Capital C sequence. The heat in our attic took it’s toll on the rope lights, so we replaced the all the letters with new rope light in 2016.

 

Multi Color Wire Trees [New in 2007]

wire_tree_smallThis started as an idea to replicate those wire trees with lights on them that you see at the mall. I just got carried away with the lights on them. I started with a 2×2 board for a trunk. Here is the cool part; I used LED icicle lights for the limbs, remember icicle lights when the hang from the roof, have different length drops, so going up the trunk, the limbs differ in length as well. Drilling holes through the 2×2 and running white coat hangers through the holes, screwing them on one side, and cutting them to match the icicle lengths on the other. I used 3 strings for each tree, on 3 channels of a LOR controller per tree, when you run a chase sequence on the 3 strings; it adds a nice sparkle effect to the tree. A 4 conductor wire from each connects them to the controllers. This is the 5th year of using these wire trees, and the first generation LEDs are dimmer than all the rest in the LEDs in the show, My wife loves these trees, and wants to keep them in the show, perhaps they will get an upgrade sometime soon with new LED icicle lights one day.

 

Tomato stake RGB Trees [New in 2009]

tomato_stake_tree_smallI saw someone take a wire tomato stake and make a tree with it, it seemed like an easy way to make some small durable wire Christmas trees, so turning the tomato frame upside down and meeting the legs together formed the shape of the tree. Then using chicken wire as a body they were born. I used two 60 LED strings of each, red, green and blue to light them up. My wife added the silver garland to make them sparkle in the day or night. They have little wind resistance, so 3 small tent stakes keep them securely in place. A 4 conductor wire from each connects them to the controllers.

 

 

Mini Candy Canes [Upgraded in 2009 and added to in 2010]

mini_canes_smallWal-Mart sells these candy canes every year with incandescent lights in them, and I have been using them from the very first show. Now in 2009, I pulled the old lights out and replaced them with half a 60 light string of white LED lights, and combined one of each color, red, green, and white, to a 4 conductor wire back to the control panel. In 2009 I had 54 canes, this year I added 6 more to the mix for a total of 60 canes. A homemade PVC rack makes storing them during the off season a cinch.

 

Leaping Arches [New in 2010, updated in 2014, redesigned in 2016]

 

Made with RGB LED Smart strip lights.

The arches are PEX pipe, and the frame is PVC pipe.

See more here

 

 

Swirl Tree [New in 2015]

swirl_tree_small

 

Made with RGB LED strip lights.

See more here

 

 

 

 

 

Pixel Tree [New in 2017]

 

Made with 16 RGB smart strips, and a LOR Pixie 16 controller.

See more here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow on the ground effect

480 Cool White LEDs spread all across the yard, more on this to come…

Due to several wire failures, this effect did not make it to the show in 2017

 

94.5 FM Sign

Several people have missed the sign at the bottom of the driveway identifying the FM frequency to listen to for the show, so we built a sign from white LED rope lights.

 

FM Transmitter and Computer

computer_transmitter_smallThe transmitter I use was purchased from E-Bay as a assembled kit It came with no case, power supply, or antenna, but it does have the capability of about 5 watts of power, yes more than the FCC would like, but I keep it turned down.
The computer is a dedicated machine built in 2009 with an AMD Athlon 64 Dual Core 5000+ processor, 2 Gig of Ram, SATA drives, and Windows XP Pro with no extras installed. LOR does not require a lot of resources, but keeping the computer simple ensures a smooth operation the whole season long. Also, turn off the updates just to prevent an unexpected reboot of your machine.

In 2014, I updated the computer to 4 Gig of Ram, and installed Windows 7 Pro, 32 bit.

 

Safety and Efficiency

Safety with small wires. As you may have noticed, I use a lot of small wires, 20 & 22 gauge 4 conductor wires to connect to the LOR controllers, and yes by doing this I cut off the plugs and plug fuses with them. I have addressed this by changing all the primary fuses in all the LOR controllers to 3 amp fuses, each controller pulls less than a half an amp with all LEDs lit, so a 3 amp fuse is almost overkill on protection, and since most LED light strings use 3 amp fuses anyway, you will not exceed the string rating.

power_smallPower Savings: all 22,000+ LED bulbs pull only about 10 amps of power! And remember, all lights are not running all the time, so average usage will be much less, and LEDs have no surge during warm-up time like filament bulbs do.