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Repair Section Home
Fix Damaged Mini Lights
Fix Mini Sets That Don't Light
Fix C7 Or C9 Lights
Modify Mini Lights
LEDs As Holiday Lights
Regular Lights As Decorations

    ColumbineLights

Note: This page was started before you could buy LED lights
in nearly any store that sells xmas lights... Personally I
would recommend you do just that - buy pre-made sets

I'm only leaving this here for historic purposes


LED Lightsets!
LED stands for 'Light Emitting Diode'

For those who don't know what LEDs are - they're the little plastic lights
you see on many electronic devices. I have used these to decorate with,
and love the way they look.
Compared to regular bulbs, LEDs use very little power, so there's a couple
big advantages: Cost savings, and you can connect many more sets! ... they
also generate very little heat
Another advantage is LEDs last for a long time, so there's no worry about
replacing dead bulbs all the time
The color of LEDs will not fade with age!! as a LED makes light by putting
power through a gas ... standard bulbs are just painted colors, that’s why
they fade over time... one note, the brightness of a LED may fade as it
gets older

Stores are now selling LED sets, they're expensive and there's usually
some sort of plastic cover over the LEDs... Why???... Good question - I
have no idea...

You can 'make' your own sets of LED Lights... But its not as simple as
putting them in a Lightset

This page gives some info on how to 'convert’ a standard Mini Lightset to
a LED set!

If you drive too much power through a LED it can explode! or at least go
up in smoke

Here's the most important part - you must know the voltage of the LEDs you
will be using.

Standard 5mm LEDs work best as they fit just right on normal mini light bases.

Some common 5mm LEDs are rated at [1.9v min] 2.1v normal [2.4v max] (usually
Red, Orange, Yellow, YellowGreen). For this example it will be assumed that
you will be using these, and you live in a country that uses 120v mains
power.
Ignore the 'Max' voltage rating...What you need to look at is the 'minimum'
voltage rating. You need to go with something less than this.
To determine how many LEDs will be in the set you divide 125 (input volts)
by 1.6 (LED volts - remember LEDs are rated 1.9v, you must use less, in this
case i subtracted .3v).. So 120 / 1.6 = 75 .. that means the set needs to
have 75 sockets
Some other common colors (Blue, Green, White) are rated 3.0v min, for these
subtract .5v as they are more sensitive... that ends up being 50 sockets
in a set
DO NOT assume the values used here are correct for the LEDs you have (they
are used as an example only, based on LEDs i had at the time...make sure
you know the specs on whatever LEDs you get BEFORE you begin.

Follow these steps to convert a mini lightset from bulbs to LEDs (using
the example LEDs above):

1] get a standard 50-bulb mini set and add 15-sockets (its assumed you
   already know how to do this) .. if not see the Modify Mini Lights
   section
2] Once the set is ready, remove all the bulbs from their sockets.

3] remove all the bulbs bases. (but note of how far the wires come up on
   the base's sides and where they're positioned). [see image 1 below]

4] Place the bulbs somewhere safe (to use as spares for any standard
   sets you have). You will no longer need them here

5] You will need 73 LEDs and 2 12v standard mini bulbs. Insert the LEDs
   into the bulb bases making sure to get each of the wires into its own
   hole at the base bottom. [see image 2 below] Bend the wires up into
   position (where the bulb wires were) and trim to the correct length
   (if using the higher voltage LEDs use at least 3 12v bulbs in a 50 set).
   [see image 1 below]. Insert the 12v bulbs in a base

6] Install all LEDs into the Lightset (remember that LEDs are
   polarized) it is VERY IMPORTANT to get the '+' and '-' on ALL LEDs
   in the same direction... [image 3] for example if the first LED has its
   '-' pointed towards the set's plug, do them all like that (look at the
   set's wires going into the socket for this. NOT the socket itself as
   its not uncommon for sockets to get twisted around. If this done wrong
   and a LED is backwards, there is a chance it will be damaged or even
   explode when power is applied .
   Install the 12v bulbs in the 1st and last sockets

Image 1 - Wires Image 2 - Wires Image 3 ... +, -

7] Double check your work - make sure all LEDs are installed correctly

8] Now you can Test! if any LEDs are on but very dim, they are probably in
   backwards...quickly unplug the set, and check them. If the set does not
   light, either there are multiple LEDs backwards, or something is not
   making contact. Ensure that all LEDs are fully inserted in their Sockets,
   and inserted in the correct direction


If you only want a small set of LED lights, they do sell LEDs designed to
operate on 12 volts. For that you will need a 12-bulb set (and 12 LEDs, but
you will not need any 12v bulbs)

NOTES:

Standard Brightness LEDs will be dim (and give sorta a soft look)

Some High brightness (Ultrabright) LEDs can be so bright that you can not
look directly at them

Do not attempt to mix colors...standard bulbs are all the same, and just painted
different colors. With LEDs many times different colors have different voltage
ratings. If you know LEDs you have are the same voltage (and current) its just
fine to mix colors.

The LEDs should at most get just very slightly warm.

