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martymiller
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Hey guys... well, I'm beginning the planning now for my show next year. I got a very basic Gemmy box (no sound) about a month and it's got me hooked on animated shows. I plan on purchasing a basic 16 channel LOR controller and hooking it up with an FM transmitter for vehicle traffic next year.

As it stands right now, I've been using a combination of C9 bulbs (gutter and surrounding flower beds and front walk) with a lot of mini lights (trees, shrubs, etc.) About 75% of those are plugged into the Gemmy controller which is then plugged into an outlet in the house. The other 25% (mainly C9's) are plugged into the outlet on my patio. I've having some occasional trouble with losing power due to either the outlet itself switching off or the breaker getting thrown. Obviously, I need some wiring help.

So, the question is, what are typical electrician costs to come and wire my set-up for next year? The breaker box is in the garage. I'd run the PC and LOR from the bedroom/office at the front of my house with windows to the front yard. What can I expect to pay to have a more powerful, safer set-up installed for the house? Thanks in advance.

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Where your problem is coming from is your C9s, because those draw ALOT of power so if you have a lot of them you can easily overload a circuit. Do you know if you have 15 or 20 amp breakers? Depending on just how many lights you have will determine just how much power you will need. If you are only going to be running 1 16 ch controller you probably only going to need 2 - 20amp breakers. Because I am sure you will max things out with the C9s. You can only run 4 C9s strands per channel and 10 per side.

Download this controller spread sheet to configure your controllers so you know what your load is. There are tabs at the bottom to configure your light inventory then add them to your controller after you configure them. Very useful to.

http://www.quartzhillchristmas.com/resources/Light+Controller+Calculator+Sept+2006+b1.xls

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After doing a lot of research over the past few weeks, I've come to realize the huge draw on the C9's. Next year, I will probably switch to icicle lights on the roof instead of the C9's. I may not use any C9's at all. We'll have to see how well I can do on the after Christmas sales.

How do I find out if I have 15 or 20 amp breakers?

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Another way to maximize your electrical requirements is to add or switch to LEDs. According to PlanetChristmas, a 25 count string of C9s will consume 1.5 amps and you can connect 8 strings to a 15 amp circuit, assuming you only use 80% of the circuit for a margin of safety. However, a string of 25 count C7 LEDs will consume 0.02 amps per string. So you can connect 600 strings to a 15 amp circuit, again using a margin of safety. That's 200 incandescent C9s vs 15,000 C7 LEDs.

Personally I'm switching over to LEDs to avoid calling an electrician to add more circuits.

Good luck in your new hobby. It is fun. And you might consider coming to PLUS2009 to learn a lot more.

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martymiller wrote:

How do I find out if I have 15 or 20 amp breakers?


Just look in your panel for that outlet and it will say on it if it is 20 or 15 amps. The plugs you are using, is there anything else on them?

Getting rid of your C9s would be a big help and free up some space. If you do not use them you man not have to upgrade your power with only one controller. You probably can use what you have now if you are not going to draw a lot. Another option is replace the C9 bulbs with C9 LED replacement bulbs. Just make sure you get full wave LED and ones that you can use with animation that can be dimmed and faded. Not all of them will work with animation.

Just play with that spread sheet and plan accordingly and then it will tell you what your power needs will be if any.
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I haven't been a huge fan of LED's but just in case, where can I find the replacement LED C9 bulbs? If I purchase just the bulbs, I can still use the strings I currently own, correct? Would LED C9's look bad against regular mini lights?

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martymiller wrote:

I haven't been a huge fan of LED's but just in case, where can I find the replacement LED C9 bulbs? If I purchase just the bulbs, I can still use the strings I currently own, correct? Would LED C9's look bad against regular mini lights?


I agree I am not just a huge fan of the way the LEDs look. That is why I am making sure I get the right ones that will look right. If done right it can look good. IN my case I only use clear, red and green, in my display, with 48 strand of multi mixed with green for my mega. So I can get away with using LEDs and it still looking good.

A good place to get LED C9 replacement bulbs is a good question. I still haven't found a solid place to get them at yet. I have done a lot of reading and when I think I have found a place they turn out to not be as good or look right from the discussions I have read. I want clear but I don't want the ones that have the bluish tint. I want true white or warm white. But yes, you can buy just the LED bulbs now and use the same C9 stringer. Would the look bad against regular minis? That is all in your taste. If you use a lot of solid colors then you should be ok and it would look fine IMO.
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To your original question, the cost of adding a sub panel to your garage will depend a lot on the price of electricians in your area and the amount of power available to tap in. Assuming you main feeds are appropriate, you are probably looking around a grand.

