FAQs

This page provides answers to frequently-asked questions.  If you don't see your question, then send an email and we'll post the answer for others to see.

Q?

How BIG is your show? How many lights?

A.

We have approximately 40,000 light bulbs in this show...

We also have approximately 90,000 channels!

We used to count the number of bulbs in our show, a string of 100 bulbs would be counted as '100'.  But the question and answer has gotten more complex in recent years.  Now we have a string of 100 lights that is simply "ON" or "OFF", but we may also have a string that can be changed to any color by mixing Red/Green/Blue together.  These lights have 3 channels, and take more work to control.  Newer strings now let EACH bulb be controlled in any color... a string of 100 RGB bulbs will use 300 channels!  You might even say that it is 300 times more complex compared to that old string.

Q?

How long have you been doing this?

A.

In 2008 I started by grabbing tangled clumps of lights and putting them in milk crates that lined the driveway.

Since that time, the show has gotten more complex.

Q?

How much power does your show take?

A.

I estimate that lights take about the same power as 2 room fans -- while the show is running.

There are a number of reasons why the show is energy efficient.

  • It is timed to go on and off at set times of the day.  It does not stay on indefinitely.
  • It uses LED technology which is MUCH more efficient than the old-style incandescent bulbs.
  • When using RGB (Red/Green/Blue) bulbs we often display colors.  A "White" color is created by turning on ALL colors R+G+B.  When displaying "Red" only 1/3 of the bulb is using power.
  • When sequencing to music we turn on the lights to match a beat or pattern to the music.  Often lights are off, waiting for their time to come on.  During this time where the lights are waiting, they don't use power.

Q?

Where do your donations go?

A.

Donations are matched by the family and sent once a week to the Caring Place, a local food bank.

The cost of the lights, controllers, and power is all part of the hobby -- and that cost is NOT funded by donations.

Q?

How can I get started and do my own show?

A.

Join an internet community to participate in the discussions, or watch.  There are many friendly groups that love bringing new people into fold.  Ask your questions and you'll have many people answering -- giving you many opinions along the way.

Find a group and read through their past discussions and you'll find that most questions have been asked and answered dozens of times... so you can easily put it all together.

There is a group:  Lone Star Holidays that covers Texas and has local groups in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, etc.  We meet at the home of members, and sometimes find conference rooms to have training sessions on new and interesting topics.

Q?

How much did this all cost??

A.

Like "how old are you", and "how much do you weigh", there are some things you shouldn't ask.  When you ask, you will not get a straight answer. 🙂

I will say that you can do a lot to reduce the cost of the hobby.

Build your own elements.  PCV, coroplastic, plywood, ... it all gets used!

Shop in thrift stores, buy at the end of the season, find unwanted stuff on Craig's List.

Shop overseas to get lights and controllers.  Participate in bulk buys with other people to get quantity discounts and defray the shipping costs.

Use old computer parts (power supplies, PCs, etc.)

Solder your own boards... there are high-quality solutions out there that are feature rich and reliable.  Build it yourself and you can often pay 25% of what it would cost you from the standard vendor.

Repair your old stuff... nothing needs to be thrown away if you can repair it and make it whole again.

Q?

Isn’t sequencing hard?

A.

For me, it has gotten easier thanks to new software created by our DIY communities.  These are guys that like building software and hardware, and like the challenge of making something that others will use.

There are now FREE software solutions that will help you find the beat in your song, or identify places in your song where the verses and refrains begin.  Then you can hit "Randomize" and new effects are created and combined from the software's toolbox.  The results are often astounding!

My answer is that its gotten a lot easier... I can do one song in an hour.