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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Here is my version of home-made LED lighting. These are pics of the unpainted final version. The entire unit will be painted flat black using cottenballs in the face to keep the paint off of the LED's. The LEDS were installed into 2-liter bottle caps, then soldered with the resister, and then slid into the thin-wall PVC pipe without glue so the can be adjusted (Focused) or serviced. Note that the same bottle caps are installed first and slid all the way inside the PVC to form a "bottom" and give the small self-tapping "Adjuster" screw a little more "Beef" to screw into. The "stems" are the hangers for hanging ceilings. They are fully adjustable without tools and relatively cheap to build. Many thanks to the NJ/PA group for their inspiration and a "Group LED buy" that made these rediculously cheap to build.

UPDATE: I started a Tutorial for these lights HERE. It includes several modifications and updates from the original design seen in this thread. As I improve the design and experiment with other LED's, I'll Update the Tutorial to include any favorable improvements.









I took these pics during the daytime to show some details. Even during the day the LED's were strong enough to cast a nice pattern on the wall. I'm using a computer power supply (12V outputs) to run them all. I plan on having at least 20 of these made by Halloween as well as many overhead spots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Mad, With VERY few exceptions, any computer power supply will work. All computer power supplies have 3 different voltage connections inside them to run various parts of a computer (3V, 5V, and 12V). Amperage doesn't matter unless you are running a massive amount of lights, or rocking granny's. But power supplies are relatively cheap, so if you exceed the required amperage (too many lights for example), the supply will (usually) safely kick itself off. Just get a second one to suppliment your power needs (Run separately). You won't blow your LEDS with a computer power supply since we have built them just for that purpose. That little resistor you installed with your lights was calibrated just for 12V. We'll show you what wires to connect everything to in your power supply when you see us next time. IT was GREAT Meeting you too, we all hope you can make a lot of our meetings :) and thanks for the compliment on the lights.

Fritz, Sharp, and Archive, Thanks for the great comments. Much appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Joe, The Hangers swing left to right at just the right tension due to the fact that I used a slightly oversized drill bit to predrill the holes. The screw I used was a 8-18 X 1/2" self-tapping (automotive sheet metal) screw that also penatrated into the Bottom bottle cap for a little extra "Grip". Time will tell if they remain viable for a long term solution.... BUT my initial feeling is that they will last a very long time. Besides, a quick fix if the screw "dethreaded" would be to add a new bottom bottle cap or crazy glue if you strip the screw out. I have some plans for banks of 4- 5 and more for various applications... this setup could also be used in trees, light poles, on houses, pop-up shelters, and inside of props where there might otherwise be issues with space or vibrations. I am really in love with the compact nature of these things and of course the instant adjustability. They do adjust L-R and Up and Down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Joisey, First off I hope your feeling better... we missed you. My solution for connecting all of the lights is to use those "Malibu type connectors" used for landscape lighting. They are also called "Vampire connectors" because they pierce the 12 guage landscape wire with 2 little metal teeth to make a very reliable yet temporary/movable connection. My whole Idea was to create a very flexible design to adapt and evolve with my haunt. So in a nutshell.... Set up your haunt. Buy 100' (or more) of 12 gage landscape lighting wire. Set your fixtures where you think you want them... run the landscape lighting wire to each LED fixture, connect your hookups for this season and your done... In My case I'll have several "Main Runs" of wire in different directions towards multiple fixtures. If you looked down at my setup from the air it would look like a multi-spoked wheel with the power supply being in the center, and the spokes being the "Main runs"of landscape wire All of my fixtures will be attached to the various "Main runs". Of course they aren't straight like spokes. Each run can zig-zag around to accomadate your haunt and avoid tripping hazards. Some runs might be 20' and some night be 125'. Now, I know that 12 gage landscape lighting wire isn't the cheapest... but it allows for such flexibility because as a professional landscape lighting installer, this system allows for you to change your setup every year and still use the main run wire for several years before it corrodes. The piercing effect of the connectors does allow for the main wire to corrode over time, but if it's dedicated to halloween and only used for a few weeks a year it should last for a long long time.
To answer your other question, My pictures represent a bank of 3 lights... I will probably run 20-30 of these and probably 30 individual spots. so between 90 and 120 individual light fixtures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Connectors CHEAP

The one concern since I made these lights was how to connect them quickly, reliably, and with a lot of flexability year to year. As a landscape light installer, I immediately thought about those malibu connectors, but they are VERY expensive, especially if I wanted to have 50 of them. So, I made my own based on another style connector that I often use. These connectors allow me to use one (or more) long length wires that aren't spliced at all. Did I mention that they are SUPER CHEAP and exceptionally easy to make.









