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First Time Display, which LED lights to buy?


Dale P

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Hello, I picked up a ton of incandescent lights after Christmas for a few cents a box and am planning to do a big display this year.  I started to create a plan and soon realized that incandescents use a ton of power!  Right now I'm looking at a 40 amp draw for the display I want to do and it's not that big of a display.  Now I can see why LED lights were such a game changer for you guys.

The question I have is what LED lights should I buy?  I originally wanted to make up super strings with several different colors of lights, but am wondering if the RGB stands or Pixel strands would be the best way to go.  There would be less lights to purchase and hang and I would be able to have any color I want.  I'm trying to research all of the different types, but am quite confused with all the different reference numbers with the strands.  Is there a guide out there some where or a preferred strand to buy?

Thanks in advance for all the help!

Dale P.

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Hi Dale

Right now we have our pre sale going, which is the cheapest pricing of the year for quality LED lights. http://www.holiday-light-express.com/

RGB is it's own beast. It's not going to be as "plug and  play" as using regular LED strands. RGB runs on low voltage so you are always fighting voltage drop. They also use a fair bit of power... But, you can do pretty much whatever you want as far as color and patterns. 

Our standard LED light strands are sealed construction, so they are very durable. They are also full wave, so you get flicker free light as well a brightness gain.  They will work fine with light controller as well.

 

My suggestions, is to go watch a ton of YouTube videos of Christmas slight shows. Pick out what you like and what you don;t like. Some people don't like how RGB looks, some love it. Some people hate how LED's look and will only use incandescent....

Once you get a rough idea of what you like and what you may want to accomplish with your display, then post some details here and we will help get you on a good path and make sure you are successful. 

 

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I did a lot of research and ended up exclusively purchasing Holiday Light Express LED's. The combination of quality and warranty is hard to beat.

As for RGB, as hotrod says, that is a totally different animal. You really have to map out your display and know your stuff.

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Thanks guys, great advice.  I have an idea on what I'm going to do for this years display, but am trying to plan for the future when I convert to LED lights and want to make sure I buy the right stuff the first time.  Incandescent lights use too much power, I already have to add two 20 amp circuits to the side of my house just to run this years show and it's not that big so I defiantly have to switch to LED.

I see what you guys are saying about the extra work for RGB lights, but really see a big benefit to using them as well as conventional LED strings.  I enjoy working with electronics and have a good sized work shop full of cool tools to play with so I have the ability to create my own power supplies and panels if needed.  Guess I could get a few RGB strings this year just to mess around with and see how they work.

Here are a few pictures of my work shop.  I'm currently working on converting a manual milling machine to CNC control and built the entire control box.  The blue lathe in the picture is also CNC controlled as well as the small D&M milling machine.  My brother and I built a large CNC router (which is now at his house) but I have access to it if needed for stuff like large plywood cutouts. 

Dale P.

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I'm doing 20,000 incandescent lights. I may mix LEDs in here and there but I am trying to stay away from them. They just don't look the same. I saw a video of another 100% incandescent display..... I want to say it was "lighting up paxton" but I'm not exactly sure. 

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How many watts, or amps do you think your 20,000 lights take to run?  My calculations say that I can run 50 sets of lights containing 100 bulbs on a 20 amp breaker.  That's a 20 amp breaker for every 5000 lights. I'm planning for a 10,000 to 15,000 light display this year but the current draw may depict how many lights I use.

Dale P.

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I have 51468 LEDs including RGB tape style. All on, I draw maybe 6 amps total as measured with a Kill-a-Watt machine. Everything is all running on a regular 15amp breaker. Forgot to mention I also have a LED projector running as well in this equation. That's the beauty of LED's. They draw almost nothing.

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I won't be able to buy LEDS for a year or two so I will have to deal with the high current draw for now.  I would love to see some pictures of how others powering their high current displays.

Dale P 

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Everyone here, I'm sure, have started with a few strings and a few controllers. I think anyone who is in this hobby, has to be patient. By this I mean if you want to see the number of lights and accessories you have to buy , you do so with a bit each year. Took me a few yeas to go DMX but since day 1, I bought nothing BUT LED's for my display. It is a hobby that really isn't for everybody, that's for sure.

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I have 6500 that have been running off of one outlet for 5 years now. Since I am expanding I will be installing several breakers and outlets. I'll probably hire someone to do it since I have no electrical knowledge. I am thinking it's going to take 2 breakers and 2-3 extra GFCI outlets (I already have 2). I've been planning it and buying lights for 2 years now, and will be completing the expansion this year. I actually have yet to do a new light count, but its around the 18-20,000 range. 

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On 1/29/2017 at 4:15 PM, Dale P said:

Hello, I picked up a ton of incandescent lights after Christmas for a few cents a box and am planning to do a big display this year.  I started to create a plan and soon realized that incandescents use a ton of power!  Right now I'm looking at a 40 amp draw for the display I want to do and it's not that big of a display.  Now I can see why LED lights were such a game changer for you guys.

The question I have is what LED lights should I buy?  I originally wanted to make up super strings with several different colors of lights, but am wondering if the RGB stands or Pixel strands would be the best way to go.  There would be less lights to purchase and hang and I would be able to have any color I want.  I'm trying to research all of the different types, but am quite confused with all the different reference numbers with the strands.  Is there a guide out there some where or a preferred strand to buy?

Thanks in advance for all the help!

Dale P.

