MySensors Controlled LED Accent Lighting (and/or Christmas Lights?)



  • OK. So the idea I had was to use MySensors + nRF24L01radios to make some nodes to remote control some individually addressable LED light strips. All the components (including the LED light strip) are pretty inexpensive nowadays. And with a strip of LEDs (and any number of small, inexpensive nodes to control them), you could cut and use little bits of strip almost wherever you want throughout your house.

    Some things I had in mind were:

    • A node with a motion sensor in the hallway that would (during night time hours) automatically light your way with a (not too bright) white LED light coming from underneath a low shelf.

    • Under cabinet kitchen lighting. Again, could be intelligently controlled to come on (at low intensity) depending on time of day (via a, perhaps separate, motion node).

    • Any sort of under shelf accent / reading light by sticking some strip to the underside of some of that IKEA Lack shelving that you can install almost anywhere and you can't see how the shelf is hung because the hardware is inside of it. I think this sort of battery operated node would look very clean and work well with that, without needing wires running everywhere.

    • Going the other direction, it could also be directed upwards out of some sort of wall sconce or high wall or trim feature.

    • For your battle station (PC) :) including potentially inside the case, or really just about anywhere you wanted some accent lighting.

    • No reason you could not use it to control Christmas lights on your tree, inside, outside, including color and moving patterns.

    Now of course I know that any more than a few LEDs will need a local power supply. Most of the places I would like to put any significant number of lights (entertainment center, battle station) have power available, so this will not be a problem (for me at least).

    I think this is a really good idea, in fact, I think if I get this all worked out it may become very popular use of MySensors as an almost universal lighting system.

    I am just now beginning the planning phases, I have found a couple projects where people have done some stuff with MySensors and LEDs but nothing I think to the sort of universal and customizeable extent that I am sort of imagining. Of course, if I have overlooked something, please point me in a direction before I get too much time/work/research into this, no need to re-invent the wheel after all. :)

    Other than that, I welcome everyone's thoughts, as I said I have just begun the research and planning phases. I'm Excited! :smiley:


  • Contest Winner

    @TRS-80

    +1 for having such a kickass username...

    there are many ledstrip examples here, you may have to do a bit of searching:


  • Hardware Contributor

    @TRS-80 said:

    • No reason you could not use it to control Christmas lights on your tree, inside, outside, including color and moving patterns.

    My wife told me she wanted this last christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szLmAPW39uE
    She was like - takes you a couple of hours right?
    Might be a high goal to set... and neighbours would not be happy i guess.



  • @sundberg84 said:

    My wife told me she wanted this last christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szLmAPW39uE
    She was like - takes you a couple of hours right?
    Might be a high goal to set... and neighbours would not be happy i guess.

    I've read up on the setups of people who have done things like that, apparently there is some purpose built software on PC that helps to coordinate your light relays along with the music. I have been to houses like that, it's eerily quiet, actually. There will often be a sign in the yard instructing you to tune your radio to a certain frequency to hear the synchronized audio.

    And so it's not the sound that the neighbors would love, but probably the blinking lights (and, once you were featured on the local news, the traffic, lol)!



  • @BulldogLowell said:

    +1 for having such a kickass username...

    there are many ledstrip examples here, you may have to do a bit of searching:

    Thanks, man! :)

    Yeah, I chose that user name because that was my first introduction to technology: programming a TRS-80 in BASIC in about third grade. And I've been hooked ever since. :)

    Although I did take an unfortunate 20+ year diversion in pursuit of the rat race, these last few years I have regained my sanity and have been getting "back to my roots" so to speak and following my natural interests in technology. :)

    Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, I had come across a number of web pages that really helped me get a grasp on basics, and so I will post those here in the event others were lost like I was and need a good primer...

    I first became very confused by all the different numbers involved in LED strips. So, googling "LED strip numbers" or some such eventually got me to this page with a pretty good explanation:

    http://blog.flexfireleds.com/understanding-the-different-numbers-used-in-led-strip-lights/

    Now that refers to the SMD LED light component itself. In addition to that, there are some other numbers (ex., WS2801, WS2811, WS2812, LPD8806, etc.) and these are referring to the controller chip that is embedded in the strip, along with the LED (I would note here that WS2811 refers to the controller chip, and WS2812 refers to a later, improved (but still compatible) chip that has the LED built in to it, and that's why you often see those two referred to each other (esp. in drivers, etc.) almost interchangeably). Going back to the LED size again for a moment, I will note that it seems most of the strips we will be dealing with will be 5050 size (50 x 50 mm) rather than some of the other "architectural" sizes mentioned in the above article. After all, I am cheap, and so anything that refers to itself as "architectural" lighting is probably going to cost more than what I want to spend! :)

