Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Q: It didn't seem like there were as many lights this year?
  • Q: When will the shows start?
  • Q: Will you have new songs this year?
  • Q: Where is your house?
  • Q: Do you work with computers for a living?
  • Q: What software/programs do you use?
  • Q: What computer do you use?
  • Q: How long does it take to put up all of the lights?
  • Q: Does your electric bill go up a lot while the lights are on?
  • Q: How many lights are there?
  • Q: Do you use LED lights?
  • Q: Don't you think your wasting a lot of electricity?
  • Q: How do you broadcast the music?
  • Q: How do you control the lights?
  • Q: How many extension cords do you use?
  • Q: Where do you store it all?
  • Q: How much did all of this cost you?
  • Q: Where did you buy all of the lights?
  • Q: What is new this year?
  • Q: Are you planning for next year yet?
  • Q: Why do you do this?
  • Q: Why do you accept donations?
  • Q: It seemed like there were less lights this year?

    A: When I was taking down the lights yesterday 12/27/2023, I discovered that there were some lights that were not plugged into the controllers. Hence next year I will make sure to do more testing prior to the show starting up. The other most obvious (at least to me) was the fact that I was unable to get the oak/walnut tower lights put up. Some of the sequences I've developed over the years rely on these tree towers for the affects that you see. My apologies.

    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: Two part answer. 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 an old Lenovo laptop running Windows Professional with Virtual PC. It does have a 500GB hard drive, 4GB memory, and is pretty fast.
    I'm also in the middle of a migration to a (as luck has it) a Lenovo Gaming machine purchased from Costco.

    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.

    Update to this question. Over the years I continue to tweak how the show is setup. Having paper documentation is required to keep track of the various props (aka - strings of lights as example), also things like having the eve lights mounted to fake facia boards allows the eve lights to be setup in under an hour.

    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, environmentally green, led lights. The power bills have been reduced from nearly $120 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 an approximate count listed under Display Basics near the bottom of page. (that way I only have to change it in one place on the website since I continue to add new lights every year. The count listed is also approximate. I have in my inventory doc the total lights I own, but their not all being used in the show. A few spares and new props are still being developed for deployment.

    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 / 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. Their are only a few remaining incandescent lights still in use now. The straight up and down "tree towers" as I call them. They are much brighter then leds. There are 150 at 9 watts each so that's a total of 1350 watts. I believe I've found some new red ones that are being manufactured. Maybe the purchase and deployment will occur in 2024. But to keep things in perspective remember their not on steady during the entire. The white frosty the snowman and reindeer are also still incandescent. show.

    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 in business and 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 Morris, 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. Which I have done during the Halloween shows.

    Q: How do you control the lights?

    A: Please see my Technical webpage for details

    But basically there are x number of controllers deployed through out the yard. Many of these kit controllers have 16 channels each. Therefore there are approx 272 channels available for sequencing the music too. Each channel allows 1 string / device to be attached. For every song that you hear, I have to determine every 1/10 of a second which one(s) of the channels are on/off/dimmed/flashing. That's why it easily takes 100 hours or so to create a single song/sequence. So you can only imagine how many times you have to listen to the same song during the creation of a sequence.

    Q: How many extension cords do you use?

    A: I have approximately 30 extension cords. Various lengths typically between 25' and 100'. Some are 10 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 after the Christmas. However I am also 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 for lamps, etc. By purchasing it in rolls of 1000' (over the years I've purchased 5 rolls of 1000' and 1 roll of 500' lengths) 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 place all of the wire used with the extension cords and light strings end to end, I've calculated that I probably could reach Laingsburg which is about 1 1/2 miles 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 garage 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 helped to keep 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 (a majority of the led lights have been purchased here), Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, Sears. Click here for links to various websites or click Links from the home page. Note: I have only had about 5 C9 led bulbs go bad over the 10 years or so of use. However at the beginning (2008) I did buy from the box stores. Their reliablity has not been great at all. But I can no longer testify to their reliability since I haven't bought any in 10 years or so.

    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. click here. 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. At the same time, many of us have a desire to help someone in need. You have to remember that the "someone" might have lost their job or is not otherwise working so cannot buy gifts for their family let alone, food, rent, utilities, taxes, etc.

    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.

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    This page was last updated on December 27, 2023