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Thread: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    Hi folks,

    While not strictly holiday lighting related, I figured some of you might take interest in this project as it uses the same components and systems that make up our shows.

    Background
    My family and I moved into our new (to us) house a little over a year ago and have made a few minor improvements since we have been here. One of the additions to our backyard was to add solar pathway lights around the perimeter to improve visibility at night. My wife picked out the fixtures from the local Orchard Supply and was quite happy with the design aesthetic. About six months later the lights started to fail, and now only about 30% of them still function. I took a look inside many of the failed units and found either water intrusion and the resultant corrosion (highest percentage), a bad battery or failure of the IC that controls the battery charging and LED. I attempted to repair a number of the units that had a bad battery and re-water-proofed the top of the light where the solar cell is located. These too eventually failed. I then spoke with my wife about replacing the lights with something more reliable, but she wanted something that looks exactly the same as the old lights, which I have simply been unable to find in anything other than the original failure-prone solar version.

    I discovered DIYC earlier this year, and it has opened up a whole world of new lighting possibilities. With this new perspective, I started thinking about converting the pathway lights to RGB pixels. This would put out a lot more light per fixture, add some fun to backyard activities and would be a great geeky project to get me started on pixels in the off season before the start of holiday prep in what is to be my first year doing blinky-flashy.

    I did a lot of research to evaluate the options and now have the major elements worked out my design. I also will attempt to overcome some of the original light fixtures shortcomings. My initial design and budget were approved by the wife unit, so I got cracking.

    The Original Layout






    Stock Solar Light Fixture Teardown (Part 1)



    Last edited by Setarcos; 07-20-2015 at 08:03 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    Stock Solar Light Fixture Teardown (Part 2)










  3. #3
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    Pros and Cons of the Stock Fixture

    Pro
    • Constructed of glass and austenitic stainless steel with a cast aluminum stake.
    • High WAF


    Con
    • Thin steel tube can be easily bent (kids, lawnmower, wire trimmer, etc...)
    • Vertical support insufficient resulting in many fixtures leaning to one side
    • Gaps around solar panel on the top allow moisture in
    • Uses non-standard thread pitch on aluminum stake

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    Some of this was started by user 'Timon' but he seems to have been MIA for quite some time. He was even going to get all the fixtures as part of it - sounded neat but not sure if he's still working on it... Sounds like a nice project - would like to do the same some day. Guessing you're a Californian? (fenced in yard, Orchard Supply, etc).
    Brian

    Christmas in San Jose! on Facebook

    Ignorance is Temporary - Stupidity is Forever...

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by budude View Post
    Some of this was started by user 'Timon' but he seems to have been MIA for quite some time. He was even going to get all the fixtures as part of it - sounded neat but not sure if he's still working on it... Sounds like a nice project - would like to do the same some day. Guessing you're a Californian? (fenced in yard, Orchard Supply, etc).
    Yea, I saw Timon's project and used some of his ideas in my project. FYI: I'm the other Brian in San Jose (we are a little over a mile from each other) ;)

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    Wiring

    I found both ends of an old 1" gas line that had been used for a spa or pool some time in the history of our house, but was cut and plugged what looks like an eternity ago. I decided this was the best way to get the signalling and power wiring out to the backyard lights. To leave some room for expansion, I ran the other end of the wires into a CG-1000 enclosure that can hold a bit more than what I originally plan to use. As far as wiring, I ran two direct-burial rated Cat-6 cables and 14 gauge landscape wire for low voltage power.

    Pre-run walkthrough


    Since the original gas pipe had been cut just above the level of the sidewalk, this made things a little more difficult. I used this adaptor (first sanding down the barbs a bit) with a bit of silicone sealant to keep it watertight to re-connect.


    Dry fitting

    Pulling the wire

    I added another pull string, just in case


    Last edited by Setarcos; 07-20-2015 at 09:27 PM. Reason: Added video

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    Finishing Touches on the Wire




    The CG-1000 needed to be modified a bit to accommodate the 1" water tight fitting

    Just as I was re-burying the conduit and re-routing some old sprinkler valve wiring, I found the old romex power wire for the pool/spa. I definitely will not be re-using this.


    All done until the rest of the wiring, controller and square pixels arrive


    Post-run walkthrough
    Last edited by Setarcos; 07-20-2015 at 09:29 PM. Reason: Added Video

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    I think I may have found a passable alternative to using the original stainless steel tube alone. An 8" x 1/2" PVC pipe seems like it was made to fit inside, and would provide more than enough room for the wiring. It also would work for the standard low voltage lighting fixtures/stakes that use 1/2" NPT fittings. This will require two major alterations of the original fixtures: Widening of the hole in the glass to 7/8" and replacing the original ground stake.




    I ordered a set of diamond hole saws and will attempt to widen the hole in the glass later this week when they arrive.
    Last edited by Setarcos; 07-21-2015 at 02:22 AM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    The 7/8" diamond hole saw showed up today, so I decided to give it a try. I started widening the original hole in the stainless steel cup on the bottom of the glass assembly (with regular drill bits), but the cup popped off in the process. It appears that it was only friction fit, but the gunk between it and the glass was holding it in place. This is actually a good thing because now it is much easier to work with (and clean).


    Cutting the hole in the glass went pretty well, but it took quite a while. I had to be extra careful not to push too hard with the handle on the drill press as the glass is fairly fragile. Despite my best effort, I still got a little chipping around the edges, but this will be hidden once the stainless steel cup is re-installed.


    Everything reassembled (minus the stainless steel cup which still needs to have it's hole widened a bit more)

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Project: Pixel Garden Pathway Light Conversion

    It took a while to expand the size of the hole on the stainless steel cup on the bottom of the glass. The thinness of the material and the odd size made it tricky to clamp, so I had to come up with a jig to make sure it didn't get damaged in the process of drilling.


    The hole on the right was there originally and is used for drainage if water somehow gets inside. I am planning to leave a gap around the bottom of the glass cup between the hole and the PVC pipe to allow water to drain out if need be.

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