On one of my forums, a user by the name of RobG created a 10W RGB pixel flood light that fits into a commercial floodlight enclosure (which you can find on his Tindie store). I thought that these would be great to use on my house for various holidays.
This was a pretty straight forward project since RobG did most of the heavy lifting. Buy some of RobG’s boards, some 10W pixel LEDs, outdoor flood light enclosures, and some wire/cables to wire everything up. Solder up the flood drivers following Rob’s great documentation. I recommend doing one to make sure you are putting everything where it is supposed to go, then assembly lining the rest of the units to make it go faster. Test the boards before putting them into the enclosures
For cabling, I used some 18AWG 3-wire cable and paired it with an external 18AWG cable since we needed 4 wires total (power, ground, data-in, data-out). For connectors I used waterproof 4-pin truck connectors similar to these. If I had to do it over again, I would probably buy the connectors with pigtails already installed. Wire up the connectors to the boards so you know the 4 different wires’ purpose.
After popping open the flood lights, you need to rip out the light that it came with. Set these aside as they could be used for other projects in the future. Install the new boards and feed the wire through the exit hole (needs to be done before adding the connector). Try to reuse as much of the thermal paste as you can to help the metal sink the heat generated by the pixel. You may need to do things like add some electrical tape to part of the board to keep it from shorting out, all these depends on which enclosure exactly you bought.
Once sealed up, I then created a long wire that ran the width of my house with “drops” on it of mating connectors to the floods. With those in place, you can then test the whole system out.
To control the system, I went away from my trusted PIC and ventured into Arduino land. I did this for a few reasons: 1) the insanely cheap cost of the Arduino boards and their clones (<$2 for reall small ones), 2) the pre-built FastLED library for controlling pixels that runs on an Arduino would be a time-saver, and 3) the chance to try something new.
The Arduino in particular I went with was the Uno. After playing around with it a bit, it was pretty easy to control the lights using the FastLED library. What I ended up with was 3 DIP switches to control what holiday I am running (or if I am running in test mode). Because of the 3 switches, I can have 8 (2^3) different settings. On bootup, the Arduino reads the switches to figure out what holiday it is running that night. My current options are:
0 – test mode
1 – Halloween
2 – Autumn
3 – Christmas
4 – Easter
5 – Patriotic (red, white, & blue)
6 – future use
7 – future use
In “test mode” the LEDs will flash red-green-blue so I can make sure all pixels are working and working at full brightness, this is VERY useful. The other holidays use a mixture of colors to set the mood for that occasion.
The lights will fade into their colors in a pattern down the string. They will stay lit for 3 minutes, then fade down, then fade back up into a different color (sliding the pattern down one). It will repeat this forever. The code can be found here.
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