 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
The nails are copper plated weatherstrip nails (#17X 3/4") made by "crown bolt" and found at home depot in the hardware section. The copper allowed me to solder the wire EASILY to the nails, then drive them through the small pieces of "finish grade" 1/2" plywood. Here a few more support photos. I could only post 5 in the first post. Cronologically these are the first 3 pics in the build process.







At first I was concerned that the nails would bend before I could get them all the way in the little block (Wire attached). Then, when that wasn't a problem I was afraid that they'd slide right out the back as I pushed them onto the wire. They did move a little bit, untill I used a cork to let the tips of the nails fully penatrate the wire. No filing of the nails was required. The soldering made for a clean enough connection that there's no contact on the "Head side" of the nails to short the circuit. It works way better and faster than I could have anticipated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
This is the beauty of "Low voltage" wiring. First it's DC and not AC. It's WAY safer than household current. The exposed wires and nails will be "Hot glued" on the top in the final version for a little protection and insulation. You can also add di-electric grease and/or electrical tape to add further protection. I assume no Liability for what is shown, however, I've installed 12V landscape lighting for many years and it has proven to be very safe. I think that as long as you keep the connections out of standing water and away from Metal, you'll be fine. If anyone want's to chime in about any possible safety issues please feel free to do so in this thread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
I like the mount you have for the light, but I would have 1 to 3 lights on each mount. I figure I wouldn't need 3 lights per mount because I will be spacing out my props. /QUOTE]

I meant to comment on this earlier Joisey. The intention of that 3-way mount is to have all 3 lights on one tombstone or another single prop to get a blending of colors for a cool effect. The beauty of the design is that you can make whatever fixtures you want for various effects. You can have a 3-way and aim each individual spotlight at 3 different props, or aim them all at one prop to get that creepy blending effect. Or you can just make a single one as you suggested. I'm hoping my LED order comes in before the April meeting so I can get a few different clusters together for demonstration purposes. That's why I wanted to have the flexibility for the connections. I will make several clusters of 2-3-4 and a few singles. At this point I don't know what lights I want where.... If I am unhappy with a certain effect of a 3-way I can easily switch it out for a 2-way or even a single spotlight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
I know you are using a computer power supply to power these LED lights. I have been wondering about using the Malibu landscape lighting transformer to power a string of these, one difference they output 12V AC power. Will these LEDs operate the same or will life expectancy go down?
I believe that your malibu transformer output is DC. That's why it's called a transformer, It "transforms" 120 AC to 12V DC so you can safely run your outdoor lights without using special cable or protective conduits. You could easily verify your output with a "meter", or just check the bulbs inside the fixtures that came with your malibu set. I'd bet they are 11w dc or 20w dc low voltage bulbs. If that is indeed the case (and I believe that it is), you can run these LED lights just fine on that transformer. Make sure to install the proper resistor for 12V based on how many lights you have in series inside each fixture. There are many LED calculators on the web to give you the proper value of the resistor you'd need to build these lights. they are VERY simple to make.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
HP- Ohms law question?

On an auction site, that will remain nameless to avoid the ire of the powers that be, there is a Malibu 12 volt 150 watt transformer. How many 3mm led's can be run on this?
HP, or anyone else, Please assist me in answering this since I don't remember the math. We used 5mm LED's, not 3mm, but I'd guess it's well over 100, Possibly 300 individual LED's. Our group made spots with 3 LED's in each. LED's of different colors have slightly different power consumption, but you should be able to easily run 300 LED's (3-per spotlight, so 100 spotlights) with a standard computer power supply. Anyone Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Thanks for that info Jaybo. In fact I'll have to check if the professional grade transformers that I use do the same thing. I always assumed that all of the outdoor light transformers had 12Vdc outputs. I'll check that out and report back.

You know what the saying is:

When you ASSUME something you make an...........Ass out of U and ME.

LOLOL could be embarrasing.
-----------------------------------------------------------------

Mad, I'll try to get a few pics up of the actual connection to the puter power supply in the next day or two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
WOW!!!! I set up a few scenes today and lit them with my new home-made LED lights..... OMG..... They are soooooo cool. It's not just that they are LED's and use 1/30the the power of other spotlights... it's not just that they emit nice pure colors and create a wonderful atmosphere.....They are SOOO EASY to hook up, adjust and store!!!

I did discover that I hate the self tapping screws. I kinda figured halfway through the project that they'd loosen up. So I went to small bolts with wing nuts and they are now a super fast and a super flexable lighting system. I'll post pics soon.... I'm pleased as punch after waiting 7 months to see them used for actual halloween stuff. WOW.... sometimes I have to pinch myself...

