Q: When will the shows start?
A: See the new daily count down timer shown on the main webpage (upper right side).
Q: Will you have new songs this year?
A: Yes! I have at least two planned and hopefully 4-5 more. I have to get started soon.
Q: Where is your house?
A: Click here on the Directions link.
Q: Do you work with computers for a living?
A: Yes. But I'm now retired. I started my career with computers back in January of 1970 after making it back from the war in Vietnam. It started with night classes in Ft Benning learning about punched cards and keypunch equipment - commonly referred to as Data Processing. I've worked with Mainframes, Mid-range, and minis ever since. I've worked in the financial as well as the education industries having recently retired from Lansing School District. There I helped to support the various systems utilized to administer and educate.
But the question is only a portion of the overall reflection of what you see in our display of lights. A significant amount of self taught eletronic and electrical design / knowledge is also employed to present the light shows you see here.
Q: What software/programs do you use?
A: Light-O-Rama sells the software product named Showtime Sequencing Suite.
click here. This product has a huge user base and is well supported by both the user community and Light-o-Rama. See Technical page for additional info.
Q: What kind of computer do you use?
A: Noting special. Because I'm using the LightoRama Showtime Director
click here to create the show, you could say that I'm not using a computer. However one is required to run the Showtime Sequencing Suite software that is utilized to build the sequences. In my particular case I'm using a Lenovo laptop running Windows Professional. It does have a 500GB hard drive, 4GB memory, and is pretty fast.
Q: How long does it take to put up all of the lights?
A: It really depends on the weather. My wife doesn't like all of the lights up before Thanksgiving so I try to start as late as possible, yet it really can be miserable putting up lights when it's cold outside. In 2011 I started putting up a Halloween display. This allowed for some of the wiring, controllers, and testing to be done ahead of time. All in the hopes of starting as late as possible in order to, you know, see the first sentence. Weather is very unpredicatable in Michigan for working outside. By the time Black Friday is here, I usually have 98% of the work done. Last minute changes, additions of new props, new songs and their sequencing tends to occur the week after the shows start. Typically it will pretty much take the whole month of November.
Q: Does your electric bill go up a lot while the lights are on?
A: Most of the lights have now been converted to eco friendly, green, Led lights. The power bills have been reduced from nearly $100 to an estimated $15. I'm nearly complete on a new spreadsheet that has the total watts utilized. I will post a link to it here when completed.
Q: How many lights are there?
A: That's a tough question to answer... let me get
back to you. I need to count. One, Two,
Three, Four, Five.........Actually I do have a count and if you go back to the home page you will find it listed under Display Basics near the bottom of page.
Q: Do you use LED lights?
A: Yes, most certainly. LED lights require a lot less power. A number of owners of Christmas Light displays have had to increase their household service entrances in order to increase the number of lights. A very expensive undertaking. And LEDs themselves are still expensive. The fact that they require about 10x less energy simplifies the connections needed and required. As the world switches to LED lights the cost will continue to drop however. I've made quite an investment in LED lights and I'm hoping that their longevity makes up for the cost savings. Time will tell as they are still evolving. I just picked up a Popular Mechanics magazine and there is a article I've yet to read on LED development.
Q: Don't you think your wasting a lot of electricity?
A: Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Yes, probably so, to some extent. But I attempt to balance my Christmas consumption with attempting to save in other areas to offset my additional consumption. Regardless. The smiles and happiness I see on peoples faces make it well worth the cost and waste.
Q: How do you broadcast the music?
A: I purchased a FM transmitter kit from Ramsey Electronics whos no longer producing kits thanks in part to our government. Falls along the lines of chemistry sets. Try to find a Gilbert chemistry set in todays world. Off my band wagon. After a couple of nights of soldering
and troubleshooting and assistance from Kevin, a technician I worked with because part of the transmitter display
did not work when I finished soldering it together, I finally had an operating FM transmitter. This way you and other visitors can listen to their car radios without having to roll down their windows in the freezing cold to hear the music.
This helps to keep our neighbors happy as well. The transmitter is one of low power variety which are approved by the FCC.
I chose the frequency 100.1 based on informtion showing that there were no licensed radio broadcasters in the area as
well as manually tuning my FM radio to confirm the unused frequency. I do risk the possibility that the frequency could be
assigned in the future so I do need to test at the beginning of each lighting season to verify it's still valid.