Do you know what size panel it is? 100/150/200 amp? Do you have space (empty slots) in your current panel? You might be able to just add a pair of 20 amp breakers to a pair of 20 amp GFCI outlets mounted near your panel. This is not a hard project but given your questions on breaker size, would recommend that you do not do this yourself.

Next, you need to determine how far you are willing to let this addiction suck you in. If you see a mega display in your future, you might want to plan ahead.

There are some retro fit C9's on the market but really only like to be on or off. There is a new company that just sent some samples out so we will have to wait and see. Could you go down to C7's? There is some energy savings there.

I mix leds with incandescent. In fact my mega tree is half and half (as a result of LED's by CDI not working properly.)

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I added a 200 amp service in the middle of my yard this year to power my setup. I ran all my wires under ground and put two 20 amp plugs at each point where the controllers would be located. I did the entire thing myself but I had to get a permit for the new service. The whole thing cost about $900 including renting the trencher to bury the wires. I used 12-2 direct bury wire and have about 20 plugs scattered around the yard. I have 1 20 amp breakers for each plug. It wasn't a bad job If you have any electrical skills. The only hard part was running 2 1/2 inch conduit under my concrete driveway!

Attached files 165207=9516-100_0553.JPG

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Ok that sparks a question I have been curious about and debating. I know the power company will give you as much power as you want to code. So can you have two service feeds to your house? If that is the case, problem solved for me, because that is what I will do and was wanting to do. How much did the power company charge you for the second feed?

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hi texan, I signed a 5 year contract with the power company and it is classified as a shop service. It was a $60 deposit and $6 a month flat fee when it is not in use. I think that is the way to go if you live in the country, it saves your house panel from overloading and causing a power surge. My power company is a co-op, and it wasn't that hard to get the service going. I put everything together and attached it to the pole, then they came out and hooked up the service. You have peace of mind if you leave the house with everthing running, and don't have to worry about it burning down. It is very easy to upgrade in the future.

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Guest wbottomley

John... My main panel is 200 amps to the house but I installed a sub-panel for the lights only.

It's 55 amps at 240 volts or 110 at 120 volts and completely portable.

Here's the pictures and it's working perfectly this year!

DSC00802.jpg

DSC00797.jpg

DSC00814.jpg

DSC00815.jpg

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John Woods wrote:

hi texan, I signed a 5 year contract with the power company and it is classified as a shop service. It was a $60 deposit and $6 a month flat fee when it is not in use. I think that is the way to go if you live in the country, it saves your house panel from overloading and causing a power surge. My power company is a co-op, and it wasn't that hard to get the service going. I put everything together and attached it to the pole, then they came out and hooked up the service. You have peace of mind if you leave the house with everthing running, and don't have to worry about it burning down. It is very easy to upgrade in the future.


I live in the city and are power company isn't a co-op so I am not sure if I can get away with that or not. It was definately one of my options though to have a separate service just for my lights. You are right it does give you a peace of mind. Me and my uncle can do the work he is lic. and I have a journyman from way back in the day. We just need to do as you did and have them come tie the service in hot.

William, what is powering the 220 plug from your main? Do you have pictures of it? That was also an option I had was to use the same method you have as it would be nice to have something portable I can store away.
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Texan78 wrote:

Just look in your panel for that outlet and it will say on it if it is 20 or 15 amps. The plugs you are using, is there anything else on them?




OK, the switches in the panel box are all labeled as 20, so I assume they are all 20 amps.



iresq wrote:

Do you know what size panel it is? 100/150/200 amp? Do you have space (empty slots) in your current panel? You might be able to just add a pair of 20 amp breakers to a pair of 20 amp GFCI outlets mounted near your panel. This is not a hard project but given your questions on breaker size, would recommend that you do not do this yourself.

The switch on the main power disconnect say 150 on it so I assume it's a 150 amp panel.

There are 5 blank switch spots left on the panel. Would it be possible to add switches to these blank switches and wire them to new outlets in the yard or near the front of the house so that they would then work independently of anything in the house?
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Yes that means that are all 20 amps. Do you know if the circuit your lights use share anything else on it?

Yes if you have 5 empty spots you can add more breakers. Now are there 5 tabs on the outside, or is there actually 5 open slots. Those tabs on the outside can hold 2 breakers a piece. So if you have 5 of those tabs that are not used you could add up to 10 breakers, but that is a lot. So I am sure it is probably 5 slots if it is 150 amp service.

I just learned tonight that I actually have a 200 amp panel but with 150 feed so it might be possible you could have 200 amp panel maybe if you have 10 free slots?