I used to use 400' of extension chords and many 3-way adaptors and power strips... and have a huge electric bill.... Now... Just a few continuous landscape lighting lines and I'm all set... WOW WOW WOW... so much time saved. and the lighting efffect is 100 times better than 120v stuff. Still looking for good UV LED's

I'll post pics soon...
 

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Discussion Starter · #57 · (Edited)
Thanks HP for answering the techincal part of the question.

As far as my mounting system, the changes I made are as follows:

1) I made the tube 4" instead of 3". This allows you to sink the Bottle cap containing the LED's deeper into the tube. This keeps the light more focused (Narrower beam) and more importantly it makes it easier to keep it out of the TOT's and neighbors eyes wlile still lighting the target. I take great care to focus (aim) my lights to not bother my neighbors or blind the TOT's (unless it's intentional for a special effect)).

2) I decided that I didn't want to carry a tool around with me to adjust the lights throughout the season. I ended up useing a #8X2" bolt with a #8 wingnut and a washer for my up and down adjustment.

3) I drilled a hole in every mounting plate so I could use a zip-tie or a screw to mount to just about anything quickly and easily.

4) I ditched the rubber bands to secure the vampire clips to the wire. The ones I bought decayed after 3 months. I found Black hair ties at the local dollar store. Hopefully that will be a longer lasting solution. Also, instead of just going around the clip I actiually go around the wire twice to help secure the pigtails to the fixtures as well as the vampire clip.

Night time pics can be seen here http://www.hauntforum.com/showthread.php?t=24210

Here are some daytime pics of the finished lights.

A grouping mounted on my 150 year old oak tree


Mounted to my RR Tie wall: Note the connection to the main wire.


A ground cluster of 6 colored lights for the Gravestones, and two single white spots on the groundbreaker.


Another set mounted to my old Oak Tree. I set these up for ME to light up a frequently traveled area at nigjht as I adjust everything. On halloween I'll spin them around and aim them elsewhere. Note the wingnut on the new models.


Mounted to my new PVC Walk-through tent. Zip ties are the other tinker toy for Haunters LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #63 ·
Well, that wasn't difficult at all. It took me just a couple of hours to make my vampire clips for all 30 spotlights I have. But, Greg, I have a question:

You said you kept the solder off the heads of the nails because that could create a short. While I tried to do that too, I wasn't always successful. But why would that create a short? Just in case, though, I covered all the connections with hot glue.

Now I've just got to lay out my landscape lighting wire so that I can hit all my props.

Rich
The way I did it the heads of the nails were pretty close. A stray piece of solder could make an accidental connection. But if your observant and pay attention and inspect them as you make them it shouldn't be an issue at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #66 · (Edited)
As an aside, I'm having a little difficulty pushing the nail points through the sheathing on the landscape wiring. Do I have the "wrong" type, or is that just the nature of this stuff to protect the wiring inside? But other than that, this is a really flexible means of setting up your lighting. Now I gotta test them out and make sure I connected them properly.

Oh yeah, one more thing: does it matter which wire the nail point goes into? Does the nail connected to the black wire, for instance, have to go into a specific wire in the landscape wiring or doesn't it matter? Thanks!
First, yes it does matter which nail goes into which wire. Check the landscape wire you are using and determine which side of your wire is connected to the positive wire of your power supply. If there's no writing on the landscape wire, feel the edges of both sides of the wire. One side will have a small ridge. I make that the positive side. Your main wire might need splices (like a tree and it's branches) to get to various scenes where your lights are. Make sure that all of those splices are all the same with the positive wire having the ridge.

Next, on some of my home-made connectors, the nail tips are too far apart to pierce each side the wire dead center. You need to turn your connector a little sideways to line up the nail tips exactly to the proper width. Some of mine are turned as much as 45 degrees. I then use a small piece of wood on the ground to use as a press-board so I can more easily push the connector into the wire. Have your power supply on as you connect each light fixture. This give you good feedback that you are making a good connection and/or have your positive wires aligned correctly. If your LED doesn't light up you can inspect the piercing holes to see if your tips missed the wire or your connector is backwards.

One last thing, I usually start with one light on the trunk line before it branches out. I make sure that I can always see that light "On" as I connect other lights. This is because it is not uncommon to create a temporary "short" by slightly missing your wires with the vampire connectors. If this happens, remove your bad connection, turn off or unplug your power supply and restart it, making sure that all of the lights you've installed to this point are still working. See post # 20 for pictures.

I hope this helps.
 
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