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Thread: My Plan - My First Year

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
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    Default My Plan - My First Year

    This is my very first year doing a light display with controllers. I did quite a bit of research, watched countless videos, done some proof of concept testing and all because at the beginning of this month I decided I wanted to try this.

    I was hoping to get some feedback on my overall plan as well as some of the details. Every year I've only ever done warm white lights. So it's what I have the most of. I'm really trying to do this on a budget, so I think most of my new light purchasing will occur after the season is over.

    Here's my general setup:
    Vixen 3
    2 - Arduino Based controllers using 2-8 Channel Sainsmart Mechanical Relay Boards each (16 Channels per controller)

    I have all of my normal lights that I put up every year: icicle lights, column wrappings, two 20 foot trees that I wrap, quite a few bushes that get netted
    And this year I'm adding 8 24" mini trees, which I've already started building.

    The plan is to build each one into a CG-1500 box using extension cords, (like the light o rama setup). Because outlets seem like a less efficient use of space and won't easily be weather proofed.

    Here are some of my questions, I understand the SSR are the standard for a cheaper build, however, while next year I'll probably do those - the mechanical relays are well under $10 for a 8 channels delivered in a few days. And because I waited until November before I decided to do this, sourcing overseas won't allow them to arrive in time.
    But, what are the limitations or problems with using mechanical relays instead?

    As far as using extension cords out the bottom instead of outlets, is there anything I should be worried about or be concerned about? I'm going to be wiring the to terminal distribution blocks to keep them mounted and then use strain relief brackets to insure they won't get ripped out of the box.

    Please let me know if there is anything I should be concerned about, or if there's anything that I didn't consider?

    Sorry this is so long, this is my first post in this community.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
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    Default Re: My Plan - My First Year

    My very first year of animation I almost the same setup as you. Only I just did 8 channels. The one thing I found out real quick, when using the mechanical relays was to make sure it was either off or on, as these wont dim and if Vixen tries you will hear the relay acting crazy, mine sounded like bees. You can do this 1 of 2 ways, first would be making sure your sequence only did on/off and no dimming or ramping up or down. Or second which is how I went, modify the arduino script to evaluate the incoming value and set it to either 0 or 255. For me I took incoming values or 127 or less and converted to 0 and 128 or more converted to 255. That kept me from having to modify sequences since I did a lot of copy paste from sequences others had shared.

    No where near a pro at this stuff, just thought I would share my 2 cents worth.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    Default Re: My Plan - My First Year

    Where do you live? Asking for reference of type of weather you will encounter.
    What type of Arduino? I think that an Uno can handle 16 channels. I know that a MEGA can handle 48 channels.
    What sketch are you going to use? If you are not sure, I recommend the Vixctor_PV sketch.
    Are your warm white lights LED or Incandescent?
    I used pigtails connected directly to the SSR output connectors. The pigtail ends were outside the controller box.
    I suggest buying SPT-1 or SPT-2 cable and the appropriate matching Vampire plugs to make your AC cords to run to your lights.
    I have not used mechanical relays but have read of a few instances of pretty rapid failures. I would suggest having at least one spare. You will have to test how fast you could actually cycle them.
    If you average a cycle very 10 seconds for 5 hours per day for 30 days, you will have nearly 50,000 cycles on those relays.

    A couple of pictures of my Arduino MEGA controllers.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Kevin

    2016 - 184 channels of Blinking/Flashing using 4 Arduino MEGAs and cheap home-made props.

  4. Likes caffeinejunky liked this post
  5. #4
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    Default Re: My Plan - My First Year

    I’m in Reno, Nevada. Planning on using 3 wire extension cords with power distribution for ground and neutral, obviously switching on hot. That does sound like a lot of cycles. I’ll get back on the sketch I’m using. But I did a test with some 2 wire extensions and it worked well. But I’m planning on three wire extensions because I already have many three wire extension cords. I’m going to try and keep the two controllers inside either side of my garage door but I’d like the flexibility to move them outside. Thus the cable guard plan.
    Last edited by caffeinejunky; 11-15-2017 at 03:25 PM.

  6. #5
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    Nov 2017
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    Default Re: My Plan - My First Year

    So below is my mockup for the 16 channel arduino controller with solid state relays. Any chance on getting some feedback?

    ArduinoControllerDesign.png

  7. #6
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    Dec 2014
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    Default Re: My Plan - My First Year

    Other than missing a couple of connections of your white and green to the outer white terminal strips, it looks good to me.
    Kevin

    2016 - 184 channels of Blinking/Flashing using 4 Arduino MEGAs and cheap home-made props.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: My Plan - My First Year

    Quote Originally Posted by kev View Post
    Other than missing a couple of connections of your white and green to the outer white terminal strips, it looks good to me.
    Yeah, just saw I didn't bridge those in the mockup. Thanks for the feedback! I do have SSR's on order to replace the mechanical, but they are shipping from China, will hopefully arrive before one of the mechanicals fails.

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