I do not use external outdoor speakers as I like my neighbors and I don't want them burning my
house down. I do have a radio in the garage that I typically have on for testing or whatever, and if someone was to walk by I
could conceiveably, turn the volume up somewhat so it could be heard out front.
Q: How do you control the lights?
A: The lights are hooked up to 15 Light-O-Rama controllers with two more currently being constructed.
Each controller allows up to 16 channels of lights to be controlled for a total of 240 channels.
Although my first year (2008) I purchased my first unit already constructed, I have built and soldered
all the remaining controllers so as to help keep the cost down. The controllers use the same type
of cable very similar to the cable you may be using in your home to
attach your computers to the internet. The contollers do have a limit on the number of strings of lights that
can be attached to each channel, so some electrical knowledge is needed to keep the installation safe.
You need some knowledge of volts, amps, watts, GFCI's, how much current various sizes of wire (extension cords)
can carry, etc.
Since the controllers are the mechanisms that switch the lights on and off continously, they can be controlled in
two different ways. One is to have a direct connection to a computer. The other method typically used by those bitten
with the bug is by utilizing a stand alone type of device called a Showtime Director which for all practical purposes is a computer. I have elected to use the Showtime Director since it doesn't tie up my computer.
Of course, software is also required. The sequencing software sold by Light-O-Rama is what I'm using to program all of the various lights.
It is very time consuming to sequence all of the lights to a given song. Typically it can take 4-16 hours per song not counting all of the tweeks
I seem to contiounsly find.
Q: How many extension cords do you use?
A: There's approximately 30 extension cords. Various lengths typically between 25' and 100'.
Some are 12 gauge, 14 gauge and 16 gauge cords. As you're probably aware extension cords
can be expensive so I've purchase most of them at significant price reductions through sales.
However I am using what is typically called lamp cord. It's a heavier insulated type of cord (SP-2) that is very similar to
the brown/green/white extension cords your probably using within your own homes. By purchasing it in rolls of 1000'
I'm able to keep the cost down significantly and design my own lengths appropriate for the lights and their respective
controller attachment. If I was able to stretch them end to end, along with their lights, I've calculated that I probably could reach Laingsburg which is about a mile and a half away.
Q: Where do you store it all?
A: I have a nice size storage area in the basement that holds a lot of the lights. But most of the roof lights are permantly mounted to 1x4 stained pine to match the house trim. These are then stored between the rafters in the garage since I don't have a finished ceiling. I also utilize a trailer for some of the equipment.
Q: How much did all this cost you?
A: Most of us have hobbies of sorts. Although this might more appropriately be called an obession. It started out with an investment of $500 or so. I started in 2008. Each year I add a few bulbs, strings, props or what ever. By purchasing lights at the end of the season when their dirt cheap or during the time when various vendors have their summer sales has kept the cost down significantly. See the Why/History link here for additional info. But for all purposes this is my Christmas gift to all of those who are still kids at heart and love Christmas lights. And of course we never tell anyone how much we spent on their Christmas gifts!
Q: Where did you buy all of your lights?
A: A little bit of every where. Light-O-Rama, Planet Christmas, Creative Light Displays, Christmaslightsshow.com Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, Sears. Click here for links to various websites
or click Links from the home page.
Q: What is new this year?
A: I guess you will just have to come and visit..... actually bear with me as I still have not figured out what is new yet.
Q: Are you planning for next year yet?
A: Always looking ahead for what I could do to make it better next year!
Q: Why do you do this?
A: I'm going to direct you to the Why/History link for this question.
But I blame it on my Mom.
Q: Why are you collecting donations?
A: Christmas is traditionally the time of year most people are willing to spend money to buy gifts for others. Most of us have a desire to help someone in need. Someone who might not be able to buy gifts for others let alone themselves. While many of us will feast during the Christmas season there are others who have lost their jobs and are even having trouble feeding their families. The donations I receive this year will be given in their entirety, to the Laingsburg Food Bank. There will be a huge candy cane by the mailbox that has a slot for money donations.
Any cash deposited will be retrieved nightly and will be presented to the food bank. Of course you may donate directly to them as well.
I'm hoping that those who visit our display of lights will find it in their hearts to donate to this worthy cause. In case you missed it on the home page, the donations for 2016 were just over $800.