Questions/comments/whatever about this extravaganza - send Alek a public Email
It took about 4 days (working ~5 hours/day) to get all the lights out, and at least double that amount of time to write the thousand+ lines of Perl Code & misc. HTML, and then integrate it all togather into the webcam/webcontrol demo talked about below. BTW, we got 'em all down in ONE day ... but it was a long day. So it's a lotta work deploying this whole production - we might take a break next year, so enjoy 'em this year!
You may recall in years past (and as you can imagine) that balancing the power/amperage was quite a challenge. Over the summer, I installed some gfci outlets directly from the breaker box to an outside panel. While this helped greatly with the power issue, even a few more circuits would have been nice. So in the future, I might enable the two "standby" circuits in the panel above, and I especially need some power on the East side of the house, so I may consider "tapping into" the 40-amp/220-volt Air Conditioner fuse box ... needless to say, I don't think I'll need my A/C while the Xmas lights are up! ;-)
Since I wired the above with X10 outlets, all lights (except one set of indoor novelties) are auto-controlled ... so when it auto-fires-on at 4:30, the neigherhood lights dim a bit ... and then return back to normal at 10:00PM! An even cooler (nerdier?) trick is using the X10 remote control to make 'em go on-an-off for the kids ("make Frosty come back please"). BTW, this turns out to be pretty handy also when you are deploying 'em for testing purposes. Hint: ALWAYS have your lights plugged in and ON when laying 'em out, so you know right away if something goes out.
I said last year that doing a demo of how a webcam
and webcontrol would work with 22,000 xmas lights would be cool.
I.e. show how one could use a
wireless WebCam to take real-time pictures of the lights and then even
demonstrate web control of the lights - you could turn them ON & OFF by
clicking on a web page, and see the results real-time.
This would be an interesting test/study of human behavior, not only
for the remote web users, but also for the neighbors and myself if
there is a lotta lights flashing on and off.
Check out the christmas_webcam and even turn the lights ON & OFF via the web in real-time! ;-)
BTW, the folks at http://blinkenlights.de/ web-controlled the lights of an entire building!
Here is the breakdown of how the lights are deployed with amperage measured from a multi-meter: X10# WEB Outlet GFCI Fuse Amps Lights Description 1 NO Garage NO GFCI Garage 0.2 7 Driveway Lights 1 NO Front Switch NO GFCI Front Lights 1.0 300 Lower Red Bells 2 TRY IT! Garage NO GFCI Garage 8.9 2,000 Blue lights and ALL Left Side 2 TRY IT! Gas Meter Bathroom Bathroom 6.0 1,800 Chimney, Upper Icicles 2 TRY IT! Back Deck Basement Basement 8.2 3,100 Front Junipers and Fence Wraps 2 TRY IT! Upper Deck Master Bedroom M-B lights 9.3 2,200 Garage Icicles, Green Tree, Upstairs Novelties & Red Bell 3 TRY IT! Panel-1 Panel-1 Panel-1 11.0 3,200 House Junipers & Column Wraps 3 TRY IT! Panel-2 Panel-2 Panel-2 11.5 3,100 Snowman White Background 4 TRY IT! Panel-3 Panel-3 Panel-3 11.5 3,200 Snowman Accrutamants, Santa, Star 4 TRY IT! Panel-4 Panel-4 Panel-4 10.0 3,000 Right Tall Tree, Back Wraps and Purple Lights TIMER NO Scary Room NO GFCI Living/Dining 1.0 200 Downstairs novelties TOTALS 78.6 22,100 (approximate ;-) Note: For mini-lights, a ballpark is 3.5 millamps (0.42 Watts) per bulb, but there are different voltage lights, so the ratio varies a little bit above. Plus those that are blinkers/chasers pull a little bit less.So the total current draw is just under 80 amps, compared to last years 60 or so. I didn't quite get to 10 KiloWatts - darn! ;-) So suffice to say that the power meter spins like mad when I turn 'em all on. And since I leave 'em on from 4:30-10:00PM, that's about 70 KiloWatt-Hours a day, times about 30 days is over 2 MegaWatt-Hours. Would you like to pay my electrical bill for me?!? ;-)
UPDATE: thanx to David Kovsky, these lights are wind-powered;
click here to read the whole story on that and donate/sign-up for the cause!
And there was a bit of press about this, not only in the local paper, but also on the other side of the world - so click here to read about Alek's 15 seconds of fame (or is that 15 MegaWatts! ;-)
Oh yeah, a "few" extension cords were needed to tie this all togather - I forgot to count when putting 'em out, but a ballpark estimate would be about 50 cords (2-50', 3-25', 20-15', 5-12', 20-9', and several 3-1 plugs). totalling 700+ feet.
So ... if you happen to be flying into DIA, take a look down about 30 miles
West/NorthWest and wave to Frosty! ;-)
Send Santa a public Email about this extravagnaza!
P.S. These pictures were shot with a Canon G3 Digital Camera (4 Mega-pixels with lots of nice features) which is a leading-edge pro-consumer digicam and is a real treat to use. However, despite various contortions, I wasn't able to get it to capture the colors in the snowman as well as they are in real life without really underexposing the shot (although the Canon did much better than some other digicams I tried). This is a tough shot as there is a lot of contrast and light range. Pictures were shot from on top of a ladder using the timer to minimize shake. Camera settings were "default" with no zoom (I actually could have use more wide-angle), F2.0 aperature, 1/6 second shutter speed (several stops underexposed), ISO 50 equivelent.
BTW, the top picture is actually a composite/merged picture of two different shots - I did a so-so job last year and a few folks figured it out ... but I seriousely doubt you can tell where they are joined this year.
Click here to see a closeup of Frosty the Snowman and here's a map of the world. As noted above, it was a challenge to capture the "glow" of the lights without washing out the colors - this picture was shot at 1/30 second shutter speed. So you can see most of the colors: purple hat, blue eyes, orange (small traffic cone with pile of lights inside) nose, multi-color garland, purple buttons, orange/purple rope lights for arms, and the broom (or is it a shovel?) is yellow/gold lights. But the overall glow/sparkle of the lights is gone with the faster shutter speed.
Click here to see some pictures from a digicam shootout on
22,000 Xmas lights: Canon G3 vs. Nikon 5700 ... with HP612 tossed in for good measure.