Holiday light time…

November 28, 2004 at 9:11 pm

After hosting Thanksgiving at our cabin (and going up to Stevens Pass for fun, where there was a total of 3″ of snow on the ground (9″ now) – not quite enough to start skiing), we came back Saturday morning to put up our holiday lights.

I wrote about the system last year, so I’m not going to repeat myself.

I’d hoped to have time to get another electronic system added to the mix, but that’s unlikely to happen given the amount of time left. I’ve added a few “globe balls” from last year, and I’m going to be adding about 350 LED lights to one of the trees, but that’s about it.

I really like the LED lights, but I’m amazed at how hard they are to find. Lowes had a few boxes for about a week, and I haven’t found them anywhere else yet. They are pricey (more than $10 per string), but they are rugged, will last forever, and use less than 10% of the energy of the miniature bulbs. They also have a clearer color than standard bulbs, and when you compare them to commercial quality strings, they aren’t that expensive.

My current system uses two dedicated 15 amp circuits. On the left one, I have about 2200 lights (not all are on all the time because of the animation), and on the right one, about 1800 lights (also not on all the time).¬†At 1/2 watt each, that means I’m pulling 1100 watts on the left and 900 on the right. While I’m not worried about tripping any breakers (yet), I do have to keep calculating how much power I’m using. LEDs use so little power that you really don’t have to worry about power use – you could put over 35,000 LED lights on a single circuit.

The microcontroller-controlled lights all have built-in clocks, so they repeat on a 24-hour cycle once you turn them on. The rest of the lights run off of common appliance timers, which are waterproofed in high-tech white plastic kitchen garbage bags. Those have worked well over the years, but I have a couple of box-mounted timers that will feed outdoor outlets for the future – that will make things a fair bit easier to set up.