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Frequently Asked Questions



Click on a question to see the answer.

- October/November
- Over 1 month and at least 400 hours.
- It used to be December 1st. However, we now turn them on around the 2nd week of December.
- When the lights are all on, we can easily draw 30,000 watts of power.  Because it's computerized, approx. 1/2 the lights are on at one time, meaning we draw less than 15kW/hr on average.
- The electric bill is roughly $400 for the month (computerization helps cut energy costs).
- The roof and grass lights are 5 watt C7 strands (we need these to melt the snow). In 2004 we phased out all our 7 watt C9 strands.  In 2005 we began phasing in LEDs and now have more than 60,000. All our lights are coloured.
- We are gradually phasing LEDs into the display. Though they aren't as bright as incandescent bulbs, they are being improved every season. The only disadvantage to LEDs is their lower light output, the string lengths can't be customized, and they are about 2/3 more expensive. They also don't melt the snow, meaning the entire display would be hidden if we receive significant snow accumulations.
- Currently, myself (Martin) and Andrew invest in the display and have some sponsorship assistance.
- In 2002 we began collecting money for local charities.
- When the lights are turned on, in December, there is a charity box at the side of the road where money/envelopes can be delivered.  In 2003, we introduced an option to donate online. Click on the "donations" link for details.
- Good question!   A sense of self satisfaction, making people smile, proving our capabilities and being able to help local charities.
- Myself (Martin) and my brother (Andrew) design the electronics and controls used in the display, while Jasmine and Angela help with some of the displays.
- A simple desktop computer.  It basically sends a bunch of 1s and 0s out, which turns the individual light strands on and off.
- An I/O card is also known as a data acquisition card.  It plugs into a computer slot and allows the computer to interface to the "real" world by sending and receiving digital or analog data.  Currently, we only use the output of the card to spit out "on" and "off" signals to the Xmas lights.
- A channel is a single output from a computer that switches a set of lights on and off.
- We now have more than 360 channels running.
- A program on the computer tells the display when to start and stop and also controls the sequence of light flashes.
- Programming can take a long time, because there are at least 360 channels to edit.  To add 15 seconds to a program can take about 5 hours of programming.  The 2003/2004 musical sequence took about 30 hours to program, while the 2005 sequence took about 50 hours to program. The 2006 sequence took about 60 hours to program!
- We run WindowsXP and custom made lighting software to control the light sequences.
- We climb all of them!
- The entire display is monitored by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters which monitor the safe distribution of electricity.  The wiring installs and products used, follow the Ontario Electrical Code.  We inspect all the cabling before it is put in use and old or damaged electrical parts are discarded.
- Many different stores: Canadian Tire, Rona/Revy, Home Depot, Walmart, etc.
- This is a common question as many of our neighbours have requested our services.  Because we dedicate all our spare time into this display, we are not able to install displays for others, though we'd love to do it!
- Every since we've been kids we've been involved with electronics.  This is just another project that progressed throughout the years that really began when we discovered data acquisition, which is essentially controlling real world controls via computer.


 

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