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Dave S

If I were able to start over.............

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Completely new here,but like with any endeavor I can many pitfalls going into this..I have a decent static display but I want to take it to the next level..I have yet to buy my first controller but have dl,ed the software demo and feel even it could be a bit overwhelming to sequence effectively.

   Heck,even with arch,s,the reason I started looking here,there seems to be a wide range of preference.RGB over LED...

  So.....if you had it to do over,how would you start and what would you avoid?

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Looks like you have plenty to work with there so I think your imagination would be the only limitation and I mean that in a nice way. Doing things differently, starting over, if I had the money, then I would buy a bunch of CCR's, CCB's, CCP's, RGB's and the associated control cards for them.

    Sequencing isn't as hard as you might think but it is time consuming and trust me when I say, we are constantly going back and tweaking it to make it look better. Just moments ago, I was reviewing the songs that I did videos of last year, seeing more things that I can make better and will do so in the next day or so. Its a constant process of evolution with the displays vs the technology vs the checkbook. lol, if I was only made of money!

    If you would like, I'll send you a sequence or two to get you thinking and at a minimum, it'll get you thinking but understand that I'm mostly just LED strings and one CCR.

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1st, know the price of new controllers & watch this forum.  They go up for sale at reasonable prices all of the time, but you have to act quickly.  Same is true for lights.  Paying full retail for off the self lights or commercial lights can be expensive - look for bargains and like the controllers watch the forums.

 

To do it over again I might well do RGB, but if I had - it may have been so intimidating that I would have quit.  For that reason use what-ever lights you can get cheap to learn,  Each has it's own use and limitation.

 

Incandescent Lights - Pro: You can build a display for very little $.

                                - Con: More amperage and electrical breakers & panels may be needed as your show grows.

LED - Pro: GREAT for reducing power usage.  I've gone from 14 dedicated breakers down to 5.

        - Con: They don't fade well, may show flicker and may need snubbers built.  Also they don't last as long as advertised.

RGB - Pro: Most versatile of all the lights.  The possibilities are nearly endless.

        - Con: Can be very complicated to learn and more so to "properly" program.  You can pay a lot for CCB/CCR or save a lot with DYI - but remember DYI has a big learning curve.

 

Note:  This year I'll be around 10-15% Incandescent,  75-80% LED & about 10% RGB (First year with RGB).

Edited by Liberty-Laser
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I would spend as much time as possible reading some of the more popular posts in this forum before buying anything for my display.  I made the mistake of buying cases of LED lights from Walmart & Home Depot only to find out from the good people on these boards that they are not dimmable.  I've tucked them into the back corner of the garage in hopes of someday finding a use for them, but I've yet to find a home for them in my display after 10 months of planning & designing.  In all reality, unless someone in my neck of the woods pops up needing them they're probably going to be a several hundred dollar reminder of my haste & ignorance.  Also, I wouldn't be such an SPT bigot.  Being an electrician, I've needlessly invested a small fortune into genuine outdoor rated extension cords in an attempt to adhere to the NEC guidelines.  For the limited time these displays are up, I could've made do with SPT, vamp plugs, and some Scotchkote while putting the extra money into the all-important blinky-flashy stuff instead.     

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Hey SparkDr, I bought a single C9 LED string from Walmart this year and tested it. It worked fine...dims, twinkles, shimmers and so on very smoothly. I can't speak for the rest of theirs though. The only strings I've bought from Home Depot were the "Marha" lights and they are indeed, worthless. So far, everything I've bought from BigLots, works real nice considering they are cheap and this will be the 3rd or 4th year on those lights and only 2nd year using them with LOR. I did buy a couple sets of star LED's from BigLots, one set of which, failed during the season due to water getting into the rectifier circuit. They were replaced with BigLots, hard icycle lights that work fine.

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I use the cheap LEDs for things like arches.  I do limited fading on my arches and those lights are not on long enough to notice much flicker.  I mostly use my arches for chases.

