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Argh! I put off making the vampire clips thinking I'd do it sooner or later. Well later's here and now I got to go! LOL! Glad this thread is here. Nice job, Greg. It's all very helpful.

Rich
 

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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
 

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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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Thanks Greg. I probably just misunderstood what you had written in Post #22 in this thread:

"The soldering made for a clean enough connection that there's no contact on the "Head side" of the nails to short the circuit."

Now I see that you were saying you just didn't want the solder connecting from one nail head to the other.

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!

Rich
 

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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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Thanks, Greg! They work great! I had one spot that kept shorting out the line but once I removed it everything worked fine. It did have me worried since I didn't know which one it was and I had to take every spot off the line and reattach them one at a time (should've done that from the beginning).

Naturally, it was the last spot in the line. But once I swapped it out, everything worked fine. Thanks again for your help and for a great, versatile system.

Rich
 

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I decided to go a different route with my connectors I am going to use RCA jacks and plugs for the power connection I feel t is less of a hassle and will pull out id they get tripped over. Plus I can make all kinds of splitters or extensions that I may need. Off the main line I will have a female jack where I will plug in a box on a length of cable with 6 or eight jacks where the led spots will plug in. I will post some pictures as I develop this.
 

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Joe,

That sounds pretty cool. I like the quick plug-in nature of that. I know that one of the benefits Greg highlighted about his method was the ability to "plug into" anywhere along the line, wherever he needed to, but with a smallish yard like mine (nice 50-ft. cookie-cutter frontages all along our block) easy, in-and-out plugs would be convenient.

I didn't realize this was possible. I've always wondered why those types of jacks aren't used on all electronics. I mean, trying to line up the pins on an S-video connector always has me worried I'm going to bend the pins. Far easier would be a jack that just plugs right into a hole. I'm sure there are lots of technical reasons why it can't be done otherwise I'm sure it would have happened already.

Of course, you can't beat the cost of Greg's method. I think it was $2 for a box of copper nails and scrap wood. I'm not sure what connectors go for, though I can't imagine it's too expensive.

I'll be looking forward to seeing the pics. Post soon!

Rich
 

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I figured that if I space the connectors on the line at twice the distance apart as the pigtail on the power distribution box (the box with the 6 or 8 RCA jacks) then I can place led spots anywhere I want. I am mainly concerned with ease of connection and a flexible system. I can also plug a second power distribution box into the first if I need to or even just a pigtail with one or two jacks for that odd placement of spots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #71 ·
I agree Joe, that's a great idea for a smaller urban yard like yours. I considered using RCA, Banna plugs and a variety of other connectors. My haunt already has over 300' of wire and I am finding that I am already woefully short of lights (and I made a lot more than most of our group). Ironically, I don't need a lot more wire, I just need more lights.

BUT given that I have a lot of 3-D terrain (overhead lights, ground lights, lights in trees and on my walls and in my hoop house) this system is the most flexible that I can imagine right now. Having played with hundreds of sections of AC extension chords in the past, it's so refreshing to be able to move a light in 20 seconds without needing to "Find" that 6' lead that I had leftover. A modular RCA jack system would work great... but it's total overkill. As a musician, I've had bad experiances with corrosion, bending of the tabs,and general failure of those jacks.

With that said, I can see the appeal of that connection system, and will consider it in the future.
 

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Very good idea. I know NOTHING about wiring/electronics, but I am really considering doing this project for next year. It seems so simple and straight forward.

Joe, do you have any pics of the RCA jacks you used for your setup? I have a small yard as well and this sounds like a good idea to me. Although, the homemade 'vampire' connectors seem like a very usable connection as well.
 

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The RCA jacks worked great I will get some pictures up as soon as I can. I will try to take some pictures tonight. I have made the power distribution nodes (as I like to call them) very flexible where you can daisy chain one to the next to create your own power grid. Each one has a 5 foot cable on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #74 ·
Congratulations Joe on the success of your connection process. I do like it, yet I still prefer my vampire connectors for one reason only. I had almost 75 LED fixtures this year and I was very short of lighting. As Halloween came closer I had to make choices of which lights to relocate to optimize my lighting. Once I decided which ones to move I didn't need to relocate any wires, or look for additional connectors or junction blocks. I just simply relocated them and re-attached them to the existing wire very quickly in thier new location. My system worked flawlessley for 6 weeks of outdoor use including several changes to the lighting scheme. Upon packing everything up, I just disconnected everything and wound up the three different sets of main wires, all set for next year. Here's what I would suggest for anyoned that is considering LED's for next year. If you are planning on using 25 lights or less than Joe's system would be very simple and practical, especially if you have a solid concept of your lighting needs. If you are planning on using a lot more than 25 lights than My system might suit you better. I used close to 400' of landscape wire this year and had no loss of brightness at that distance. Changing the lights around to get the effects I was seeking was sooo fast and never required a trip back to the "Box" for extra wire or connectors. On a closing note, I am extremely grateful to have such creative minds nearby. Joe's system is a great alternitive to mine. In the end, everyone will have at least two choices of how to quickly and effectively connect thier LED lighting system.

