Sorry in advance for the long post.
Reading some of the posts on here after Christmas it was good to find out Iím not the only one that is his own worst critic. Like someone said, everyone else just looks at it and says ďThat looks wonderful!Ē.
I look at it and I think ďThat channel is stuck on, that channel isnít working, that isnít timed as well as it seemed while I was programming it, that channel shouldnít be on now, I need MORE lights.Ē
So here are some of my 1st year experiences and thoughts for next year. This year I had 32 channels and Iím using a Helix Network Controller, Vastelec FM02, and 8 SSRneons. I have to say that Greg has always been a big help with the Helix and is always ready to answer questions (Iíve had plenty) and help with some minor troubleshooting of the Helix.
1) Channel stuck on Ė I moved the opto-isolator in the SSRneon from the stuck on channel to another channel and the problem followed it. Next year I will have spare opto-isolators and spare SSRneons.
2) Channel not working Ė This problem was actually due to the light string not working. This even though they were brand new lights on my new light pillar. Next year, Iíll have some spare light strings, to try minimizing the inevitable light string troubleshooting. But this type of problem is just to be expected.
3) Blow molds tipping over Ė Planning to weigh them down, maybe fill the bottom with some concrete or make a wooden base that can be staked. (Iím thinking giant weebles.)
4) GFCI breaker tripping when it rained Ė Iíll try wrapping the plug connections in plastic and isolating wire frames as suggested in another thread.
5) FM transmitter hiss Ė I finally fixed this by installing an in-line headphone volume control. The FM transmitter input from the controller on-board MP3 player was being over driven.
6) After my GFCI breaker trip it took a couple of days before I could power my controller. Then I thought my controller wasnít working. Basic troubleshooting, found all voltages OK, status lights OK. Very frustrated. Turned out the problem was a bad on-board battery that resulted in the clock loosing time. So the controller wasnít starting at 5PM, since it thought it was only 1PM. Reset the time and back in operation. Ė Just a lesson that hopefully will help someone else someday.
7) Not enough sequences. Ė Well, I found I need to finalize my display earlier, spend more time sequencing and quit striving for perfection. Iím a real believer now about how long it takes to sequence. This will be even harder next year, since Iíll have more channels (going from 32 to 96) and therefore the sequencing will take longer.
8) So in a nut shell. Ė More planning, earlier building, earlier sequencing, spares on-hand, preventive measures (plastic wrapping, stakes, weights, etc.).
1) Iím using the TA-200 enclosures for the SSRneons. The cable entrances seem pretty full with the 5 wires (4 pairs for the outputs and 1 pair for the 120VAC in) and I canít fit an RJ45 plug through the opening. Does anyone else have that problem and if so, how do you solve it?
2) For a 15í-18í mega tree, how many channels are usually used?
3) Any feedback on SSR and CAT5 cable testers?
This has been a great hobby. My wife and daughter are into it also. My great helpers and best cheerleaders. My wife is a great bargain hunter and luckily she helps find lights and other display items for our display.
I know I'm in trouble though, when Jan. 2nd comes along and I'm already planning for next Christmas. My name is Bryan Lantrip and I have a problem.