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Like all the guys have said, do a lot of reading, ask questions if you have them (seriously...ask... Everyone here is really cool and will be glad to help), watch for sales. LOR usually has two big ones....the clearance sale usually around end of March (great prices and lowest you'll find, but it's limited supply and the big stuff usually sells out in less than 5 minutes). They have a summer sale, too...no supply limit on this one, so it won't sell out. There are also a couple of main companies for lights. CDI is probably the most popular here, also if I remember correctly, you join the planet Christmas forums and stuff and you get a discount with CDI. They're a very good company and stand behind their product...LOR stands behind their product, too. Two great companies and have always been a pleasure to do business with. Great customer service!

Display wise...start with what you have and grow from there. I am in process of changing from incandescent to led. I've been doing this over the past few years....this year was probably my biggest...and it's not cheap, but it will save you in the long run. My display is about 65% LED. I'd like to add CCR's and RGB, but it's not in the budget...but it'll happen in the future. Some of the main pro's I've seen with the LED:

I've noticed it's about a 9:1 ratio LED to incandescent

The color on LED won't bleach/fade over the seasons

They last longer

CONS:

They do cost more up front, but, you will replace them a lot less. I think I've only replaced 1% of mine due to failure...and that's on the high end of the scale (1 out of over 100 and CDI warranty it for me).

As for programming...it looks scary, but the more you do it, the easier it gets....just time consuming. There are tools in the programming to make it easier, and there are tutorials online you can use. They also offer classes, plus...the guys here on the forums are great help!

Good luck and have fun

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You get what you pay for as far as quality LED strings....buy from the bog box stores, sure thats fine as long as they are full wave and fully functional like others have said...but beware: buy a lot of them because they will fail quicker...sometimes straight out of the box...and I assure you that they will not be as pure/bright as the higher quality (see: more expensive) lights you buy from the dealers.

 

Example: I added 8 channel singing faces last year (ones from HolidayCoro) and tried to go cheap on the white LEDS since I need soooo many of them....bad bad bad mistake....those were the high end, GE Profile brands from a big box store...I could show you the pictures of one face strung with them and one with high quality LEDS...its like night and day....they are made better, they last longer and yes they cost more...but again you get what you pay for.

 

Plan now and make your order in Jan/Feb when most do their "pre-order" discounts...delivery is usually sometime early summer.

 

Or like I said at the beginning, if you go the big box way...just be sure its on elements that are easily repairable and that you have plenty of spares to use on hand.

Edited by etherealone

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If I was able to start over knowing what I do now,  I probably would never have started to begin with. :D

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If I was starting over the first thing I would do is never use the term "take it to the next level" :P

 

Seriously, I tend to agree with the thoughts Liberty-Laser presented. You already have a static display that people enjoy. It would probably be a shame to suddenly turn that into a non-stop blink fest. Several people do a mix of static and animated. You can even use a couple LOR channels to control the static elements (via a background sequence).

 

I satisfy my wife's (and my) desire to see the house all lit up with pretty lights by mixing in some pseudo static songs. Most of the lights are on with something simple running like slow leaping arches or color changes.

 

The big hoopla right now is RGB. I have some RGB. But I'm not one of those people who wants to turn his house into a big video screen (not that there's anything wrong with that). I strongly favor the look of incandescent lights. But I moved to LEDs for low maintenance. And I still have a fair amount of C9s to keep that warm glow.

 

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Hey dgrant, I have a bunch of never used, still in box c9s from Walmart. Pm me if you are interested, in them and don't want to pay full price at Wally World. Warm white, blue and red.

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Hey dgrant, I have a bunch of never used, still in box c9s from Walmart. Pm me if you are interested, in them and don't want to pay full price at Wally World. Warm white, blue and red.

Thank You Lori, but I only use them as a divider line at the edge of the street to hopefully let people not get out of their cars and walk into the yard where there's lots of high voltage cords. I only needed one extra set which I just bought. All the rest of my LED's are M5's, M6's a C6's. Thank you anyway!

