The #1 Frequently Asked Question we have is:

"How Much is Your Electric Bill?"

You might think that the bill runs in the thousands! In actuality we have maintained a relatively low electric bill, do primarily to the fact that we only have 30%-40% of the display running at any one time and therefore the cost is lower. If we think of it in simple terms it would be the same as you turning lights on and off in your home and causing the meter to run faster or slower. See the video below for a demonstration of how 1 of our 2 Meters reacts to changes in the display over time and consequently changes in power draw.


Lessons Learned in Power

Since I started putting up Christmas Lights with my Grandparents I've always been conscious as to the dangers of "live" wires and large amperage pulls. As a golden rule in putting up lights, whether it had been at my Grandparents, my Parents, or even in the Lights For Riley display, we NEVER break "The Rule of 3".

The Rule of 3

The rule of 3 is actually quite simple. When it comes to mini-lights (100 ct. strands) there is a small fuse that limits the number of strings plugged together end to end. The rule is to never go beyond 3 strands end to end.

Because of the nature of our display and the number of lights on certain elements, such as the Large Tulip Tree out front or the 6 1/2' Twig Trees, we get around the rule by doing what is referred to as stacking.

The rule of 3 applies to other strands like LEDs and some C7's/C9's. In those cases the label on the lights should indicate how many strings end to end can be connected. If the label doesn't indicate it, we always play it safe and never go more than 3 strands. In the case of our C9's, we never run more than 150 C9's in a run before we start a new run. This limits the amount of power load needed to flow down the line and stays in line to keeping our display well within safety limits.

The Red/Green Difference

For our display in 2011 & 2012 we actually have more lights than we can turn on at one time!! If you watch the display very closely you'll notice that we never turn red and green on the same element at the same time. This allows us to run over 100,000 bulbs, all the while reducing our overall Amperage draw from a Maximum of 425 Amps to just over 200 Amps of power.

The spreadsheet available below is available courtesy of Richard Holdman, Holdman Lighting and has proved very useful in our overall display planning. This spreadsheet is our final channel layout for the 2011 display.

Put your controllers close to the elements

By attempting to lower the price of the overall cost to implement the display in 2011, we decided to build a 6 Card - Light-O-Rama Controller inside of a Hoffman Electrical Box. The 6 card box consists or 6 LOR CTB16-PC cards at 16 channels each for a total of 96 Channels. That puts our total number of wires running to/from the box at 110 wires coming out of the bottom of the box. Don't forget the additional 6 inside the box for data cable (CAT 5e) running in a daisy chain fashion from the previous board to the next board. We were able to get very good quality wiring in short lengths of 1 ft or 2 ft for the custom made 6 Card Box from monoprice.com

This all sounds wonderful until you place the box behind the house and end up purchasing over 3,000 feet of SPT1 just to wire that one panel (96 channels)!! The upside to the whole situation is it looks great, because no one can see it.

For the mini-trees, mega tree, and twig trees we place the controllers as close as possible without being aesthetically displeasing to minimize on wiring.


Have a Question we didn't answer?

Email us - Christmas@LightsForRiley.com