Going green by reducing light count

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Back in 2010 Lithgow Lights explained how we managed to reduce the power drawn from 9000 watts in 2008, to 7000 watts in 2009 and then down to 6100 watts in 2010, all while increasing the total light count by almost 22,000 lights in the same time.

In 2011 we plan further decreases in maximum power usage by doing a rather unusual thing - reducing the total number of lights!

Plans this year include power savings of up to 2500 watts peak load. While the display rarely ran at it's peak loading, the overall power reduction will be about 500 watts continuously during the entire show. Because the new lights are much brighter than the ones they are replacing, I will be able to save further power by not running them at their full brightness, much like the ropelight on the house in 2010.


Before people start complaining and saying that we have gone TOO green, I should explain myself a bit more. My megatree in 2010 contained 16 different groups, each containing 4 seperate colors, with a total of 64 channels, and 8640 lights, but the megatree in 2011 will be a different beast, containing the same 16 strings, but each will contain just 85 LED's. The biggest difference is that instead of using small 0.1w incandescent globes with a total draw of some 810 watts, I will be using 8mm RGB LED's 10cm apart and each LED can be individually addressed and it's brightness and color set totally independent of the others, and it draws a total of 185 watts when displaying white, and 62 watts for Red, Green or Blue.

The downside for such a change is the massive increase in channels I have to program. The 64 channel megatree is now 4080 channels, but the increase in effects should more than be worth it. Each string of 85 pixels, and 16 are required for the megatree, are being sourced from Stellascapes, and the controller was kindly supplied by them as well.

Minitrees, Trees, Shrubs and Window Lights

The minitrees and lights around the windows will also be swapped out with the 8mm RGB LED's, but in this case they will act as a solid string where you set the color for the entire string rather than individually. The solid strings actually replace 4 channels of existing lights with 3 channels of RGB LED's. While I would love to replace them with addressable pixels, the massive volume of channels would be simply too overwhelming.

The replacement of the 10 minitree's 5,500 lights with 100 pixels per tree will reduce the power usage from 485 watts to about 120 watts in total, a 365 watt saving on peak load, but because White will only be used on occasion, the real saving is much higher.

Replacing the 4110 incandescents around the windows with 498 LED's has dropped the peak power from 358 watts to just 58 watts, a huge 300 watt saving.

The 4 shrubs have also been upgraded from 2,200 incandescent lights drawing 192 watts, to just 400 RGB LED's drawing 42 watts, a further saving of 150 watts.

Because I had some Stellagreen Pixels left over, I decided to see what the trees in the yard looked like with the Stellascapes Pixels rather than incandescent lights. One quick look convinced me to swap the 4400 incandescents with 510 pixels (85 in each of 2 trees, and 2 sets of 85 in the larger 2 trees). This dropped from 376 to just 75 watts, a saving of an additional 301 watts. This brings the power saving from the Minitrees, Trees, Shrubs and Window lights to an impressive 1,116 watts

Rose Garden

I was planning on putting the upgrade to the Rose Garden off until next year, but will be able to squeeze the upgrade into this years budget. I am upgrading it from its current 3,300 lights spread over 6 sets with 4 colors in each, to 4 sets of 85 lights. That is a reduction from 290 watts to a mere 50 watts, but it will add another 1,020 channels to program this year.

Leaping Arches

One item that has caused issues in recent years are the lights around the path, so they are finally being scrapped. Considering they are about 7 years old I think they have done very well. In their place a nice set of about 6 leaping arches will be erected. These arches will contain about 42 pixels per arch and a test design should soon be ready to see how they look in real life.

The 1,050 old lights drew some 105 watts, and the 255 new Pixels will draw just 35 watts.

Total Reduction

The total reduction this year is:
Megatree: 8,640 to 1,360 Lights, 810w to 185w,
Minitrees: 5,500 to 1,000 Lights, 485w to 120w,
Rose Garden: 3,300 to 340 Lights, 290w to 50w,
Path/Leaping Arches: 1,050 to 255 Lights, 105w to 35w,
Shrubs: 2,200 to 400 Lights, 192w to 42w,
Trees: 4,400 to 510 Lights, 376w to 75w,
Windows: 4,211 to 498 Lights, 358w to 58w

A total of 29,301 incandescent lights were replaced with 4,363 LED/Pixels, a reduction of 24,939 lights. Power reduced from 2,616 watts to just 565 watts, a saving of 2,051 watts.

Future upgrades

For 2012 we would like to see the icicle lights on the house replaced with RGB Pixels, the candy canes re-powered by RGB Strip and the inside 240V Silhouettes replaces with some sort of RGB item. The remaining 240V Ropelight will be replaced with 240V DC LED ropelight for next year. While they will save a huge amount of power, they will also cost a lot to replace, so until I manage to find a spare $2000 to $3000 or so, these will have to stay on plan for 2012.