DIY Outdoor Landscape Lighting

7,041

55

5

Introduction: DIY Outdoor Landscape Lighting

About: Mechanical Engineer/Computer Scientist/Computer Engineer who loves to create practical solutions.

    I have had issues with landscape lighting companies since I purchased my first townhouse in 2003. The transformers are low powered with non-intuitive push button interfaces and cheap screens where wattage seems to be more precious than platinum. Unless you enter a really high price point, the lights are extremely poor quality with scarce-to-nonexistent replacement parts (spikes). The connectors are frustrating and finicky. I have been playing with Raspberry Pi's for a few years and thought it had to be a good basis for a lighting controller. I really wanted to roll my own solution and this became my Spring 2019 passion project for home improvement.

    Supplies:

    Current Successful Supply List

      ~Shrink Tubing: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B071H5XC7C

      ~Flood Lights: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FMMQPZ2

      ~Wire: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Case: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Case Mounting Panel: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~LED Waterproof Strip: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Silicone Wire: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Aluminum Channel (U06B10 Black w/ Milk White Cover): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~End Caps (U06 Black): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Landscape Staples: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Power Supply: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Raspberry Pi W: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKCBI6

      ~Relay: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057OC6D8

      Watch List

      ~Connectors: https://www.amazon.com/SRRB-Replacement-Landscape-...

      Added Convenience

      ~Ryobi Battery Soldering Station: https://www.homedepot.com/p/RYOBI-18-Volt-ONE-Hybr...

      ~Dremel Butane Torch: https://www.amazon.com/Dremel-2200-01-Versa-Multi-...

      Failed Solutions

      ~Outdoor Wire Nuts: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BW0YG2

      ~Wire Connectors: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BW0YG2

      ~Flood Lights: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BW0YG2

      Teacher Notes

      Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
      Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

      Step 1: Inspiration & Acknowledgement

      Preliminary searches led me to two separate online instructions that I felt could be combined and updated to create what I was looking for.

      ~Colin Miles, aka onehourcleaner on Instructables, inspired me with this post. He explained the power supply wiring perfectly so I'm not going to rewrite his work, rather I'll add some updates.

      ~Matyscabreras on YouTube created a great video on DIY LED lights.

      Step 2: Methodology

      Based on the inspirational posts my goals were as follows:

        ~Utilize a PC power supply which will power both the lights and a Raspberry Pi.

        ~Write custom Python code which would control turning the lights on and off.

        ~Utilize a web service to determine sunrise/sunset times as a basis for controlling the lights.

        ~Construct my own lights so that replacements can be easily produced.

        ~Publish solution for others to utilize/improve/enjoy.

        Step 3: Sunrise/Sunset Web Service

        As mentioned in "Step 11: Improvements In-progress & Wrapping Up" of one of the inspirational posts, Colin mentions using Weather Underground by obtaining an API key. Unfortunately, WU's API has reached end of service. I did find another service called Sunrise Sunset that utilizes a simple REST API. You can form the appropriate URL incorporating your latitude and longitude coordinates in decimal degrees. When called, the API will return JSON with the sunrise and sunset at that location in UTC time.

        An example URL and response is as follows:

        URL

        https://api.sunrise-sunset.org/json?lat=36.7201600...

        Response

        {
        	"results":
        	{
        		"sunrise":"6:31:48 AM",
        		"sunset":"5:32:25 PM",
        		"solar_noon":"12:02:07 PM",
        		"day_length":"11:00:37",
        		"civil_twilight_begin":"6:05:35 AM",
        		"civil_twilight_end":"5:58:39 PM",
        		"nautical_twilight_begin":"5:35:23 AM",
        		"nautical_twilight_end":"6:28:50 PM",
        		"astronomical_twilight_begin":"5:05:23 AM",
        		"astronomical_twilight_end":"6:58:50 PM"
        	},
        	"status":"OK"
        }

        When writing my Python code, I struggled a great deal in dealing with and converting between timezones. I believe my code is working as I intend. A good test will be when the clocks change for daylight savings time. In hindsight, a future improvement may be to set my Raspberry Pi to operate in UTC and perform no conversions at all. If I decide to do that, I will update these instructions.

        Step 4: Python Code

        I added my Python code to the "OutdoorLighting" repository of my GitHub. I absolutely welcome input on my Python code. The README.md is as follows:

        Python scripts used to automatically turn outdoor lighting on/off from a Raspberry Pi. Utilizes the Sunrise Sunset REST API to return times in JSON (https://sunrise-sunset.org/).
        
        Uses the following packges:
        
        python 3
        pip3
        python-requests
        python-dateutil
        
        Using the following cron to run this script at 1 am everyday and on system reboot (crontab -e):
        0 1 * * * /home/pi/OutdoorLighting/OutdoorLighting.py
        @reboot /home/pi/OutdoorLighting/OutdoorLighting.py

        Step 5: Controller Assembly

        The photos are labeled with all the connections needed to operate the controller.

        Step 6: Light Construction

        After some trial and error, this is the light design I settle on which I'm pleased with. The photos are labeled with specific instructions.

        Step 7: Conclusion

        This project was slightly challenging, sporadically frustrating, and very rewarding. I wasted some money during my personal R&D, but not much. I spent more than I needed to on the ATX power supply in order to offer future expand-ability. The plan is to run lighting completely around the house. The lights themselves turned out very modern and attractive. Some may prefer a tiered light and I'm sure a plug-and-play solution can be sourced on Amazon.

        First Time Author Contest

        Participated in the
        First Time Author Contest

        Be the First to Share

          Recommendations

          • Magnets Challenge

            Magnets Challenge
          • Raspberry Pi Contest 2020

            Raspberry Pi Contest 2020
          • Wearables Contest

            Wearables Contest

          5 Discussions

          1
          stevemail
          stevemail

          Question 2 months ago on Introduction

          I like this project and appreciate your posting, including the detailed shopping list and links.
          My question is whether it is necessary to check the internet on an ongoing basis to get sunrise/sunset times. My assumption is that, for any given location, the sunset/sunrise times follow the same cycle each year, and those times could be essentially "hard coded" into the software. I currently do this manually and only t adjust every 2-3 weeks, so it might only be necessary to have a table of weekly or biweekly times. Adding internet access makes this a more complicated project.
          Also, I was wondering if you considered or experimented with a light sensor rather than use sunset times, and if so, why you did not go that route.

          0
          JasonUMD77
          JasonUMD77

          Reply 2 months ago

          All valid questions. I personally don't know enough about the consistency of sunrise/sunset times year-to-year such that it occurred to me to go that route. Also, my intention was to create some code that would be easy for anyone to adopt and entering lat/long seemed to fulfill that need. Adding internet access for me really wasn't an issue. I just set my Pi up in a "headless" fashion, entering my wifi information after extracting the Raspbian image. I have thought about using a light sensor. When I started the project I had not yet worked with I/O pins, or the Pi in this fashion really at all. So it was more a reason of approaching what I was interested in and could manage.

          0
          onehourcleaner
          onehourcleaner

          2 months ago

          Awesome project and result!! Can't wait to update mine with some of your ideas. Voted and congrats on your first instructable!!

          0
          seamster
          seamster

          2 months ago

          Nice, great results! Thank you for linking to the earlier project for reference, too.

          1
          JasonUMD77
          JasonUMD77

          Reply 2 months ago

          Can't take credit for other's discoveries!