Christmas Light Controller

We get a lot of tips about Christmas light controllers but rarely do they contain the kind of juicy detail that [Vince Cappellano] included with his setup. His video explaining the controller he built is embedded after the break and it’s not to be missed.

We think there’s a lot of good design invovled in this porject. First off, he’s got eight physical channels, each with optisolation and a triac for 256 levels of power control. But he was able to double the control to sixteen virtual channels if you’re using LED lighting. That’s because on those strings half of the LEDs are reverse biased compared to the rest. By adding sensing circuitry to the incoming AC, he can switch the triacs to only send positive or negative voltage through the LED strands, which produces the additional virtual channels. And did we mention that he did all this using wire wrapping and point-to-point soldering?


10 thoughts on “Christmas Light Controller

  1. Looks like he used a schematic from a Renard style controller to build his, nothing new or outstanding here really. Its very very close, RJ45 board to board interconnects, zero cross, pwm dimming, ect.

    just google for Renard controller, and you will find them, much better build quality, fully open source, you can buy the boards from boardhouses rather cheap.

  2. Back in late November I bought two Lynx Express controller PCBs for about $6+ ea. Haven’t bought the parts to fill the boards yet, but they will ultimately offer 16 channels of DMX controlled lighting via the pc with vixen freeware to sync the lighting to music. If you’re into Xmas lighting, that is definitely a great way to go!

  3. I think some people here expect every single article posted an upright miracle project.

    We can’t appreciate another persons hard work? Especially when it’s involving electronics. Maybe it isn’t so complex but the dude cared enough to make it and share it on the internet…we shouldn’t act so ungrateful…

  4. It’s a lot like the Renard, except to have the zero cross circuit identify positive and negative cycles to add virtual channels is pretty brilliant.

    I’m running 128 channels right now, and it sure is exciting to know that I can double it with some minor changes. Nice Hack.

  5. Vincent,

    I assembled your light controller using an Arduino Duemilanove. I am having trouble with the trigger triac. LiteOn recommends using an additional resistor between pin 4 on the MOC3021 and main terminal 1 on the driver Fairchild Q6008L5. I haven’t found the right value yet, but without adding an extra resistor, mine is either fully on or fully off. I can’t seem to get the LEDs to dim, although the bi-directional control works well.

    What do you suggest? Thanks, hoo

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