Day-time picture of Tower Light demo

Tower Lights – Ready for Night Test

What is the “Tower Lights” Project?

I’m investigating attaching LED light strings to the guy wires that hold up short to medium height radio towers.  I got the idea driving past Rustler’s Rooste nearby.
They have strings of low-wattage incandescent lights along 6 guy wires attached to the upper portion of the tower, as well as along 3 guy wires each at about two-thirds and one-third the way up, for a total of 12 strings of lights.  But theirs are all white, and left on daily from sun-down to sun-up, so they’ve got to be costing several hundred dollars a month in electricity.

What’s involved in the “Night Test”

Top portion of the tower at Rustler's Rooste

Top portion of the tower at Rustler’s Rooste

I’ve been working on a 10 foot tall demonstration tower — basically a length of PVC pipe with 6 ropes and LED strings attached.  The LED strings are waterproof, and I’ve attached waterproof connectors at the ends.  To those, I’ve attached an extension cable — also waterproof — which is then connected to waterproof housing.  Inside the housing the microcontroller unit and a breadboard to connect the power source (a portable USB charger) and the data signals.

To make the demonstration unit portable, the whole unit can be disassembled and reassembled as needed.  The PVC pipe slips into a pretty large base, the kind designed to hold umbrellas.  Each of the ropes (the pseudo guy wires) attaches to a ring that is around the PVC pipe, and after connecting the LED strings, extension cables, and control unit, the center end of the ropes is hoisted from ground level to the top of the pipe.  The far end of each rope is attached with quick-release hardware to an eye bolt embedded into a large brick.

What  is the Tower Light system made of?

Hammond waterproof enclosure for microcontroller and wirings, with Switchcraft EN3 connectors attached

Hammond waterproof enclosure for microcontroller and wirings, with Switchcraft EN3 connectors attached

The microcontroller is a Cypress PSoC 5LP.  The LED strings are WS2811 controllers and a 5 volt RBG LED unit embedded in watertight plastic, each connected to the next, and there are 50 LEDs on each string, with 3-pin connectors on each end.  (I ordered direct from iPixel in China.)  For each of the 6 demo strings, I’ve removed the “front” end connector and soldered in a Switchcraft EN3 4-pin male connector, which plugs into the mating female connector of the extension cable.  On the other end of the extension cable is another male connector, which connects to the panel-mount female connector mounted on the side of the Hammond enclosure.  I’ve used a variety of USB power sources, including Jackery and Zagg.

While researching connectors, I met Richard Roberts at Moss Marketing who showed me a variety of connectors, including those from Switchcraft, which I knew would meet my needs. Richard in turn put me in touch with Larry Cairo at the Phoenix Allied Electrical office, where I ordered the Switchcraft connectors and Hammond enclosure.

I bought rope and the hoisting hardware from the local McFadden Dale store here in Phoenix.

I’ll post an update with night-time  video soon!

What’s the long-term goal?

What I’d like to be able to do is create “Tower Light Kits” made from “standard” lengths of LED light strings and extension cables to be connected to a standard controller box.  They’d be easy to install and maintain, and use very little electricity.

The light show could be customized by the user, selecting display times, brightness, and color schemes:

  • Red and green for Christmas
  • Shades of green for St Patrick’s day
  • Red, white, and blue for Fourth of July
  • Orange and brown for Halloween

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