Nearly all standard 5mm LEDs i've seen are rated for a current of 20 miliamps
(20ma) Continuous. I recommend you test the set with a digital meter - it should
be drawing less than that 20ma (again go by the specs on your LEDs)

You may notice a sorta-flickering effect to LED sets...this is normal, it
is caused by the fact that LEDs are a DC device so they are using only
half the AC wave (refered to as 'half wave'). If it bothers you (it does me)
build a simple AC-DC converter box with a Diode Bridge (but nothing more)
In it. This will fix the flicker, because the lights will then be using the
full AC wave (ie: 'full wave'). Note that it may also make the lights appear
brighter, and will put alittle more power through them...

...One word of caution - WARNING! DANGER! - ok thats 2 words :) ......
NEVER NEVER CONNECT store-bought (pre made) LED sets (or anything else) to
this 'box' or the set WILL be damaged or DESTROYED...electrical devices
(espically things like electronics, motors, flourescent lights) will not
only be damaged or DESTROYED but could very easily smoke/cause a FIRE.
Very important: put a warning easily visable tag on the box warning about
the danger of misuse.

What is the 12v for you ask? well its more-so a diagnostic thing than
anything else (but it also works as sorta a ballast/resistor to help
protect the LEDs alittle): that bulb should glow very dimly... if its
full brightness (or even half), then there is a problem
..Its not really needed, its just an extra safety thing i did

LED Lights!!!
LED Lights!!!


I personally have 'made' multiple LED sets...See chart below:
1 Red & Green 12 bulb set [2000] - first set i did, continious operation]
2 Red 120 bulb sets (2 groups of 60 each) [Nov 2001] - continious operation
1 YellowGreen 60 bulb set [Fall? 2002] - continious operation
1 Orange 12 bulb set [Oct 2003] - continious operation
1 blue 100 bulb set (2 groups of 50) [Oct 2004]
2 blue 100 bulb sets (2 groups of 50) [Nov 2005]
2 red 150 bulb sets (2 groups of 75)
1 red 75 bulb set
[Dec 2005]
2 Green 100 bulb sets (2 groups of 50) [Nov 2006]
1 white 50 bulb set [Nov 2006]
1 blue 50 bulb set [Nov 2006]
1 OceanGreen 100 bulb set (2 groups of 50) [Jul 2007]
1 Magenta 100 bulb set (2 groups of 50) [Oct 2007]
1 Cyan 100 bulb set (2 groups of 50) [Oct 2007] - Awesome color!
1 Yellow 75 bulb set [Oct 2007]
By 'continious operation' i mean it runs 24-hours a day (the only exceptions are power
outages, and when the set gets unplugged and moved to a new location


Disclaimer:
Danger! Warning! Catuion! Attention!
All info here is provided AS IS without warranty of any sort
I can not be held responsible for any problems/damages/injuries/
etc caused by the use or misuse of this info. Use it at your own
risk

Warning: read all the following before you attempt to build/modify
any lights.

The info on these pages can be DANGEROUS.

As stated at the top of this page, i highly recommend you just go to
your local store and buy pre-made LED sets

Never leave these homebuilt LED lights on unatended (really a
good idea with any xmas lights)

Never use homebuilt LED lights outdoors or any place where they can
come in contact with wetness/moisture... they will be damaged and
with the DC power there may be a greater danger of faitel electric
shock

LEDs can explode if abused or misused...safty goggles might be a
good idea

The AC-DC box mentioned on this page in particular is dangerous, it
is for the LED lights described here only...connecting anything else
WILL cause problems.

Electricity can KILL or INJURE you, be careful and treat it with
full respect.

Electricity can also cause FIRES, again be careful with it.

Never work on any electric product plugged in.

If you don't know anything about electricity / electric products,
don't even try any of these.

There is no guarantee that this actually will work - build at
your own risk.

Always have someone double check your work before connecting
power to anything you've worked on.

Electricity and Water do not mix.

Avoid working in any area where flammable products (such as gas/
paint/etc) are stored or used

Do not work with electric items when you are tired, being tired
will only increase the chance of mistakes

Avoid working on electric products if you have consumed any
alcoholic beverages or drugs (medical or otherwise) as these
will impair your ability to concentrate on your work

if you become frustrated while working on something, set it
down and walk away (turn off / unplug any equipment you have
on)

Keep your work area clean and organized. If you work in a room/
area without windows (or work at night) install a automatic backup
light... that way when you blow a circuitbreaker/fuse you will not
be in the dark.

Do not overload Circuits/Extension cords/Lightsets/ Etc

Modifying any electric product WILL VOID any warranty on it

Using any electric product for other than its intended use WILL
VOID any warranty on it

In addition there is a chance you will void your insurance by
using modified electric items...for example if that item causes a
problem such as a fire, you may not be covered.

This is only a partial list of the cautions/dangers there are
many more not listed here (but still apply)

Always remember...
Please be safe!
It is not worth risking your life or home over lights!





This page and the images on it (c) 1999 - 2008 James K