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Author Topic: 40ft balcony with addressable LED's  (Read 2546 times)
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Cincinnati
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So I'm starting a project that is a little bit over my head, but I think its possible. I came here to help get the communities guidance before I dig too deep.

Project:
I live in a downtown environment and want to put some color into my balcony. I want to run a LED strip along my 40ft balcony. I want to control each LED individually and want each LED to be able to light any color. From what I'm reading I need a digital LED strip of some sorts. I know there are different manufacturers/models/etc.. so this is where the experts come in :) The idea is to keep it up year round and have it lit for different occasions. (e.g. holidays/sporting events/party/etc...) So I've been researching for about a week and am narrowing things down, but still have a lot of questions on whats the best way to do this. Obviously I need everything to be weather proof. I'd like to have it fully controllable from inside. I don't know how possible it is to put this on my wireless network and have it controlled from another computer/tablet/phone. Also, I'm wanting to automate a lot of stuff in my condo. So any advice from those automation people too

Anyways, any guidance is well appreciated, and sorry for the wordy description. Feel free to message me if you have anything to say on the side.

Thanks!
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This might work for the LEDs:

http://www.adafruit.com/products/306

Good luck,

Chris
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Addressable strips is what you need.  There are a few on the market, like the one that Chris linked from Adafruit that uses the HL1606 chip.  There is also the lpd6803 ones sold by bliptronics, and the WS2801 ones sold by SparkFun.  All of those are supported by the FastSPI library.

I personally use the WS2801 kind.  They're easy to use, just connect them to the SPI MOSI and CLK pins, provide power and off you go.  Program your color sequences and watch the fun.

As for having wireless communications, if you already have a network hub, you can just add a ethernet shield onto your Arduino and connect it to your hub.  Wireless comes from whatever wireless access point you might have.  It's just another device on the network.
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Quote
I want to run a LED strip along my 40ft balcony. I want to control each LED individually and want each LED to be able to light any color.

There is an LED section in the forum that might provide you with some reading. Controlling a lot of things on/off is fairly simple. controlling the color of a lot of LEDs is probably the challange. Try getting two LEDs working, then expand out from there.
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The Digital Addressable RGB LED w/ PWM waterproof flexi strip from Adafruit works great.  I've bought a couple of meters of this for use in lighting a wheelchair. (http://forums.adafruit.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=24671).  These strips use the LPD8806 IC's and are PWM controlled for every LED and are waterproof.  The downside is that they are costly.  You are also limited to 5M per run so doing 40 feet will require 3 strips and multiple power supplies.  To power these strips properly, you will also need to tap in at several spots on each strip.  This will help achieve maximum brightness.  See this post for more information on this: http://forums.adafruit.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=24275&start=0

The strips that use the HL1606 IC are much cheaper but are not able to display 7-bit color like the ones using the LPD8806 IC.  They only turn on and off for each color on each LED.  But if this is all you need, you'll save lots!

The strips that use the WS2801 IC are also able to provide PWM color control.  These are also expensive and there is one IC for each RGB LED.  The LPD8806 IC can control 2 RGB LEDs.

To make it wireless, you can either put it on a wireless 802.11b/g network using a shield like this (http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9954) or you can add an Xbee radio to it and your computer to control and program it.  Neither of these appear to support the Ethernet library though so control will be limited but you could have a computer act as a web server and send the limited commands to the arduino from the computer that is connected to it.  If you are able to wire it to your network using an Ethernet shield, you will then be able to have the arduino on the network and run as a mini web server.

I've been dabbling with home automation myself and have been using Insteon devices.  With the Insteon automation, I'm able to have track lights in various rooms come on at dusk and go off at midnight at a pre-determined brightness.  I can also control any device from my computer or iPhone using a web server module they have.  At some point I hope someone comes out with a way to interface an arduino appliance to the Insteon network but if not, I may have a go at hacking it. 
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Thanks for all the input guys!

I'm reading about everything you guys posted and its all very helpful. I was thinking about getting a book to read along side all the online stuff I'm reading. Are there any books you guys recommend? I have a lot of programming background (c++, java, unix scripting, ruby). The only downside is I don't currently use any of them, so I'm a little rusty. My minor in college was EE, so I'll have to bring back all that knowledge as well... hah.

Also, does anyone have recommendations for what Arduino products I should get? I honestly don't know how to compare any of them out there. Ill be reading the boards here too, but thought i'd ask in here.

I will be documenting my process and hiccups, so hopefully ill be able to contribute to the site once I'm done.

Thanks again!
« Last Edit: December 19, 2011, 06:04:18 pm by mizzery85 » Logged

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Still figuring out what board i'll be getting for my project. Anyone suggest and explain which is best? I'll be ordering this week.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2011, 04:10:31 pm by mizzery85 » Logged

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Most of them are based on the ATMega328P IC (Uno, Pro Mini, Lilypad), with the Mega2560 using the larger IC.  The main difference is the amount of ports you have available, and the amount of program space, with the 2560 being the largest of the two.

For what you're thinking of doing, a 328P would be just fine.  Even if you decide to start driving multiple strings, doing different things, chances are you can still make it work with the regular 328P boards with a few shifters.

Honestly, for starters, you can't go wrong with an Uno.  Once you figure it out and start making more complex stuff and find a need for more and more ports, you can go for the larger 2560 board.
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Awesome, thanks man. Is there any disadvantage to just starting off with the larger 2560 board instead of the uno?
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No, no disadvantage.
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Thanks!
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You should go ahead and get the mega, as its price will probably just be chump-change compared to the cost of the other materials.
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That was my thought exactly. I'm starting off with the basics and 4 addressable LEDs. Get the logic/code down and then expand. Any other hints you guys could throw out would be great. Kind of at the point where I don't have a lot of time to read more into it, but will in 2 weeks and would like to have the hardware in hand to start playing.
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I've been dabbling with home automation myself and have been using Insteon devices.  With the Insteon automation, I'm able to have track lights in various rooms come on at dusk and go off at midnight at a pre-determined brightness.  I can also control any device from my computer or iPhone using a web server module they have.  At some point I hope someone comes out with a way to interface an arduino appliance to the Insteon network but if not, I may have a go at hacking it. 

Hi Cranium, I'm working on an Arduino based Insteon Home controller that offers over-the-web control. See: http://www.goodrobot.com/wiki/doku.php/wiki/arduinoinsteoncontroller

Shipped out the first couple of boards over the holidays and have 26 more on order (though it'll take me a bit of time to build them after they arrive). Be great to have any thoughts or suggestions for it.
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