On that note: Vlad, if you read this I need to place another order for LED's so I can begin working on at least 75- 100 more fixtures for next year. I was woefully short of lights to create my vision.
 

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Greg,

The vampire clips worked like a charm. Very easy to position and reposition where necessary. The only difficulty I found was as it got closer to Halloween and the temperatures drop, it took a little extra muscle and a set of pliers to get the points into the landscape wire.

I'm also down for the next group buy too. While I had enough to light up individual props, the entire setting overall seemed very dark. So I want to build more lights, but figure I may have to go with the floods to set a general mood then highlight with individual spots.

Rich
 

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Here are the pictures of my RCA power connections.

In this first picture you can see the components. the Power distribution box and the led spots in the background both 2 and 3 spot versions and the PVC pipes are just single 10mm leds I use to fill in here and there. I also have a few battery operated ones leftover from last year but I will convert them all to RCA plugs. On Halloween not 1 minute after I connected the first few spots the wire got caught on my sneaker and the RCA Jack did exactly what it was supposed to do it pulled out without moving the spots



Each of the power boxes had 5 RCA jacks and one plug on a 5 foot cable 3 in the front and one on each side. Each spot has its own RCA plug instead of wiring them together and into one plug, I did this in case I want to swap out a color (two blues and a green for example).







Here you can see the the first box on the left would plug in the main power line where I had female RCA Jack pigtails they could be spliced in or vampire tapped like Greg does. The double spot plugs into the front of this box. the second power box on the right plugs into the side of the first power box using one of the side jacks. the second (right box) has a 3 spot module plus 2 singles plugged into the side jacks.

 

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Discussion Starter · #77 ·
Greg,

The vampire clips worked like a charm. Very easy to position and reposition where necessary. The only difficulty I found was as it got closer to Halloween and the temperatures drop, it took a little extra muscle and a set of pliers to get the points into the landscape wire.

I'm also down for the next group buy too. While I had enough to light up individual props, the entire setting overall seemed very dark. So I want to build more lights, but figure I may have to go with the floods to set a general mood then highlight with individual spots.

Rich
I recently placed a covert order for LED's, I couldn't get ahold of Ken and I wasn't sure of the correct procedure to order custom resistors. I didn't want to get it wrong for a group buy. Of course, they sent the wrong resistors after I gave them my voltage and amount of LED's in series.. Apparently you have to do the calculations yourself and order specific resistors (100ohm, 360ohm etc). I had just given them my Values and of course I got stuck with the wrong stuff.

While I was waiting for the correct resistors, I picked up some from radio shack while I was gathering some stuff for my first picaxe project, and started to experiment with my LED's

As some of you know, Asia engeneer has some great stuff, but the LED's we ordered as a group had a WIDE range of brightness between colors. Blue, whites, and Greens were perfectly fine in a 12V X 3(LED) application.. they were very bright and saturated anything I aimed them at. The reds, Ambers and Pinks are totally inadequate in comparison. So I started to experiment.

It seems that with LED's when you double your quantity of LED's you get a VERY Significant upgrade in light. SO I went for a gang of 12 LED's in a larger tube (instead of 3) and I was flabberghasted at the results. They seem to double thier brightness with every doubling of the amount of LED's (I'm sure this isn't entirely accurate but it seemed to be true).

I made a few sets of these 12 LED spotlights and I will be making quite a few more for the reds, ambers, and pink's and even some whites. I also did a few with 6 LED's (inside the original smaller fixtures) and even that configuration really improved the weak colors. Greens and blues seem to be fine in the original configuration.

I'll be posting pics soon of the new lights, and I'd be willing to post a How too for all of the variations if there is enough interest. Most of you Tekkies already know how to make these, but if there's any newbies to LEDS that want to make them, I'll do a complete tutorial. The 12V X 3 LED's with mounting cost less than 75 cents apiece including connectors.

I'm actually planning on experimenting with some of these fixtures for real Landscape lighting. The power savings is unbelievable (Using one computer power supply) and the volume of light seems to be sufficient. My electric bill from last halloween was over $200 lower than the same month last year and I run a LOT of lights.

I'll be posting pics soon.

A complete tutorial will take some serious time to prepare, so if anyone's interested, SPEAK UP. See the first few pages of this post for some insight to the finished product.
 

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Discussion Starter · #80 ·
Greg what tube and caps did you use for the 12 led spots? I can fit 6 in the one inch soda cap but not 12. Did you run 4 groups of three each one with a resistor and connecting them in parallel running off of 12 Volts?
The Tubing was 1.5" sched 40. The caps are another story, good luck finding any. I got lucky when the post office cancelled thier "Cap drive" fundraiser and had two mail bins FULL of assorted caps. I found 20 out of a box of about 800.

Yes the 12LED array was 4 X 3leds with resistors for each. Is there a simpler way to do this??? Every site I could find said no more tha n 3 in series and up to 7 in parralell. Could you at least combine them using a single 1/2 watt resistor??
 
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