Powering 80-100ft of EL Wire

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Powering 80-100ft of EL Wire

Postby skinnay » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:40 pm

I'm going to have 80-100 feet of el wire around my tent this year, but I'm not sure what kind of power I need. Can one or two 9 volts do this if I recharge them daily with a solar recharger? or do I need a more serious deep cycle battery?

and for future reference is there an easy way to calculate power needs for el wire? do you just go by the total feet of el wire, or the number of strands, efficiency of driver, etc?

cheers! =]
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Postby Jackass » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:50 pm

I'm no expert on EL wire but don't you need special terminals/ends to splice to the ends of that stuff???Different lengths and thickness determines the voltage you will need to use, I would guess a couple of sets of household batteries should get you by for most of the week depending on how many hours you plan on operating it. No deep cycle should be needed unless you have a few hundred yards of the stuff and want to keep it on 24/7
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Postby sputnik » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:50 pm

Each driver is different as to how many feet of wire it will drive. You also need to know if you're going to have multiple circuits doing different things. Standard 9V batteries will not last long. You'll probably want to go with a bunch of D batteries wired together to make 9V or find a driver that works of 6V lantern batteries.
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Postby skinnay » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:47 pm

http://shopping.netsuite.com/s.nl/c.ACC ... /id.194/.f

What about a couple of these with a daily solar recharge? Will probably have 4 strands of 10ft wire on each driver.
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Postby some seeing eye » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:54 pm

That length of wire can be driven with about 500mA at 12 V on the inverter in. If you are using a 12V battery, multiply the hours between charges by .5A and derate by 1/2 to 2/3.

So 9PM-5AM = 8 hours and you would need an 8-12 Ah battery. Gel cells are great for solar recharge and pretty foolproof.

The power consumption depends on the length, frequency, voltage and whether/how fast you make it blink. elam-lytec.com are the original source and have suggestions.
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Postby Optic » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:27 pm

My friend has his EL wire contraptions powered by 4 AA batteries. He did it because AAs typically have a longer lifespan than Ds do. But, he only has something like 20 feet of EL wire.

And some seeing eye has a good point. If you can sent them to blink, then you can actually save a lot of batter power compared to actually having them on at all times. Around 24 Hz is my favorite frequency. It looks like a solid color when it's sitting still, but you see a bunch of afterimages when it's moving around. :D
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Postby Elliot » Sat Jul 10, 2010 3:12 pm

:D
Hmmmm.... I think I want to jump in on this.

I have a 100 foot length from a now-defunct supplier. I've powered it with a 12 VDC deep cycle RV type battery. It sort'a works, but it is far too dim, and the driver makes a brain-piercing buzzing sound.

Some time ago, I tried to read up on this, and I seem to remember I concluded that.... The specs of the driver were wimpy. And I could run this string straight off household 110 VAC instead. Does this ring a bell? Alarm, or otherwise?

I'm thinking a cheap common RV inverter instead of the driver.
:?:
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Postby Token » Sat Jul 10, 2010 11:40 pm

El Wire drivers are high voltage, high frequency, low current devices.

El Wire is basically a capacitor.

I wouldn't plug it direct into wall AC since there is nothing to regulate the current. You will melt the wire, cause a short and likely burn something.
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Postby Token » Sat Jul 10, 2010 11:44 pm

Btw. The wire is pretty much the same. The drivers are where the brightness gets determined.

If you pay $10 for a driver, it generally is crappy.

If you pay $75 for a driver, you get better results.

To increase brightness you increase the frequency. This decreases wire life.
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Postby dragonfly Jafe » Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:26 am

also, many drivers are "enthusiastic" in their claims about how much they can run. If you are near the upper limit of what is claimed, expect less than stellar results (and shorter lifespans for the electronics). If you go beyond that limit....
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Postby Elliot » Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:52 am

:D
Right. I did figure out that the driver supplied with this thick 100 foot string was marginal for that application.

Much conflicting information on the interweb about this, seems to me. I just read one site that said you CAN plug it straight in the wall.

There must be a site with solid information on this?
:?:
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Postby Elliot » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:10 am

:D
I finally remembered where I was storing the driver in question. It says output 110 V, 1800 Hz. (Good for up to 40 meters = 120 feet, so that part is OK.)

I'm reading that I might want something like 4000 Hz for brighter light. So obviously, 60 Hz wall power would do no good -- I remembered that wrong.

Up above here, Optic must mean 2400 Hz, not 24 Hz?
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Postby Token » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:43 am

Optic was saying; turn the high frequency signal that lights the elwire on and off at a rate of 24Hz. It is a strobe effect that is built into the better drivers and sequencers. It is independent of the driving frequency.

This creates a 50% on/off duty cycle on the power draw improving battery life at the expense of brightness.

Tricks the eye with persistence of vision and all that.

It's basic Pulse Width Modulation.
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Postby dr.placebo » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:19 am

OK, I may have something useful for you. A few years back I lit up an installation on the playa with 4 x 80-foot lengths of EL-wire. I used 4 drivers, each needing 12 volts. I powered them using a pair of 6 volt lantern batteries in series (the drivers connected in parallel, of course). A pair of those batteries lasted all night (say, 10-12 hours). Not the most efficient or ecological way to do it, so I'm not necessarily recommending the power source, just saying that such a pair should last a single strand for 4 nights.

