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Controllable driveway path lighting project

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  • Controllable driveway path lighting project

    I mentioned modifying some driveway path lighting to be controllable for color and brightness. I have had several members contact me about these lights, so I thought I would post this. Understand that there might be different ways to do this, but this post might serve to provide some ideas. I settled on some reasonably priced Malibu Tier lights for the fixtures. We use 6 on each side of the driveway.

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    These are supplied with a small incandescent bulb and are made to run on 12 volts. I took one apart and removed the small bulb and socket. Then I started experimenting with various LED lighting solutions. I wanted each light to be fully illuminated and to eliminate any appearance of light source(s) I tried a number of solutions and found the best light was provided by a number of LEDs aimed outwards around the circumference of the light. I initially built these lights with dumb RGB LED strips. They were initially controlled by 6 PWM channels from an Arduino. I controlled every other light on the left and right sides of the driveway with one or the other of 3 PWM (RGB) channels. This allowed me to set the color on alternating lights on each side of the driveway. I used some theatrical film on the inside of the fixtures to disperse the light and eliminate the appearance of point source lighting.

    I had thought of building the fixtures using smart LEDs such as WS2812 or APA102, but decided controlling alternating fixtures would be easier and about as good. I will be putting a very long string of APA102 LEDs controlled by a Pi on the fascia of the house later this year.

    My wife and I both prefer warm white lighting for most standard lighting. I decided to rebuild the fixtures to use RGBWW Led strips. This gave us color plus a dedicated warm white channel. Rather than build a new set of output devices for an Arduino, I switched to Fibaro RGBW Z-Wave controllers. I also went to 4 controllers so that I could control alternating lights as well as both sides of the driveway independently.

    To build the lights I removed the supplied bulb and socket. Looking at the plastic stake that holds the lights in place on the ground I felt it was too flimsy. Instead I drove short lengths of rebar into the ground that would fit inside of the lights post. Because the method of anchoring the lights to the ground filled the post, I had to bring the wiring outside the post. I notched the bottom of each fixture so that the wiring could exit outside of the post. This one is a bit ugly, I got better on the remaining lights.

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    The hole had to be large enough to allow a 5-pin connector to fit through. I used some waterproof connectors I found on eBay.

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    I decided to use a piece of 3/4" pvc as the center of the light to wrap the LED strips around. I cut 12 pieces of PVC 1/8" shorter than the distance from the bottom to the top inside the fixture. Because of the shape of the top, this holds the PVC centered when the top is installed. I cut a strip of RGBWW LEDs just long enough to wrap top to bottom around the PVC. I attached a short length of 5 conductor wire to the LED strip, wrapped the strip around the PVC and held it all in place with clear heat shrink tubing. Then I attached a 5-pin connector to the pigtail and sealed the connections in marine grade adhesive lined heat shrinkable tubing.

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    The tubing is just below the PVC on the bottom to help center the tubing at the bottom and flush at the top. Then I cut two sheets of theatrical diffusion film to wrap exactly around the inner circumference of the lens. I used two layers of lesser density film so that the seam would be less likely to show. I had the seams offset by 180 degrees.

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    With the strips of film in place, they laid perfectly around the inside of the lens.

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    I inserted the post in the light, inserted the LED assembly wiring through the notch, and attached the lid to hold the LED assembly in place. Then I used two layers of heat shrinkable tubing to hold the wire in place. This tubing adds to the rigidity of the two piece post and two layers of tubing provide protection to the wiring from errant weedeater use.

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    The 5 pin connector exits the bottom of the tubing.

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    I built a couple of cables, one for each side of the driveway. Each cable had a 5-pin connector spaced for each of the lights on each side. LIghts 1, 3, 5 are on one channel and 2, 4, 6 are on another channel. I used 10 conductor cable I purchased at salvage. Where each connector is connected to the cable the junction is sealed with adhesive lined heat shrinkable tubing. I buried the cable and drove in the rebar for each light. The cables go into the garage where they connect with the LED controllers.

    Shortly after they were installed I started using the JowiHue plug-in to control a number of HUE lights around the house. A German company Dresden Elektronik builds a Hue compatible ZigBee RGBW controller. I really like the way that the Hue controller deals with lighting levels and colors and decided to go with these instead of the Fibaro Z-Wave. Nothing changed in the wiring since they are both RGBW controllers.

    These lights look very good at night in warm white. They vary in brightness from twilight to night to late night. We can also set the colors on every other light and on each side for special lighting. We have gotten a lot of compliments over the last three years on these lights. These pictures were taken in the evening, just to show how bright they can be. At night we run them at about 30%.

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    Last edited by rprade; September 5th, 2018, 12:04 PM. Reason: correct typos
    Randy Prade
    Aurora, CO

    PHLocation - Pushover - EasyTrigger - UltraECM3 - Ultra1Wire3 - Arduino

  • #2
    pretty cool!
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    • #3
      Very nice Randy!


      • #4
        Now that is awesome!
        RJ_Make On YouTube


        • #5
          Randy, Those are great, do something similar with the lighting in old jukeboxes, just pop out the old florescent bulb and add a pipe wrapped in leds, so simple.
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          Works great and old parts stay nice and safe "OFF"