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random_rodder
11-03-2009, 10:14 AM
Hey guys, I had an interesting question asked of me the other day. The first week of December, my daughter's Girl Scout troop will be in the local parade. I was asked to pull the trailer and.... to wire and sync a small light display.

My Helix (hopefully) will be in use at home by then. However, I have a 595 that will be idle this year. I doubt I can get a power inverter strong enough to run a PC and a bunch (maybe 30 strands) of lights, so I'm looking at borrowing my dad's generator. Has anyone ever tried to run one from a generator?

I'm not real sure I want to try to run a computer from a generator.

sjwilson122
11-03-2009, 10:51 AM
I did some testing on one of my grinches and a generator for the same purpose this year (my work is doing a float in the Christmas parade here.) so far using switching power supplies on the generator I have had no issues. As long as the generator motor runs pretty smooth I don't think this would be a big issue.

random_rodder
11-03-2009, 11:48 AM
I was kinda hoping that was the case. I'd hate to let the Girl Scouts down... might not get offered any Thin Mints next year, lol...

budude
11-03-2009, 12:22 PM
Are you sure it's OK to run a generator on the float? It's possible they might not allow it for safety reasons. How long is the parade? Just wondering if a laptop would suffice for the show length? Also if you have LED lights some inverters running off a couple car batteries might provide enough power for the lights.

Just thowing out ideas...

dirknerkle
11-03-2009, 01:23 PM
I should think that a laptop, 12v automotive battery and a nice inverter would solve it without the generator. I doubt that you'll need a lot of amps, and $100 buys an inverter that would probably provide all the current you need for the hour or two you'll need for the parade.

This is how most of our floats are configured for the annual Holidazzle parade of lights in Minneapolis -- it's a nightly event for about 3 consecutive weeks in December.

Ronp
11-03-2009, 05:44 PM
I should think that a laptop, 12v automotive battery and a nice inverter would solve it without the generator. I doubt that you'll need a lot of amps, and $100 buys an inverter that would probably provide all the current you need for the hour or two you'll need for the parade.

This is how most of our floats are configured for the annual Holidazzle parade of lights in Minneapolis -- it's a nightly event for about 3 consecutive weeks in December.

this would be the easy way to do it
1000 watt converter will run about 6 amps easy thats 18 or so 100 ct minis

I know it will run more but it becomes less reliable when you try to max out the converter
8.33Amp x 120 =999.6 watt You will be tripping the circut breaker on the converter is you flash all on oll off

BuzzKill
11-03-2009, 06:14 PM
Big inverters are CHEAP! Even costco sells them this time of year as people stock up on emergency stuff for winter. Do NOT plug it into the power adapter in the dash board. Anything over about 100-150 watts must be wired directly to the battery. Other than that... a couple things. You could run the laptop off the laptop battery for the duration of the parade and then you can keep that load off the battery. So leave it plugged in until show time to top off the battery, then as the parade starts unplug it. That is 60-90 watts for lights instead of the laptop.

Sounds like a great idea really and should work great! Oh .. don't forget your audio system!

sjwilson122
11-03-2009, 09:09 PM
I had two concerns about using the inverter, thats why I tried the generator.

1- My max. wattage load was going to be about 500 watts if everything was on. I have a 750 watt inverter that is about 85 percent efficient. to get 500 watts out of it I would have to pull about 575 watts out of the battery. That equates out to about 50 amps out of a car battery, dont think they will last long at that level. My average load is going to be about 300 watts which is still pulling 345 watts from the battery for an average load of almost 29 amps. The parade here lasts for about an hour and a half so I didn't want to try my luck and run out of juice part way through.

2- Most cheap inverters use modified sinewave technology which is not very clean and some electronics do not tolerate it well, most transformers run much hotter with them. I am using a ren-c with mine and did not want to risk any damage as I still need to use it for my personal display. I was also concerned about zc as the ren-c would see stepped pulses rather than sinewave.

Generators put out true sinewave. The two I have stay within 10% of rated voltage and frequency while running as long as I stay within their wattage rating. Since my small generator will run about 4 hours on a tank of gas and my concerns listed above I went with the generator.

Maybe someone here can let me know if my concerns are valid.

random_rodder
11-03-2009, 09:17 PM
Are you sure it's OK to run a generator on the float?

Well, I can't speak for all parade floats, but, the majority of them around here are running one type of generator or another if lighting an music is needed. Of course, I'm also in an agricultural area where they mount generators on anything that can't move by itself anyhow...

Matt_Edwards
11-03-2009, 10:10 PM
it is not quite the same scenario, but inverters are banned on Building Sites here in NSW, Australia. The reasoning is simple, with the output isolated from the input, it can float to a very high potential. One did, and had very bad consequences.
With correct earthing to the trainer chassis and possibly a chain under nether dragging on the ground, you should be OK.
I would probably do the same for the generator, so the whole trailer doesn't get statically charged.

Cheers
Matt

random_rodder
12-08-2009, 11:15 AM
Well, last night was the parade. And, even though it was not forecasted, it rained... figure the odds. At any rate, I was able to get 20 channels and fours songs running on the float. When it started raining, things got a little interesting with misfires and whatnot. And having plastic bags covering the PC (it mounted a 15" LCD to the side of a mixi-ATX HP PC) made it really interesting for my duaghter to run the show (had to do it manually since we got there late and I didn't have time to program the show to run auto matically). Overall, the PC and 595 powered by a generator worked very well. Not all bad considering I didn't even get the trailer to set up until Sunday at noon...

dirknerkle
12-08-2009, 11:21 AM
RR, I admire your heroic efforts to make it really special. It was -- even though some things didn't go according to the plan.

Good job!!! There will be some really wonderful memories to share in the future!!! :cool:

random_rodder
12-09-2009, 11:21 PM
Thanks. I know all of the girls did have fun, though I think they got tired of the same four songs over a 90 minute parade, lol. My daughter did throw in a song or two from last years show; while not sync'd to the float it was a welcome break. I heard hundreds of 'How'd they do that' coming from the crowd, so it made some impact for their GS troop.

I told my wife and the other GS leader that next year, I want the trailer 3 weeks before the parade (I had asked repeatedly for it since Thanksgiving) so I won't be as stressed out!!!

All in all, it was well worth it. The parade rules stated you had to have at least 500 lights - we had almost 2000 on the float and my F-250 was decked out in several strings of rope lights, plus a Rudolph nose up front. And if nothing else, it made me make the decision to NOT sell my remaining Olsen board - too useful!!!

budude
12-10-2009, 03:13 AM
Congratulations! Sounds like you were quite a hit and everyone enjoyed it!