I used the "Big Boy" driver at http://www.coolneon.com. To find the drivers page, click through Shop, then Drivers (under Catalog), then Long Length Drivers.
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Postby kman » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:19 am

Optic wrote:My friend has his EL wire contraptions powered by 4 AA batteries. He did it because AAs typically have a longer lifespan than Ds do. But, he only has something like 20 feet of EL wire.

If your friend is getting better battery life out of AA cells than the same number of D cells, he either has some AMAZING AA cells, or some terribly defective D cells.

Among your better rechargeable batteries, AA cells tend to have a capacity of approx 3,000 mah, while D cells have 10,000 mah.

If he's comparing 4xAA to 1xD, however, it's easy to see how the AAs would last a little longer, bringing a sum of 12,000 mah to the party (albeit at a much higher voltage if run in series).
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Postby Elliot » Sun Jul 11, 2010 1:49 pm

:D
Token: Thank you! I failed to grasp this the first time around.

Dr. Placebo: Looks like I have a choice between the $20 Big Boy and the $110 Max thingie. Thanks!
:D
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Postby skinnay » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:22 pm

So it looks like i will be unable to ship large batteries out to the playa.. does anyone know what i need to run one of the 12v big boy drivers off a car battery? or maybe I can try and rent a seperate deep cycle somewhere in reno? =[
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Postby Elliot » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:22 pm

I inquired with CoolNeon about the Max Driver. They say it operates at 2000 Hz. That does not sound like much of a brightness improvement over my old 1800 Hz unit.

This thought is based what I read elsewhere about brightness. According to GloWire's web site, 2000 Hz equals medium brightness. GloWire sells 3000 Hz and even 4000 Hz drivers for "Bright" light.

So I don't think I'm in a hurry to spend $110 on a 2000 Hz driver. Or am I missing something? Can quality or amperage capacity make the difference? I'm solid-state-electronics illiterate. :lol:

Oh, and Skinnay.... Since nobody answered your question... I believe you should be able to run a 12 V driver off a car battery just fine. But I would use a second battery, not the one you need to start the car after a week. I would buy a used car battery at a wrecking yard, charge it up, and "so what" if you kill it by draining it too far. (Then again, I'm electronics illiterate. :lol: )
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Postby geekster » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:09 pm

You can run el wire off 110 but it will be dim. 400Hz works better than 60Hz.

Something like this might work:

http://www.kgselectronics.com/SD3.htm

or this

http://www.kgselectronics.com/FD15.htm
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Postby some seeing eye » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:13 pm

For those concerned about shipping batteries. There are battery stores in Reno that will have rechargeable ~12Ah batteries, they are motorcycle, alarm, emergency lighting types. Gel Cells or AGM are the most foolproof, compared to open wet cell lead acid, NiCd and Nimh are great cells, more expensive. Lithium chemistry batteries in that capacity are very expensive. There are also limits on th ecapacity of Lithium chemistry batteries allowed on planes - they are a fire hazard in some circumstances. Batteries from the store need to be charged before use. That capacity battery is small about 4x4x6" and 9 pounds.

12Ah easily runs that length of EL wire for a night. Last year there was a camp with a very large solar array that would charge batteries. It was across the street from the Alternative Energy Zone. So I would suggest asking on the AEZ message board if they know the name of the charging camp, then contact them to see if they are here in 2010 and if they have charge controllers for 12v or if you need to bring your own.

DPW or AEZ might be interested in your batteries after the event if you can't take them home.
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Postby geekster » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:55 pm

AGM require no HAZMAT special handling. GelCells do. AGM don't leak, work in any orientation, will not leak if broken. Basically the AGM technology was developed for fighter planes. They wanted a cell that would work in any orientation but would not be a hazard of the case were compromised.
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EL Driver sound

Postby portaplaya » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:17 pm

I don't think you want to sleep in the tent while the EL wire driver is running. The piercing high-pitch whine will drive into your skull and make sleep difficult.

I also have about 80 ft of wire. The driver keeps it running for about eight hours and quickly starts to dim after that. This driver is fed by eight AA batteries.

You are going to need about 20W solar to charge that in one day, with a guarantee that it gets fully charged.
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Postby Elliot » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:19 pm

:cry:
I second the noise problem. Not loud, but VERY annoying.

And checking human hearing range.... Sorry, it looks like all EL drivers are well within human hearing range.
:cry:
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Postby dr.placebo » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:47 am

Using wall power for EL is not a good idea. Besides being inefficient and dim it can source a lot of current, which can lead to bad outcomes (electrocution, fire, melted components). Using a driver not only gets you brighter light, it reduces risk (assuming that you have a safe DC supply).

EL wire degrades with time. It typically drops to about 50% brightness after 1000 hours of use (not really a problem for playa art).

EL wire gets brighter with more voltage and with more frequency. However, the brighter you drive it the quicker it burns out.

Unfortunately, the best frequencies for EL wire are close to the most annoying for humans. You can put some sound insulation around the driver to make the problem less.

Here's a link for some technical specifications for Lytec 3.2 mm EL-wire:

http://elam-lytec.com/pdf/02S_common.pdf
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Postby capjbadger » Wed Aug 11, 2010 3:46 pm

Unfortunately, the best frequencies for EL wire are close to the most annoying for humans. You can put some sound insulation around the driver to make the problem less.


Normal human hearing range is about 20Hz to 20,000Hz.

Sound insulation can help, but make sure you don't wrap it to the point where it can't dump heat.

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