Usb Christmas Lights

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Introduction: Usb Christmas Lights

About: I like to make things

this project was inspired by the following web page:
http://www.i-hacked.com/content/view/62/44/
that said, there are unlimited numbers of things that can be powered by usb. with the holidays coming up, why not christmas lights? i've added a switch to the original design to allow me to turn them on and off without unplugging the usb cable. The whole thing is mounted into an enclosure (altoids tin, of course), purely for aesthetics.

Step 1: Get Your Equipment

i began with a battery operated set of christmas lights, and the male end of a usb cable. i cut off the c battery holder, taking care to mark which wire was positive and which was negative. frankly, this may not matter in this case, but i wasn't completely sure, and i'm a better safe than sorry kind of guy. i stripped the ends of the wires and twisted them to keep them together. i then stripped the outer sheathing off the usb cable and located the red and black wires. these are the only ones we will need. if you're following along with me, strip them too. for an enclosure, i chose--of course--an altoids tin. this, however, is the first project i've seen inside an altoids smalls tin. (at least that's something)

oh, i also use a small toggle switch and some solder and what not.

Step 2: Get Funky I

drill a hole in the side of the tin closer to the base than the top. i used a much smaller bit and then used a precision file to work it up to size. it wasn't a perfect circle, but it allows you to move the hole a bit to get the fit right so the lid will still fit on. besides, the nut to hold the switch in place on the enclosure will cover it once it's on.

Step 3: Get Funky II

i used the same technique to fashion a hole in one end for a usb cord, and a hole in the other for the christmas lights.

as you can see, i tied a knot in the light's cord and placed a zip-tie on the usb cable inside the case. this will keep you from pulling the internal workings out of place during use. i will anchor it further, but that's another step.

so, without further ado, another step. . .

Step 4: Get Funky III

solder the negative wire of the lights, to the black wire of the usb cable. then solder the positive wire from the lights to one pole of a spst toggle switch. the red wire from the usb cable will be soldered to the other pole. this is not the clearest picture, but this is about as easy as it gets, so i'm not worried. if you can't figure out what i'm talking about, you're in the wrong place.

Step 5: Get Funky IV

i've used white electrical tape to insulate the soldered ground wires. color doesn't really make a difference, but please, please! don't EVER use red!! just kidding.

hot glue helps to imobilize the wires and therefore protect your soldered joints. you want as little as possible to move inside this thing. usb cables have tiny wires, a.k.a. they break easily.

Step 6: Testing

this is an easy project. i am way overdocumenting, but even though it is easy, i still wanted to test it before plugging it in to one of my computers. they ain't worth much, but they're what i got, right?

i hooked this bad boy up to a portable 9v usb charger that i had constructed with the aid of a multitude of instructables, etc. it worked.

everything's cool and i have some snazzy lights for the holiday season, or whenever i need some quick lighting without an outlet. all powered from a 9v battery.

and by the way, it also worked when plugged into my computer's usb port. =)

p.s. next pic is the inside of my 9v usb charger.

Step 7: 9v Usb Charger

this may be my next instructable. it's been done, though.

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    33 Comments

    0
    hi111
    hi111

    11 years ago on Introduction

     i am a 12 year old electric novice and would like to now if someone could tell me how to wire a 5v regulator in this schematic

    i already have it built and it charges my psp but i am making it able to charge my ipod and think a $2 regulator is worth less than a psp or ipod

    FCRRHRMFNNJYKXC.MEDIUM.png
    0
    okcgriffin87
    okcgriffin87

    Reply 1 year ago

    I would like to know what you're doing now, very cool that you were doing this at 12.

    0
    hi111
    hi111

    Reply 1 year ago

    Haven't been on instructables in close to a decade, thanks for the blast from the past via the email notification.

    Went on to pursue a degree in Computer Science and have gotten into FPGA programming.

    Hilariously enough I made an 8 bit processor on breadboards as a senior project, guess the electronics novice faze never ended.

    0
    iiklyde
    iiklyde

    Reply 2 months ago

    I can't believe you still had that email. That's insane.

    0
    pdub77
    pdub77

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Just do an Instructables search for '9v USB charger' and you will come up with a host of projects much like this:  https://www.instructables.com/id/Super-Simple-Ipod-Battery-Charger-Altoids-Tin/

    As well, depending on where you buy your regulator the basic wiring should be on the package.  Radio Shack?  It's on there.  Just wire it up and go to town.

    (I accept no responsibility for fried-pods. . .)

    0
    pdub77
    pdub77

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Also check out 'matroska's' post if you haven't already.  Very useful.  Thanks, matroska!

    1
    pdub77
    pdub77

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    No sweat.  Hope all goes well.  Post some pics when the deal is done.  = )

    0
    okcgriffin87
    okcgriffin87

    1 year ago

    My daughter asked for fairy lights for her room, so I bought a set that are this USB kind. I can't believe people were talking about this a decade ago; I feel dumb. We plugged the lights into my laptop and she loves them, but I have no idea how to plug them in when my laptop can't hang out in her room.
    I didn't even know this was a thing, and have no idea how to power the lights without my laptop. Do I need to buy some expensive converter to plug into the wall that has USB on the other side? I should buy the battery - charged lights, but this is driving me nuts. How do I run these? I don't know if anyone will see this, but if you do, many thanks in advance. It is not fun to let my kid down. She never asks for anything so I need to get this working.


    0
    pdub77
    pdub77

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Really, SSBBROB?  Lay off the kid.  He's (or she's) just trying to learn about electronics.  Maybe he'll be the person who gets excited about this stuff and ends up inventing something amazing we will all use someday.  And maybe his parents helped him out or he is using his dad's (or mom's) account.  However he (or she) is on this site, the comments are on my project and don't concern you.  And if there is a legitimate problem, report it to the actual Instructables admin.  Cheers!

    0
    iProton
    iProton

    11 years ago on Step 6

     I'd also give it a tumbler switch or a dimmer :P Just in case.

    0
    matroska
    matroska

    11 years ago on Introduction

     Very neat! I'll be using this to power my ipods and iphone!

    By the way, for those looking -like me- to power real usb devices, you will need some modification made so that the device will know it's a "real" usb port.

    See this instructable for more details: 
    www.instructables.com/id/How_to_get_your_iPod_to_charge_with_your_homemade_/

    Unfortunatly, as is, it will not power iPods or any other devices that requires some kind of usb standard. (Which is why in that instructables all the 4 pins are used.) Good luck all and thanks.

    0
    Sk8erCk4Life
    Sk8erCk4Life

    12 years ago on Introduction

    Can you use a set of christmas lights and power them with a pc.

    0
    boyrock375
    boyrock375

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    it could be possible if you can find a way to turn 5 volts into twelve volts then you can use an inverter to turn twelve volts into 120 volts then TA DA.

    0
    pdub77
    pdub77

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    usb is around 5v whether you're on a mac or a pc. if you have a set of lights that can run on 5v you can power it with either. all i'm doing is harvesting power, not the operating system.

    0
    pdub77
    pdub77

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    if you're talking about straight out of the box plug-in(120v) Christmas lights, no.

    0
    TheInventor
    TheInventor

    12 years ago on Introduction

    Quote pdub420:i've used white electrical tape to insulate the soldered ground wires. color doesn't really make a difference, but please, please! don't EVER use red!! just kidding.|| That was hilarius!!! +1

    0
    led235
    led235

    13 years ago on Introduction

    how many volts come out of a computer USB Socket?