DIY Computer Controlled Christmas Lights

Written by david cavalier
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DIY Computer Controlled Christmas Lights
Computerise your Christmas lights. (Christmas trees in lights image by Robert Young from

Computer-controlled Christmas light shows have become a popular way of promoting and sharing Christmas cheer. These shows often are elaborate, with many different strands of lights, ornaments and decorations moving or flickering in various patterns. Creating your own computer-controlled Christmas light show has become easier with a variety of products designed for the use of do-it-yourself users.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Computer
  • Speakers
  • FM transmitter
  • USB converter
  • USB cable
  • Cat5 cable
  • Lighting controller
  • Music selections
  • Computer software
  • Extension cords
  • Christmas lights

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  1. 1

    Start early stringing your lights on your house and in your yard. Many who have computer-controlled Christmas lights begin hanging their strands in the summer months. Check your light sets to make sure they are functioning, and replace any burnt-out bulbs or frayed wires before stringing the lights on your home.

  2. 2

    Connect your Christmas lights to extension cords, and run these cords to the light controller. A 16-channel light controller can power a 9,000-light display. This is considered a small light display, but your first year, it is best to start small and expand your system each year. The equipment and software required to create a computer-controlled Christmas light system can be expensive, and the process can be time-consuming. Plug your light controller into an AC power outlet.

  3. 3

    Connect the light controller to the USB adaptor using the cat5 cable. When buying the cat5 cable, be sure to have enough footage to reach from the light controller outside to the your computer indoors. Connect the other end of the USB adaptor to your PC using the USB cable.

  4. 4

    Install the software to run your Christmas lights on your computer. The software to run your Christmas light display show will walk you through the process to coordinate your lights to music, or you can simply set your lights to a flashing display. Take your time creating your light display sequence. You can choose to use your own music selections or buy a plug-and-play music sequence. The plug-and-play option will already have a light show plan set to use. Follow the plug-and-play light layout when using this type of program.

  5. 5

    Test your light system to ensure it is properly running and the music and lights are coordinated as you have planned. This step should be performed at dark. This will give you the best view of your light show. It is important to run the light show completely through several times to ensure you have the sequence correct.

  6. 6

    Connect your FM transmitter to your computer to allow your music to be enjoyed by those passing by. This will also keep the peace with your neighbours, who might become annoyed by the repetitive music playing all season long. Post a sign outside for viewers to tune in to your own personal FM station.

Tips and warnings

  • Begin your Christmas light set-up earlier than usual when connecting the lights to a computerised control system. Plenty of websites are dedicated to animated and computer-controlled light displays. Check these sites for suggestions and samples as well as discounted or used equipment to add to your system.

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