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mountainwxman that's a nice setup! I like the portability, that makes it nice if you move your setup around. Texan it may be easier if you tell your power company that it is going to be a shop service, my brother is on ENTERGY and he built a shop recently, they didn't give him any problem, they came out and looked at the panel and weather head to make sure it was right and hooked him up before the shop was even built.

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Sweet that is good to know. Where I want to put it though is next to my main feed. My panel is in the back so I was going to put it next to it. Only problem I see is the two lines will rub because at the angle it comes at to the house from the pole it is already rubbing against a tree. One year it rubbed one leg off and they had to come out and fix it and wrap it from happening again. So I am not sure if having two lines that close together is going to cause problems or not. That is why I am weighting my different options.

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Texan78 wrote:

Yes that means that are all 20 amps. Do you know if the circuit your lights use share anything else on it?

Yes if you have 5 empty spots you can add more breakers. Now are there 5 tabs on the outside, or is there actually 5 open slots. Those tabs on the outside can hold 2 breakers a piece. So if you have 5 of those tabs that are not used you could add up to 10 breakers, but that is a lot. So I am sure it is probably 5 slots if it is 150 amp service.

I just learned tonight that I actually have a 200 amp panel but with 150 feed so it might be possible you could have 200 amp panel maybe if you have 10 free slots?



Well, the circuit I currently have the Gemmy plugged into is inside one of our spare bedrooms that I'll eventually convert into an office. I imagine that only the plugs and ceiliing light are wired to that circuit but could not be sure.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say are there "5 tabs on the outside, or is there actually 5 open slots". There are five small panels, maybe 1 1/2" wide by 1" tall that do not have any switches on them. I did notice however that some of these small panels have two small switches mounted top and bottom that can be thrown independent of one another but that the majority contain a larger switch that takes up the entire panel.
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martymiller wrote:

I'm not sure what you mean when you say are there "5 tabs on the outside, or is there actually 5 open slots". There are five small panels, maybe 1 1/2" wide by 1" tall that do not have any switches on them. I did notice however that some of these small panels have two small switches mounted top and bottom that can be thrown independent of one another but that the majority contain a larger switch that takes up the entire panel.


Yea it is kind of confusing to explain but I will do my best. You have indoor panels and you have outdoor panels. When you lift the lid or open the door depending on what kind of panel you have. There is this cover that is an access cover to your breaker bars and all the wire, bus bar etc. That cover you lift off to access all this will have what are called knock outs. You just punch them out so when you put that access cover back on it will fit around your breakers. On indoor panels normally for every one knock out is one breaker. So if yours is a indoor panel inside your house and you have 5 of those knock outs where you can place a breaker, then you probably have 5 slots for 5 extra breakers. On outdoor panels like mine, for ever knock out it gains me access to 2 breaker slots. Most likely since yours is 150 and you have 5 extra spaces it is probably a indoor panel so you have 5 slots to add new breakers. If it is an outdoor panel and it has 5 slots then you have space for 10 breakers. But that is a lot of extra slots to be having on a 150 panel. So in your case it is most likely just 5 slots you can add onto.

The larger switches that take up the entire slot are probably you big power outlets, AC/Heating, washer, dryer, etc. But since you said there are slim breakers that take up two spots where the big one takes up the entire slot. Then maybe you do have 10 slots open if you have 5 empty spaces or tabs that are not knocked out. I highly doubt that is the case, but I wouldn't rule it out or get your hopes up. Without seeing it, it is hard to tell. Best way is ether take a picture and post it or have an electrician come out and look at it. Some will come out and give you a free estimate and they can tell you accurately what you are working with and recommend which is what I would do. I would call around and have a few come out and see how each one varies on opinion and what they charge.
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Donald Puryear

Texan78 wrote:

Sweet that is good to know. Where I want to put it though is next to my main feed. My panel is in the back so I was going to put it next to it. Only problem I see is the two lines will rub because at the angle it comes at to the house from the pole it is already rubbing against a tree. One year it rubbed one leg off and they had to come out and fix it and wrap it from happening again. So I am not sure if having two lines that close together is going to cause problems or not. That is why I am weighting my different options.

Here in Maryland the power company will give you a 400 amp service. One meter, one service drop, two 200amp panels. This setup sounds like it would fit your needs.
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Donald Puryear wrote:

Texan78 wrote:
Sweet that is good to know. Where I want to put it though is next to my main feed. My panel is in the back so I was going to put it next to it. Only problem I see is the two lines will rub because at the angle it comes at to the house from the pole it is already rubbing against a tree. One year it rubbed one leg off and they had to come out and fix it and wrap it from happening again. So I am not sure if having two lines that close together is going to cause problems or not. That is why I am weighting my different options.

Here in Maryland the power company will give you a 400 amp service. One meter, one service drop, two 200amp panels. This setup sounds like it would fit your needs.


