Introduction: Halloween Outdoor Smart Power Hub
So my fiancée went a little overboard with getting ready for Spooky season now that's just around the corner, and really really wanted to put more up. However we have been constrained by the number of outdoor outlets, and it is rather bad to have power strips just laying around and get rained on. So to that end, I modified this hard plastic Frankenstein's Monster figure to become the smart power hub for up to 8 plug ins at once. I figure that these would be a safe number to start out with so I don't overload anything.
This same concept could be used for other holidays with an appropriately decorated figure, just keep a few things in mind:
- it should be hollow. pointless otherwise
- it should be big enough to house all of the cords and such
- it should be rated for outdoor wear and tear
- you really should like the figure, as it'd be a pain to take the brains and wiring out later. It should really be a permeant thing that couldn't be taken apart later on
If you do want to build this guy, get the parts together I have listed below and let's get started.
- Hollow plastic figure, appropriate for your holiday you plan to use it for
- 1 or 2 power strips rated for outdoor usage
- the one I used I got at lowes: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Tower-Manufacturing-Over...
- smart power outlet for outdoor usage
- I have been using Kasa (aka TP-Link) for my smart plugs, and used their 2 outlet outdoor plug model for this: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/tp-link-kasa-smart-w...
- a plug in light socket that I had laying around
- gorilla glue
- method to cut through the plastic (i was impatient, so I melted holes with a soldering iron. not the best, definitely go outside if you do this method too)
- a 2 or 3 outlet splitter
- a double gang outdoor outlet cover for weather protection
- a few zipties might be useful to clean things up
- music of your choice to work with. projects are always more fun listening to music anyways.
- I have a Tempest weather that I use to help keep my inflatables safe from local wind gusts that could damage them using IFTTT as a bridge between the two. more info at the end as it is an optional step. If you do want one for this, or just to track your weather in your own backyard: https://shop.weatherflow.com/collections/frontpag...
Step 1: Time to Make Some Holes
Most plastic figures are sealed to look nice, and while they might have a hole at the bottom to let water out if any seeps in, I seriously doubt you could work through such a small opening. So, let's make a hole to work with AND that wouldn't look bad on the final product. Logically, let's go with the hole on the bottom: no need to cover it later, the ground should do that nicely when the figure is in usage later on.
I started by trying to cut through with a knife, but the plastic is very thick and durable. Being impatient, i decided to break in my soldering iron i got used really cheap. NOTE: I would highly recommend you go outside to a place that is not flammable for ventilation and safety. Melting plastic stinks. A lot. Once the iron was nice and metal melting hot, I used it to pierce a line of holes around the edge of the bottom of the figure. Once I have all of the holes in place, then it's a matter of connect the dots with a knife at that point. Crude, but effective. If you have a better way to cut through the plastic, be my guest and do so.
Also if there is not a power socket built into the backside of the figure you have, you will want a hole back there big enough for your splitter to fit through.
Step 2: Let's Install a Power Indicator Light (if You Want)
I thought ahead to any possible issues, and thought it best to add in a power indicator bulb so that if there are any issues at all, I can easily see if the figure is receiving power at all in the first place. I put him on his head (thankfully it's flat, so that's easy), modified his back plate that used to hold the light socket in his back so that I could hang it from the top of his head. I made sure the bulb that I was using was an LED one so I wouldn't have to worry about it burning out later on, as changing it out looks like it'd be quite a problem. I put quite a lot of glue on the base and gently lowered it in. Using a rod I had laying around, i used that to press the base to the top of the head, holding it for a minute. Then I let it sit and chill out for a couple hours to let the glue set up.
While that is setting up, we should also set up the smart plug if you haven't done so already. Follow the directions of the outdoor smart plug you decided to go with to download the app (if you don't have it already) and connect the new plug to the massive internet. Shouldn't take you too long, so have a cup of coffee or something while waiting.
Step 3: Time to Figure Out the Wiring Itself
This gets to be the fun part (for me at least) and the most vital. Take your time, because once this step is done, there really is no going back. Study the picture of the wiring to understand it all. Ask questions if you need to.
