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Shoot out the Street Light


Richard Hamilton
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Richard Hamilton

Ok, the title is a cheap attempt to get your attention. I wouldn't really shoot out the street light. hmmm, or maybe I would :-)

Surely, someone out there has a novel approach to turning off a street light.. short of putting dynamite to it! After years of tolerating a light right in front of our house, this year I decided to do something about it.

The city was about to come disconnect it for me last year, but they backed out at the last minute after concern about safety during times that shows were not running. They did not want to turn it off for a month. However, they don't care it goes off temparily during shows. They just don't want me to go rewiring their light ;-)

I thought about putting a narrow beam laser or some other type of narrow beam light on top of the house and point toward the light sensor ( top of house and light are at about the same level). I would not want it to be distracting to the show.

Any of you clever folks defeat this problem or recommend a narrow beam spot light that I might try?

RH

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Guest wbottomley

Richard... when reading this, I was thinking on the same lines as you.

Use a laser to deactivate the sensor.

Never tried it, but it sounds like it just might work.

May have to do that to the neighbors. ;)

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Richard Hamilton

If I find the right kind of pinpoint light or laser, I will try it. I'm thinking it may not work as I'm betting that those photosensors are probably in a "light well" so they can only look upward. Otherwise, lights from surrounding structures might trigger them.

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I remember years ago on PlanetChristmas, Chuck Smith said he tried the laser thing, and it worked.

He went and bought a sensor that he tried it on for proof of concept, but then when he went to disable his streetlight (across the street in his case) he found the sensor was pointing in the opposite direction, so he just learned to live with it.

If you can get the laser on the sensor, I think it would work fine.

Normally I wouldn't advise doing this, but it sounds like in your case, they won't care as long as you have it on when the lights are off...

-Tim

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Richard Hamilton

Tim,

ummmm, that is encouraging.
Yea, they don't care much because I am at the end of a cul de sac and there is no thru traffic. The light is mainly for our 3 houses. I'm gonna check with them again about this before I do it.

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I have not tried this on a street light yet, but I have shut down a few photo cell controlled park lights. The sensors were within reach, and we put three clear C7 bulbs around the sensors (2 would work, third was "spare") There was a fair bit of delay in the park lights turning off, and much more delay in them turning back on... Maybe 30 seconds for off, and 5 minutes for on...

- Kevin

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I would be concerned about pointing a laser into the air even if it were targeted at the street light sensor. Wouldn't you be inviting trouble in this day and age and a hefty fine?

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Here is somethig to consider. My streetlight is about 22ft. high. We started with 1/2" pvc coupled together, at the top end using a couple of 45's and short pieces of pvc to form a C type top to go around the light flange. We then made up 1 C-7 clear bulb in the end with cord runing through the pvc (make it long enough to reach a outlet NOT being used for your show). We then used 3ft. wire ties to strap this to the lightpole.Use a cheap timer at your outlet . My show starts at 6:00 (C-7 comes on and turns off streetlight. ends at 10:00 , (C-7goes off turns on streetlight.) It works great, I know of a few displays that use this set-up. I'm not to good at explaining but I hope you get the idea, hope this helps. Paul

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Richard Hamilton

Denny wrote:

I would be concerned about pointing a laser into the air even if it were targeted at the street light sensor. Wouldn't you be inviting trouble in this day and age and a hefty fine?

Maybe if it were a strong laser, yes, but what I am talking about is one of those low power presentation pointers.
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Denny wrote:

I would be concerned about pointing a laser into the air even if it were targeted at the street light sensor. Wouldn't you be inviting trouble in this day and age and a hefty fine?


It would have to be aimed right on the sensor, so it really wouldn't be pointing up in the air. You'd want to make sure it wasn't in a position to blind traffic, etc. in the path of it from the laser location to the photosensor (mounting it up on your roof would probably be good enough...)

-Tim
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Richard Hamilton

Right Tim. And the reason I am not concerned is because out area is somewhat remove... nothing but big hills behind.