Sounds exactly what I need... I did my loads for next year and I only need 5-8 more circuits to run about 70 more amps at full on. It will never draw that, but still need 2 plugs for each controller, but I can run both sides off one circuit. So I don't need as much as I thought.

I am sure Maryland is giving you a 200 amp main with a 200 amp sub since it is one drop and one meter. I was told you couldn't have more then 200 amp service overhead and 400 amp buried in residential. Still would be nice to have 200 amp dedicated to LOR...LoL
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The short answer is yes. However, as usual, its more complicated than saying hey, I have 5 open slots that means I can add 5 20 amp. circuits. That would be 100 additional amps!. There is a fixed amount of service coming to your house. I believe electric code allows for your panel service to be greater than the 150 amps on the main breaker because you don't use all the power at the same time.

The closer the oulets are the panel, the cheaper. You could put outlets in your yard but they you are talking about burying condiut and the like.

I sub-panel might be your best bet. I would again suggest that you contact a qualified electrician in your area to help determine the best solution for your needs.

Texan78, there were several threads about heavying up your main feeds to the house on PC. It appears that some power companies will heavy up to meet your power needs for no additional cost (other than your power consumption) while others will do it for the cost of labor and materials to run new power mains.

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Donald Puryear

Texan78 wrote:

Donald Puryear wrote:
Texan78 wrote:
Sweet that is good to know. Where I want to put it though is next to my main feed. My panel is in the back so I was going to put it next to it. Only problem I see is the two lines will rub because at the angle it comes at to the house from the pole it is already rubbing against a tree. One year it rubbed one leg off and they had to come out and fix it and wrap it from happening again. So I am not sure if having two lines that close together is going to cause problems or not. That is why I am weighting my different options.

Here in Maryland the power company will give you a 400 amp service. One meter, one service drop, two 200amp panels. This setup sounds like it would fit your needs.


Sounds exactly what I need... I did my loads for next year and I only need 5-8 more circuits to run about 70 more amps at full on. It will never draw that, but still need 2 plugs for each controller, but I can run both sides off one circuit. So I don't need as much as I thought.

I am sure Maryland is giving you a 200 amp main with a 200 amp sub since it is one drop and one meter. I was told you couldn't have more then 200 amp service overhead and 400 amp buried in residential. Still would be nice to have 200 amp dedicated to LOR...LoL


NO! Its a complete 400 amp service. I am electrician. On resadental services we set a 400 amp meter can, then run two tails to seperate 200amp main breaker panel sections.
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iresq wrote:

The short answer is yes. However, as usual, its more complicated than saying hey, I have 5 open slots that means I can add 5 20 amp. circuits. That would be 100 additional amps!. There is a fixed amount of service coming to your house. I believe electric code allows for your panel service to be greater than the 150 amps on the main breaker because you don't use all the power at the same time.

The closer the oulets are the panel, the cheaper. You could put outlets in your yard but they you are talking about burying condiut and the like.

I sub-panel might be your best bet. I would again suggest that you contact a qualified electrician in your area to help determine the best solution for your needs.


This is true, while you might be able to add 5 new circuits, you can't draw more then your main service. So like he said, it is not as easy as just adding new circuits. So you need to keep that in mind. So for example lets so your house draws 80 amps at full load or on normal day to day living. Your total controller load at full on is 30 amps, which is possible if you only use LEDs or just minis which is possible. Not likely you will ever run full load unless you run all your lights at static, even if you do with 30 amps you would be good and could run 5 controllers on 5 circuits with both sides using the same circuit granted your load for each controller doesn't go over 20 amps if you are using 20 amp circuits. This is where figuring controller load comes into play. If you are just going to be using one controller you could get away with running it on one 20 amp circuit granted the load is under 20 amps. If you plan to expand though you will need to plan accordingly. At this point you don't need a sub, but if your show gets larger and you start to expand your load then you will need to branch off to a sub.

iresq wrote:
Texan78, there were several threads about heavying up your main feeds to the house on PC. It appears that some power companies will heavy up to meet your power needs for no additional cost (other than your power consumption) while others will do it for the cost of labor and materials to run new power mains.


Talking to some people around here about this last year and through out the year. I was told here we can only get as much as a 200 amp drop overhead and 400 amp buried if it is residental. Now I just learned that I have a 200 amp panel but only a 150 amp service. So it is possible I have a 200 amp drop, just only have a 150 service.

I did my loads for next year and I only need 5 more circuits. At full on it is only 65 amps extra but it will never be full on static. It will only draw 4-5 amps when static during breaks because I am not running all the lights. So I can get away with just adding 125 amp sub. That will leave me with a lot of extra room to expand if I need to.
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