I made sure the indicator light and the smart plug are both FIRMLY plugged into the plug splitter before continuing. All connections should be in all the way to prevent issues later. Also the source splitter should be unplugged during assembly so the circuits are all dead. Safety first after all, this is household current going through this when we are done.
First, feed the source splitter through the hold you have designated for it so it's in place. I put a healthy amount of glue on the bottom of the smart plug, putting it in it's spot and holding for a minute. Then one at a time I plugged the leg power strip blocks into their respective smart plug, set in their spot that they will live at inside the figure, and pour glue on the sides and bottom of each block to really hold them in place. To me, it's hard to overuse the glue in this step, as it would be rather sad and probably bad if the glue fails while the figure is in use. Make sure you are happy with the placement of the plug and 2 blocks before waiting for the glue to dry. I would recommend as this stage must fight gravity from here on out, let the glue set up overnight to a whole day before continuing.
Step 4: Let's Finish Weather-proofing This
Make absolutely sure the glue from the last step really is set and dry before turning it over onto it's front. I used a bit of twine to hold the plug up and I tried to use a ziptie to hold it in place to the outlet cover while working. Then using a decent amount of glue, I joined the cover to the back of the figure. This way water shouldn't get in through this opening, there is still easy access to the source plug for the extension cord. I don't have the extension cord permanently mounted to make storage easier. Also it would be a nightmare if the exterior cord had an issue later and couldn't be replaced easily. Again, you want to let this step sit for awhile so the glue can really set and seal the cover to the opening. Once everything is sealed up, water shouldn't get in and mess with the power inside. That aside, it's still smart to use only things that are rated for outdoor usage, just to be safe.
Step 5: Finished!
Now the figure has completely dried all of the glued together parts, so it's time to set it all up. plug the various decorations into the feet at the bottom at the site where it will sit in the end. In the highly likely event you are using extension cords from the figure to the decoration in question, I would recommend getting these cord covers:
- For inflatables especially, the power cord ends in a large box that is a touch bulky. The cover has to be big enough to accommodate it, so I would suggest bringing one of the blocks with from the inflatable in question when getting the cover to be certain it is the right size. The cover may be a bit pricy, but it will protect everything in the end: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Twist-and-Seal-0-8-ft-Pla...
- for standard plug to plug connections, the smaller cover works great and is much cheaper: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Twist-and-Seal-0-5-ft-Pl...
I would suggest driving a rod into the ground where the figure will stand to keep it upright during any windy times. gently lower the figure onto said rod while being mindful of the cords inside so you don't damage anything. I realized afterwards I should add a PVC pipe inside big enough to house this rod so it's easy to guide together. I'll more than likely add such a pipe into it later, and figure out the reinforcements later on.
Now Igor, it is time to flip the switch and power up this Monster! When plugging the splitter into the main supply extension cord, I found it easier to use a robogrip ( https://www.amazon.com/CRL-7-Robo-Grip-Pliers/dp/B.. ) to hold the splitter while joining them together. Also it would be smart to plug the extension cord into the house outdoor outlet AFTER the figure is fully wired up to prevent any possible shocking hazard. It would also be smart to do the reverse when unplugging for the end of the season, and using those same robogrips on the source splitter to protect it from any damage. I found out the hard way the zip tie could not handle the stress of plugging the cord in.
Step 6: Optional Step for Advanced Makers
I personally love using IFTTT and I found it helpful to upgrade to the Pro version for the tiny 1.99 a month to do so (I saw the benefit early on and was one of the first ones to sign up for it when it came out, locking in my rate). If you want to sign up, go to https://ifttt.com/home where you can make you smart home even smarter! I use IFTTT so my Tempest smart weather station can protect the more fragile inflatables from any wind damage by automatically turning them off for me.
If you want to use the one I made: https://ifttt.com/applets/LQYeGHFS However do note that this applet works with just these two services. If you use any other ones, you would have to build it yourself.
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