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Cases and Wires for DIY'ers

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I wanted to share a few (hopefully) money saving thoughts for those building the 16 channel boards with heavy duty heatsinks. I looked everywhere both locally and online for a metal case that would just fit this board, and unfortunately, didn't find any specifically meant for outdoor use. What I did find is a load center box made by General Electric, model TL412C, which is a 125A 8 breaker box. I picked up 5 of these at Lowe's for about $13 each.


First, gut the boxes, but save all the screws (there should be 4 from inside and 4 that hold the cover on). These boxes have one small problem - the flanges around the perimeter of the box prevent the Light-O-Rama card from fitting inside, so it is necessary to bend two of the flanges (the ones with the holes for the cover) to face out as opposed to in. Once this is done, three of the four conduit knock-outs can be removed to install the wire clamps (2 each 3/4" and one 3/8"). Now place the board in the box and use a center punch to mark the locations for the four holes to mount it. Remove the board and using a 9/64" bit, drill the holes and tap them with the screws that came with the box. Now flip the still-empty box down on the cover and center-punch new locations for the cover. Drill these out with a 1/4" bit. Mount the board in the box with 4 of the screws that came with the box. It's a tight fit - the nuts on the triacs will just touch each side of the box. You might also want to think about how the box will be mounted outside and attach whatever clamps are necessary for you application. For example, one of my boxes will be attached to a 3" diameter flag pole, so I bolted a chain link fence strap to the back of that box. Note also that the pictured box is set up for all 16 channels to be powered from a single 14 AWG power cord. The total load on this box won't exceed 15 amps, so that's OK. Other boxes will need 2 power cords, in which case another 3/8" clamp will need to be installed.


Now about the extension cords to the lights. As you all probably know, the cost of copper has been sky-rocketing lately, so I went bargain-hunting. At Big Lots I found close-out christmas tree extension cords that have multiple taps on them.


These were $1 each and they have three taps per cord, spaced every 2 feet. Yes, I know they're not grounded, but considering that most of the light sets we use only have 2-prong cords on them, I don't think this is a problem (as long as the main input cords to the controllers are 3 wire).


I took each cord, pryed the casings on the middle taps apart, cut the wires at their attachment points inside the casings, then glued each casing back together again, making sure to seal the hole up where the cord originally came out. Net result - each 2' lead cost about .33 cents. Now strip 3/8" of insulation off each wire, bundle up eight of them and pass through the 3/4" wire clamp. Repeat on the other side. Find a 14/3 AWG (for 15A - nominal) or 12/3 AWG (for 20A - remember to replace the fuses if you do this) power cord and along with your CAT 5 data cable, pass through the center 3/8" wire clamp. The finished box (open) looks like this:


Obviously, since this box was meant for indoor use, I still need to do a few things to make it viable for outdoor use in winter. All of the open holes need to be caulked shut (except on the bottom so that the thing can breath/avoid condensation build-up), then the bare metal case needs a coat of paint.

So much for the controllers. What about getting the music out to passer-bys? I picked the Ramsey FM-30 kit. Picked it up on e-bay for $150 new. It was easy to build and works great!


The supplied antenna goes get the signal out very far, so I looked for a used antenna. Found the Comet 5/8 wave (Ramsey FM-200) on e-bay for $36. I hooked it up with 130 feet of RG 8/U 16 AWG low-loss cable (about $45 for the cable and the two PL-159 ends) and was shocked by the range obtained. I easily had 1/4 mile with the transmitter set at 1/3 power. I guess I'll need to tone it down a bit...:)


Hope any of this helps someone.


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