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I turned our street light off last year with a laser. The street light is on the other side of the street, which is the North side. The light sensor on street lights almost always points North to avoid direct sun, so that means the laser had to be mounted on my neighbor's house. This was not a problem as this neighbor's house is part of our LOR network.

Last year we used this neighbor's laser level. I wired it to a 3v power supply using a wood dowel, a piece of copper, and some wire. The power supply plugged into an LOR controller. We clamped it under an overhang he has outside his side garage door on the side of his house using a clamp I salvaged from a defunct desk lamp. Occasionally it would drift a bit off the sensor and allow the light to turn on, so we had to tap it back into alignment. Other than that, it worked reliably. It is probably about 50 feet from the street light.

This year, I bought a laser pointer (one of these). It's much lighter so it shouldn't drift out of alignment as much. I already tested it and it works.

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Richard Hamilton

Steven wrote:

I turned our street light off last year with a laser.

Steven, can you enlighten me what kind of laser you used and where you got it? I am looking around for something small.
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Everyone be very careful please. Powerlines and 47 foot tall poles and lasers all spell DANGER. Isn't it a federal offense to use a laser pointed to the sky? FAA has deemed it dangerous for pilots.

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Everyone be very careful please. Powerlines and 47 foot tall poles and lasers all spell DANGER. Isn't it a federal offense to use a laser pointed to the sky? FAA has deemed it dangerous for pilots.

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I have heard from a user that they installed a single C-9 or C-7 light next to the sensor at their light and used the LOR to turn the bulb on. It had enough "umph" to kill the light and when the show was over, the light would turn back on. I was going to do that last year (using a lift bucket to get to the light), but when I got up there, the sensor was broken and the light was on all day long. So I called the city about it, they replaced the sensor and I have to wait until this year to try to turn it off.

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Richard Hamilton

bossgroove wrote:

Everyone be very careful please. Powerlines and 47 foot tall poles and lasers all spell DANGER. Isn't it a federal offense to use a laser pointed to the sky? FAA has deemed it dangerous for pilots.

Breathe deep. We aren't talking power poles, 47 foot poles, or lasers that bounce beams off the moon. No, it is not illegal to point pen lasers at the sky. I think you are referring to some old news story from about 10 years ago. I'm talking about a simple 25 foot street light with underground wiring.
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A quick and dirty Google search, brought this up regarding lasers: http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air_traffic/publications/atpubs/AIR/air2901.html

http://www.hf.faa.gov/docs/508/docs/cami/0107.pdf

http://www.pangolin.com/resguide09c.htm#can_laser_pointer_harm_or_distract

Don't know if there are any other regulations about it. I know Arizona state law has a lot of restrictions in addition to the Federal Regulations.

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Not to sound like a worrywart or anything but I'd be a bit leary disabling a safety device that your city/town/municipality has placed for public safety. I could not even imagine what would happen if there were an accident, robbery, or whatever and it came to light that you somehow disabled the light right where the incident occurred. If I were doing something like that, I definitely would not let it be known to my neighbors(or anyone else for that matter). Just be careful. ;)

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Here's what Dave has to say about turning off the street lights. You can see his pictures of this at severex.com/xmas-bts.html. The part about "Another LOR display in Sunnyvale" is talking about my display.

In answer to Richard's question about what kind of laser I used: Last year I used a laser level. This was rather bulky so this year I'm going to use one of these: http://www.destructivegear.com/index.php?/shop/details/6. I've already testet it with a power supply controlled by LOR.

Q: How do you turn out the street lights?

A: We trick them! We used to place a cup with a 4 watt night-light bulb over the light sensor on the top of the streetlight. This bulb would go on when our display turned on. The light from the night-light bulb tricked the sensor into thinking it was daylight, and the street light would shut off. When our display turned off at night, the night-light bulb would go out and the street light would turn back on. We now use super-bright yellow LEDs to do this job.

2004 - We are now up to three wrapped street lights with our first franchised light at Ray Turner's house around the corner.