Hey Dale,

First of all welcome to Planet Christmas!  I have all those same questions about RGC/pixel/etc.  Let me give you a website where you can get more information.  There is a forum http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com that is all about building your own stuff.  I think it might be just what you are looking for.  Once you get there click on the "wiki" link and there is a lot of information about all kinds of Christmas stuff including RGB/pixel stuff.  There are a lot of folks who are members of both forums.

On 2/3/2017 at 2:38 PM, Dale P said:

Here are a few pictures of my work shop.

Wow--what a shop!  Thanks for sharing the pictures!

TED

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Thanks for the link, looks like some good reading.  I will have to join that chat site too.  I really want the ability to control all the colors of my lights in the future and think the RGB strands are the way to go for me for most of the lights.  The Pixel lights look really cool, but I'm afraid the programing of them would be too much work.  Plus I don't like the perfect spacing that most people are doing when installing these lights.  I like a more random look of the bulbs.

 

BigDPS, what are you using to control your DMX channels?  I'm guessing the computer?  I use to run a DJ service and was originally thinking of using DMX to control my lights, but now I'm thinking of a LOR set up.  Is there an advantage to using DMX?

This years light show will not be synced to music and mostly a static display.  I did buy a 16 channel chaser board for my mega tree and it will allow me to program custom chases for the tree.  Here is the link to the control board I bought.  http://www.ebay.com/itm/221853428592?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

I also picked up 12 sets of Gemmy App lights for the boarder of the roof line which also allows me to set custom programs of color changing and chases.

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If I understand the question right, you mean what drives my DMX links? I use an ECG DR-4 E.131e box. All powered from my computer using Aurora but will be changing this year for either Vixen or X-Lights.

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I see the DMX boards for LED lights are cheaper to buy then the Light O Rama LED boards.  Not to mention there are a lot of different circuit boards to choose from.  I'm totally into the DIY and have been looking at some of the circuit boards on E-bay this past week.  Seems like there are a ton of different ones to choose.  Are there any other advantages to using DMX for your control?  

I use to have a DJ service and used a control board to run my lights, but it only allowed me to program different scenes and chases.  I couldn't make up programs to sequence the music with the lights, but it still gave me a lot of flexibility to what the lights could do.  

Dale P.

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^^^^^^ You must be using extra big LED's as I had over 51000 LED lights ( regular and ribbon strip) plus a projector, a radio (boom box) and I never tripped my circuit breaker. I should have checked again this year....

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11 hours ago, BigDPS said:

^^^^^^ You must be using extra big LED's as I had over 51000 LED lights ( regular and ribbon strip) plus a projector, a radio (boom box) and I never tripped my circuit breaker. I should have checked again this year....

I think you may be underestimating the amperage draw or, if your display is animated, the 51,000 led's are never all on at once. It's been my experience that the typical draw for a 100 cnt. string of full wave led's runs + - .05 amps.  multiply that by 510 strings of 100 and you come up with around  25.5 amps. That 25.5 amp. draw would not include any drop that may be associated with any long extension cord runs in the display so using the 80% rule I would think it would require  a min. of two fifteen amp. circuits.

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The only way I could get that number to register was to have everything on at one time, just like a static display.

You had me second guessing what I remember seeing so I had to check something out. I just had a 70 count LED string but when I use my Kill-A-Watt meter, I am nowhere near your number of .05 amp draw. In fact, it is so small it doesn't even show on the meter! I took a picture to show the proof. In comparison, I have a 9.5 watt LED household bulb and that one registers 8 watts whereas the string didn't register anything, either in the amp or watt settings.

 

So that is why my number stands. I always found my display from being fairly low amperage draw just because of the meter I had put on. The day I will be close at 80%load on my 15 amp, will be the time to either call it quits or add a new panel just for the display.

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I also have a Kilo watt meter and it doesn't seem to work very well with really small loads.  Try plugging is several strings and then divide the results with the number of strings you plugged in.  Is there a tag on the lights?  What does it read for current draw? 

Dale P.

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I plugged in a few sets of icans to my kill a watt meter and they read 39 watts.  Three sets together read 120 watts.  Then I tried a small LED star that I have and it couldn't read the small load.  I would defiantly try several strings on your meter and see what it says.

Dale P.

 

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I don't think any of these inexpensive meters are that accurate when reading really small loads. That being said, using the two meters I have I consistently get a reading of between .03 -.05 per 100 cnt. string of LED's and .32 -.36 per 100 cnt. string of incandescent mini lights. I calculate load based on the higher of the readings for safety sake. I also check the draw at the power source not at the point of use which will add to real use  accuracy. Using the lower of the two readings, .03, you are still looking at 15.3 amps for 51,000 lights.

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If you open up this spreadsheet and look at the Light Inventory Manager tab you will see all the different lights, colors, and size I use.  I used a Kill o watt meter to get the readings it might help calculating how much power you can expect to use.  You will notice there is a power difference between brands and between colors.

light controler.xlsm

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I just checked the same string with my tried true calibrated Fluke 88 Multi-meter set on amperage setting and it showed me 21 mili-amps draw. I would say I have the cheapest (and they look cheap) LED on the block.  Having said that, I admit technically I should have more amps draw but that's what my display is drawing. However, the strings I have don't match what they are supposed to draw according to their specs on the sticker. The string I used as a test says it draws .04 amps but in real life, it is almost half of what they wrote.

 

I will have to check again this year when I re set the display up.

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3 hours ago, scottblakeman35 said:

If you open up this spreadsheet and look at the Light Inventory Manager tab you will see all the different lights, colors, and size I use.  I used a Kill o watt meter to get the readings it might help calculating how much power you can expect to use.  You will notice there is a power difference between brands and between colors.

light controler.xlsm

Thanks Scott. Very handy reference.

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