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Thank You Lori, but I only use them as a divider line at the edge of the street to hopefully let people not get out of their cars and walk into the yard where there's lots of high voltage cords. I only needed one extra set which I just bought. All the rest of my LED's are M5's, M6's a C6's. Thank you anyway!

 

 I do the boarder as well, but it's to keep the dumb UPS guy from killing himself as he's tripping through the yard - only take 10 seconds longer to use the sidewalk.  Than an hour or more for me to fix things.

Edited by Liberty-Laser

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I made the mistake of buying cases of LED lights from Walmart & Home Depot only to find out from the good people on these boards that they are not dimmable.  

Interesting, I use LED's from Wal-Mart and Home Depot as well as other retail stores and I can dim, fade, shimmer and twinkle those that came from HD and Wal-Mart with no issues at all!

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You get what you pay for as far as quality LED strings....buy from the bog box stores, sure thats fine as long as they are full wave and fully functional like others have said...but beware: buy a lot of them because they will fail quicker...sometimes straight out of the box...and I assure you that they will not be as pure/bright as the higher quality (see: more expensive) lights you buy from the dealers.

 

 

Not to be a nitpicker, but I found the above statements not entirely accurate.  I am on my 8th year, first 3 static, then 2 years on a Mr. Christmas and now 3rd year using LOR, 8 years with LED strands from Wal-Mart, Big Lots, Home Depot, Target, K-Mart and Lowes. 

 

I have maybe had 1 failure a year starting after the 2nd year of use, some after those 2 years of use I may have had 2 failures in a season, and one year I did have 3 strands fail.  But that too me isn't all that bad a failure rate for BIG BOX STORE/RETAIL/OUTLET STORE LED strands!

 

   I've actually had standard screw in lamp LED bulbs for use inside my house fail quicker than any of my Halloween or Christmas LED strands I bought at the retail stores.  Out of 6 LED bulbs I bought for use in my house, 5 within 2 months failed, the last one, the 6th failed 2 months later.  Now that IS excessive failures! 

 

And those were bought ON-LINE and at quite an expense!   

 

So you do not always get what you pay for and sometimes you make out better than what you paid for, in the case of my outdoor LED strands, I surpassed what I paid for them, and they weren't that expensive, about moderately priced.

 

So I have to say that because an LED strand costs more does not mean it will be any brighter or better than what the retail stores offer.

 

I got two strands to test from the more expensive places, they failed miserably, and being sealed, it made them harder to replace a bad LED.  Sorry, but I'll stick with the retail stores and discount/closeout outlets for my LED's.  Easy to replace if one does burn out and if the strand goes bad, sockets and LED's can be utilized for repairs or other things, as well as using the male and female ends to make custom extension cords with.

 

BTW: I have never, not once, in all the years I've been using LED strands had one fail directly out of the box, most failures I've had occurred over a period of time, usually on the 2nd year of use.   Have never, not as of this writing ever had any fail out of the box or even in the first year of use.

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I only said the ones from Home Depot, sold as "Martha" light sets, don't work. They will function at %100 and %50 or off of course but nothing else. I can't speak for all their other light sets. I'm guessing that this year, many LED sets will function very nicely from the big box stores. I happen to like and enjoy the lights from both BigLots and Target. They've served me very well and saved me $

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 I made the mistake of buying cases of LED lights from Walmart & Home Depot only to find out from the good people on these boards that they are not dimmable.  I've tucked them into the back corner of the garage in hopes of someday finding a use for them, but I've yet to find a home for them in my display after 10 months of planning & designing.

If you don't have any use, let me know ...... Willing to sell?

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Not to be a nitpicker, but I found the above statements not entirely accurate. 

 

...[sNIP -- too long to quote the whole darn post]...

 

How many inches of snow and how many days of below freezing temperatures do you experience during a show season? 

 

Most of us will likely experience different results with light string failures than Floridians do.  :rolleyes:

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What do you guys find to be the difference in cost between cheap LEDs and "good" ones that are brighter and will actually last.  I was just interested in getting up and running for my first year, so I picked up a few hundred bucks worth of rope lights at maybe $15 per 18-foot set on Amazon, plus some strings of C7s and C9s and a few floods.  I'm sure they're not great, but when I want/need to upgrade, should I could on something like 50% more cost, or is it more like 2-3X kinds of prices?