2007 - Another LOR display in Sunnyvale has demonstrated the feasibility of turning off the streetlights with a laser. Since we have to go up anyway to wrap the streelights, the LED still works fine. Also to hit Andy's sensor with a laser would require help from neighbors down the street.

Q: How do you get the cup/LED on top of the street light?

A: We have used various techniques. The first year, we made a giant fishing pole out of swimming pool brush poles and lowered the cup on a hook over the sensor and released it. This was a very difficult task which took 3 people. In 1999 and 2000, we used an 8 ft. diameter helium balloon to lift the cup. It still took 3 people, but it was a lot easier on the arms and there was less yelling. In 2001 we broke down and rented a lift. You can see the LED on the streetlight sensors on our Behind the Scenes page.

Q: What does the city have to say about your messing around with the street lights?

For about 6 years, they had no idea because our philosophy is that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. That lasted up until Dec. 2005 when the city was "informed" of our shenanigans..... They initially sent someone out during the day with a lift who went up and took a look to see how we were doing it. Andy spoke to him and he agreed that we weren't causing any harm to the street lights and our 200 amps of Christmas lights would probably light up the street better than their two street lights, but he needed to clear it with his Supervisor. Then another guy came by at 5:00 am to ensure that the street lights were coming on after the display turned off. Finally, a third guy showed up with his kids and watched while the display was running. I spoke to that guy, and he gave us the "all-clear". So the answer is: They heard, they came, they saw, they approved.

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Richard Hamilton

Jeffrey wrote:

Not to sound like a worrywart or anything but I'd be a bit leary disabling a safety device that your city/town/municipality has placed for public safety. I could not even imagine what would happen if there were an accident, robbery, or whatever and it came to light that you somehow disabled the light right where the incident occurred. If I were doing something like that, I definitely would not let it be known to my neighbors(or anyone else for that matter). Just be careful. ;)



Yes, yes, I know what you mean. I think in most circumstances there could be a problem. Our case is unique. We are at the end of a cul-de-sac (closed area) with only 3 houses. We all 3 do the syncronized lights and hate the street light being on during the presentation. We are talking about turning it off during the presentation. We have already talked to the city about it. They don't raise any concern in this case. If I lived in another area in different circumstances, I'd be very concerned, but not here.
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Richard Hamilton

Denny wrote:

A quick and dirty Google search, brought this up regarding lasers: http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air_traffic/publications/atpubs/AIR/air2901.html

http://www.hf.faa.gov/docs/508/docs/cami/0107.pdf

http://www.pangolin.com/resguide09c.htm#can_laser_pointer_harm_or_distract

Don't know if there are any other regulations about it. I know Arizona state law has a lot of restrictions in addition to the Federal Regulations.



Yup, I've seen all that. It doesn't apply to the type of things I'm talking about here.
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Richard Hamilton

Great Post Steven, (as usual).

That's a really funny posting. I can just visualize you guys out there now.

The level laser was what I first thought of and I experimented last night. It worked well on the light. One of my neighbors (a former VP of PG&E) thought it was a cute solution. By the way, he also participates in our display.

I've been looking for a solution that is under 5 mW just to be on the safe side of things. Actually, a 3 mW handheld pointer seems to do the trick. The only reason I was not leaning toward hadheld pointer is because of the batteries and not being able to turn it on/off easily. I would probably have to wire it up to a 6-volt dc supply that I plug into an LOR channel to control it.

Glad to know you are still able to do this. Some people get too carried away with fear that the world might end if one street light goes out. I figure that if it is ok with my city inspector, then I'm ok with it.

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Brian Mitchell

Who was it that made a short film about just this subject? Was it Logan?

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Brian Mitchell wrote:

Who was it that made a short film about just this subject? Was it Logan?



I just HAD to go searching for it since I remembered it too. Yep, it was Logan. Here's a link:

http://www.christmasdisplays.net/videos/streetlightsniper.wmv

And here's the thread discussing it: http://forums.planetchristmas.com/archive/index.php?t-3694.html

-Tim
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