There are several places online, as well as retail stores to purchase ELWire from. I've bought AA-powered inverters from AutoZone (they sell EL-ELWire for auto-trim). I've seen ELWire at Wal-Mart (again, in the auto section). Not only should you not buy *anything* from Wal-Mart, but you shouldn't buy ELWire from an automotive place (unless you *have* to). The reason is that they charge you way too much. Oh, I've seen a decent display at Circuit City too... it's way too expensive though.
(used by me)
(used by me)
(used by Mutatyor?)
Tooling around on the internet I found a site that sells surplus gear.
Page 4 of their "miscellaneous" section has 3 different ELWire kits for sale. 20 dollars each gets you just under 5 feet of wire and an AA-inverter.
But better yet... and this is where I've bought my ELWire in the past. Cool Neon sells stuff for decent prices and they are burner friendly (the first picture on their main page is a picture from burning man). They have kits very similar to the ones at All Electronics but for 5 dollars less!!
Of course, there are many many more places on the internet where you can buy ELWire , and several others are burner friendly, and/or offer burner discounts. Feel free to shop around.. or if you're lazy just buy it from Cool Neon.
Things to think of when you are buying ELWire ...
What are you trying to do?
How long does your light need to be?
Can several small pieces work instead of one long piece?
How portable does it need to be?
Do you need several colors?
You could put ELWire in the spokes of your bike. You'll need to tape an inverter to the hub or something. That inverter can't power anything else obviously. For that reason, I only use elwire on the bike frame so I can use one inverter to power it all.
Can you use a 12v battery or do you need to have the inverter fit in your pocket?
This year on my bike, I had many feet of wire and different colors (I think). I used a 12v inverter hooked up to a small sealed lead-acid battery. On my old bike, I only had 3 feet of wire so I hooked it up to a AA-inverter.
AA-inverters use two AA batteries and create the voltage and frequencies to power your ELWire .
They also have 9v inverters, 12v, and 110v AC inverters (plug them into your house outlet)
Okay.. now you're confused enough.. just what do you need to buy???
There are two basic things that you *NEED* to get your ELWire project of the ground.
Never pay more than 2.00/foot for ELWire . You should be able to get this much cheaper than that. I'd recommend the 3.2mm size. It handles fairly well and doesn't break real easy. It's about the same price as 2.3 and 5.0mm sizes. Please note that it's just the external size of the wire. The insides are all the same. It's not easier to solder the 5.0 than the 2.3mm. Just buy the 3.2 and you'll be happy.. the color is your choice...
Get the inverters that suit your needs. If you want to use it to power a hat or something else to wear, you'll probably want a AA or 9V inverter. Those are the smallest and you put the battery inside the case so it's a nice little package. Unfortunately, these power the shortest amount of wire. They power upwards of 5-8 feet of wire (plenty for a hat).
If you are lighting up a bike, art-car, tent, etc... you'll probably want more ELWire , so you'll need larger inverters. This is where the 12V inverters come in. In 2K2, I went overkill on my tent-marking ELWire inverters. I had three 12V inverters running off a regular car battery. The inverters had light sensors so they turned on automatically at dusk and turned off at dawn. (real handy so you know your tent is lit up even if you are too "busy" to remember). I was probably only powering about 6 feet of ELWire total with them though. I could have used one single inverter. (overkill) The entire week of usage didn't even dent the charge on the battery.
If you need to light up several hundred feet of ELWire (buy it by the roll and it will be under $1.00 a foot) then you'll want to have several inverters and a big hefty car battery. Consider using several batteries and dividing the ELWire into several units or sub-systems. If one part dies, your entire project isn't dark...
Other things that could be useful are a soldering iron, solder, small vise, wire cutters/strippers, clear shrink tubing (1/8" expanded, shrinks to 1/16").
I'm going to TRY to bring some small pencil-type soldering irons. The small vise isn't needed, but could be handy to use as a 3rd hand. I'll try to bring some extra wire cutters/strippers too. A sharp x-acto knife or razor blade is useful too.
Also, one thing that I do that is a lot of extra work, but saves a bunch of money. I used ELWire to mark my shade structure guy-wires, and this is how. I took several feet of Elwire and cut it into short (6 inch) bits. I staggered the 6inch bits with 1-2 foot pieces of 24awg speaker wire. 24awg speaker wire (bought at Home Depot, or elsewhere) is super cheap. Like 15 cents a foot. So... on my guy wire was 6 inches of elwire, 1-2 feet of speaker wire, 6 inches of elwire, 1-2 feet of speaker wire (etc...)
With this, my 10 foot guy wires could be lit with only 2 feet of ELWire !! That got rid of 8 feet of elwire.. and at 1.50 a foot ($12 per guy wire, 4 guy wires). Of course, each one of those speaker wire to ELwire connections is a possible point of failure.... and on the playa... heh.