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BTW: I have never, not once, in all the years I've been using LED strands had one fail directly out of the box, most failures I've had occurred over a period of time, usually on the 2nd year of use.   Have never, not as of this writing ever had any fail out of the box or even in the first year of use.

 

Qualitatively you said it yourself, the more expensive strings are by design more robust/sealed...hence they are built to last and not need "replacement bulbs" per se...what you left out is that they typically come with a 1 year warranty...unlike the cheapos....if they fail within the first year, the will be replaced no questions asked...

 

Guess you missed the part where I said that I had strands fail literally 5 mins  after being added to a design element LAST YEAR....so I assure you it does indeed happen.

 

 

For the record, I have 13 years experience doing this (7 years static, 6th year animated) using LEDs almost exclusively for the past 8-10 years...I indeed still have some store bought LEDs working in the display just fine (crossing my fingers on the two remaining legacy 8 channel LED arches that are chugging along using the big box lights)...so you are correct you can indeed get more than your moneys worth out of those cheaper units...also ALL of my net lights are off the shelf units...mainly because after talking with a lot of the vendors, they admitted to me that the quality difference wasnt enough to justify the costs for nets as opposed to other strands...I still lose on average 1/2 a set a year, but they are readily available...

 

But since I switched over to high quality vendor sourced lights for everything else..and there is zero debate that the more expensive ones are indeed of higher quality...I have not lost a single one of those strands in 3+ years...I mainly switched to them for the major custom new elements I would build each year...these are elements where your sweat equity is much higher than just wrapping a tree or a bush, so any additional years of service save you not just money but time as well...

 

The only exception I have seen has been lights that are "punished"...icicles get pounded just buy their nature...and I generally lose 1/2 to 1 strand every 2 years on average....WalMart or Lowes or Garden RIdge icicles failed at a rate of 1 1/2-3 strands a year...plus there are color inconsistencies with the off the shelf's...specifically with the color saturation of the darker hues (blues..some look purple, some more royal blue, reds like blood versus reds that look pinkish)....the off the shelfs just didnt withstand the wind and elements as well as the stress of the sequencing as well.

 

Oh and I lost a drip tube last year in its first year of use...but the vendor had a new one to me within 3 days at no cost.

 

So the moral of the story boys and girls:  To each his own!

 

My experiences may not reflect others or even your own...one of the best attributes of this hobby is that there indeed is no singular "right way to do things"...as you can see I have off the shelf "success stories" (my arches) and monster failures (icicles)...find what works for you and run with it!

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What do you guys find to be the difference in cost between cheap LEDs and "good" ones that are brighter and will actually last.  I was just interested in getting up and running for my first year, so I picked up a few hundred bucks worth of rope lights at maybe $15 per 18-foot set on Amazon, plus some strings of C7s and C9s and a few floods.  I'm sure they're not great, but when I want/need to upgrade, should I could on something like 50% more cost, or is it more like 2-3X kinds of prices?

Here's a vendor's site used by a number of folks here. There are others as well, with similar prices. Note that they all run pre-season sales in January with more favorable prices than what you see right now. If memory serves, it's around 20% better.

http://www.holiday-light-express.com/

Maybe someone can chime in on rope light.

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If I was able to start over knowing what I do now,  I probably would never have started to begin with. :D

 

+1

 

When I read the first post, that's what the heck I was thinkin, just sayin. :blink:

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If I was able to start over knowing what I do now,  I probably would never have started to begin with. :D

  

+1

 

When I read the first post, that's what the heck I was thinkin, just sayin. :blink:

Much like most crack addicts.

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  Tough realization...lol..I honestly see no end in sight for myself...But I guess none of us anticipate stopping..

     And from what I gather...Collect info...Shop sales...Ask for help if needed...And thank you Surfing4Dough and Dave Boros, local guys who have offered help and are local...

                          Dave

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