Programmable Christmas lights

I created my own “Pi HAT” to control the one string over my garage. Then I discovered this: “Falcon PiCap - PixelController, LLC” Falcon PiCap - PixelController, LLC

I’m using the software for it, and it is compatible with xLights so you can build out the whole show.

I meant to get them up along my whole gutter line, but that’s just another of the many unfinished projects around here :slight_smile:

Also there’s one spot that’s only accessible by about 15 feet of ladder, and ever since I had one about that big slip out from under me, breaking both wrists, I generally don’t do ladders anymore!!

It’ll happen someday though.

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@jeffeb3 5v or 12v?

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dang it. :frowning: I’m betting I misspelled something in my search, which is why I didn’t get any results.

I went with the ESPixelStick. It will run both the espixelstick firmware and the wled one. These firmwares support the E1.31 protocol and work with Falcon player and all the different sequencers. I only went with Vixen 3 because I used the older version years ago.

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I would think the 12V would work better on a big project like that.

I was asking what you used.

I haven’t even bought the parts. I am just looking at it and imagining it.

I went ahead and chose the 5V LEDs. I plan on running a string of 18/2 along the entire length of the lights. I bought the wider 16mm channel that you can find on Amazon. This should give plenty of room to run the LED strip across the top of the channel and the wire along the bottom. That gives me 6mm for wire for pigtails or any soldering I need to do. The plan is to inject voltage at the start and rear of each strip of lights.

What I’m not looking forward to is standing on the top of the ladder trying to solder wires to the strips after they’ve been stuck into the channel. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out a better way. I’m hoping when the channel comes in and I start playing with it, I can figure something better out.

One thing I’m thinking of is taking tape and temporarily taping all the strips in place. Then when I have all the lengths cut and I know how much wire I need to hop from one string to the next, I can then take them all down, solder the strips together with the power wire, and then have the wife help hold strips as I pull the backing off and stick them in place.

I watched some videos on youtube of how others installed theirs, but no one talked about that part. They show you how to solder it, and how to install the channel, but not the actual process they used.

Wish me luck. I hope to work on all this on Saturday. If I can get the LEDs installed, I’ll be happy.

Luckily, my house is just a 1 story. So it shouldn’t be too horrible.

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Ugh. This is frustrating.

I’m having a voltage/current issue. 2/3rds of the LEDs light up just fine. I have a espixelstick at the start right next to the 5v line. Then I have 412 pixels. I ran a 18/2 power line parallel with the LEDs and I inject more voltage every 150 pixels or so.

Then I have another pixel stick with 226 pixels after it.

I’m using a 5v 60A power supply.

The second controller wasn’t seeing enough voltage to boot.

I went up into the attic and ran a separate 16/2 power line directly from the power supply to the second controller/pixels. The controller was then able to see just enough voltage to boot (4.7v), but as soon as I told it to turn LEDs on, the voltage would drop too much.

The distance from the power supply to the second controller is about 40-50’ maybe?

I’m guessing I need a larger wire to go to the second controller.

Looks like it you line drop is huge at 5V. can you do 12V?

V drops significantly with load

I’ve been running the same calculator and seeing the same.

The LEDs are 5v. I could do 12v to get power to where I need it, but I’d have to convert it to 5v once it gets there. If I go with a 12V power supply, I could try to use one of these under the eave of the house to get my 5V

Well. that one won’t work. Requires 12V min input.

Can you just get your power supply closer? Jump it through a vent or something?

I’m thinking I’m going to end up sticking a second power supply on the front porch. I was trying to keep the power supply in the garage.

If I try to move the power supply I have, then I end up having to run power back to the start of the first string.

Here’s a picture of the LEDs controlled by the first controller. This was taken last night before I wired up the rest of the LEDs to the left in this picture. The garage door points out the right of the house in this picture and is where the power supply is.

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I’m not experienced in these things but I assumed you could just cut the +&- at some point and use another power supply, leaving the signal wire to run the logic but separate power circuits?

Luckily it’s easier than that. The data line is already split where the second controller is wired in.

I just ordered a small 12A 5V power supply and water-proof enclosure. I should be able to fit a small wifi switch in there for turning it on/off the same time the other power supply is turned on/off. I can use my home assistant to turn them both on at the same time. I think the enclosure is small enough I can mount it under the eave next to the controller. Then I just have to run an AC line to it, which there’s an outlet on the front porch.

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Yeah, running 12V and using a buck converter to get 5V where you need it would have worked. They are cheap on Amazon, and can work on anything slightly above output. So 5.5V would be ok. They usually have a little trim out to adjust the output in case 5.5 or 6V would work better. The truck would be to get enough amperage rating and to get one that is dust and water proof.

That looks pretty sweet though.

I’ve been thinking about this more. I’m thinking I can move the big power supply to the porch. Then I can feed 5v in between the 3rd and 4th string. I think there should be enough voltage on the far right to still power the first controller. Then I can power the second controller from a separate line. I have enough extra wire in the system to try and see.


Played with power a bit this morning. Looks like I’m going to end up with 2 power supplies.

I moved the big power supply over to the front porch. I measured out enough power wire to get from the second controller to the other side of the front porch. with the 16 gauge wire, it was still just enough voltage drop to keep the controller from running.

So I moved the power supply closer to the controller, cut the wires shorter, and wired it up there. It ran perfect.

Unfortunately, with this test, I also ruled out being able to put the PS on the porch for the first controller. There’d be way too much power drop for the first controller to boot. I wish I had calculated this out a little better before doing the install. I could have ran the LEDs on the right half of the house the opposite way and had both controllers under the front porch roof.

The sequencer would have taken care of the strips running in opposite directions.

After doing my test, I went back and measured the voltage at controller one. It sits at 4.7v idle.

Thinking about this a bit more, I guess I ‘could’ have gotten a variable voltage power supply and just kept adjusting the V up until it was a stable 5v at the controller going through the attic. Not sure I want that much current running through the attic, though… and I’ve already pulled most of the wire back out of the attic to use elsewhere. I left some up there I might be able to use as a pull string.

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Alright. Did more research. Did more math. Learned more stuff. Ordered more toys…

In addition to the additional 5v power supply, I also went ahead and picked up some 12g wire, a 24v PS and a 5v 15a buck converter. One of the forums I’ve been reading says that a lot of people will run 12/24PS and then smaller buck converters at each controller.

It’ll be fun running the larger wire through the attic, but we’ll see if this works. If the 24v power supply doesn’t work, then I’ll still have the separate 5v supply I can hook up.

The real reason for trying to run the power all the way back to the garage is to keep visible wires to a minimum. A dedicated PS on the porch means I’ll have an extension cord running to it across the porch. Even shoving it against the edge of the wall will reduce the WAF of the install. To small of a WAF means adding more to the house in the future will be less likely. It also means I can go back to using 1 wifi switch to turn the entire display on/off.

We’ll see how this plays out. I’ll let ya’ll know what works.

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Hopefully, you will try to wire it up before installing it in the attic.

I think you should be able to get by with an even smaller gauge wire if you’re bumping up the voltage. Because the voltage drop won’t be as big of a deal, and the current should be less.

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