    OK, so now there are some differences in the relative speeds of some of those strips (some are better suited for persistence of vision displays for example, like the older WS2801, LPD8806, and the newer "WS2801 replacement" APA102). Somewhere along in here is where I came across this AdaFruit primer, which was very helpful in filling in a lot of the gaps in my fundamental knowledge:

    https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-neopixel-uberguide/overview

    Now what LadyAda calls "NeoPixels" are basically WS2812s (among other form factors, but these would be the "strip" form factor I am looking for). These are readily available and inexpensive, and are likely what I will be using for my interior accent lighting. Only one problem. Apparently, the "white" they produce, as a combination of red, green, and blue (RGB) is supposedly not super "white." I have no experience with this yet (this is all theory and reading so far for me) but if anyone can speak to that, it would be helpful.

    At any rate, to solve this problem, AdaFruit does have available some RGBW <-(note the added W, for White) LED strips that add, you guessed it, a fourth white LED. I may be considering these in areas that I want "white" light. But there are apparently some problems with the available driver libraries right now (more on that below). So, alternatively, in some places I would probably only want white light (hallway night light?) and so maybe I end up getting one roll of RGB and one roll of white, and just using them where needed (or doubling up in places where I want color + white light?). Not sure what I want to do there yet either, so again, any feedback would be appreciated.

    OK, so now on to those drivers. Apparently AdaFruit have developed their own "NeoPixel" LED driver library, which is freely available on their website! Great! I thought, that's going to save me a lot of time and effort! But not so fast...

    The way they do the dimming in their library is apparently through some sort of hack that is only intended to be sort of set once for the duration the lights will be on. :/ Which doesn't sound suitable for what I would like to do with accent lights (or night lights) fading on and off. So, what then? At the end of the AdaFruit article, they refer people with such needs to instead consider the FastLED library:

    http://fastled.io/

    Incidentally, the FastLED wiki has been one of the most valuable resources I have found to date, I wish I had found it first, instead of last. :/ So for those people who don't have as much time to do homework, but want a good primer in LED lighting, you might want to start there.

    So, reading up on FastLED, it seems like it just supports so many more functions, and that it would be the way to go. Most of all (for me, right now) it supports non destructive dimming, although I'm sure I will find myself making use of it's other many features in due course.

    Only problem is, FastLED does not support RGBW LED strips, yet. :/ Although they state that this is something they are working on.

    So for me, given my needs/wants, and other considerations, I think I will order at first a relatively inexpensive (~$50 USD, shipped) 5m WS2812 individually addressable RGB strip from AliExpress, and when it gets here I can see just how "bad" the white really is, and whether I can live with it or not.

    And that's where I have gotten to so far. :)


  • Hero Member

    @TRS-80 your story sounds familiar... ;-)

    I have been using the WS2812 strips for round a year now and they are pretty good for what they cost (on sale these days at AliExpress). For effects this is more than ok. For a bright 'real' white/ warm white color I just add a separate strip which cost next to nothing.
    An example in my wall mounted moodlight using the FastLed library with MySensors.


  • Contest Winner

    @TRS-80 said:

    Only problem is, FastLED does not support RGBW LED strips, yet. :/ Although they state that this is something they are working on.

    You may not have liked the White in the RGBW strips. Many folks tune the white for warmth by adding some red!

    I'm sure you can find a nice white somewhere in your RGB strip.

    both libraries you mention are great places to start and end.

    You can certainly use the Adafruit Neopixel library to fade your LEDs, it just isn't built into the library. I have to say, programming that in was a challenge. If you need pointers on that once you get yours, I'm happy to assist.



  • @AWI said:

    An example in my wall mounted moodlight using the FastLed library with MySensors.

    As a matter of fact, when I had said "wall sconce or some such" in my OP, I was referring to your project exactly. :) I really like the clean look of it, and will likely do something similar in places where I have no convenient shelf, etc. to hide things behind/under.

    @BulldogLowell said:

    You can certainly use the Adafruit Neopixel library to fade your LEDs, it just isn't built into the library. I have to say, programming that in was a challenge. If you need pointers on that once you get yours, I'm happy to assist.

    My sort of general criteria for evaluating which software/library/tool to go with kind of goes like this: I look for what appears to be the most full featured, widely supported, universal, if possible open source tool/library/software that seems to be being actively developed, and with a good community around it.

    On those criteria, it seems that the FastLED library is more full featured, and therefore I think that will likely be the direction I go in, although I do greatly appreciate your offer of assistance. I'll keep your offer in my back pocket though, as I'm certain that I will need to call upon it somewhere, at some point. :)

    The way I look at it, if I am going to take the time to learn something, I might as well sink that time into something that will, ultimately, do everything that I want it to, including some things that I cannot possibly foresee at this time. And again, this is a criteria I apply generally, which is why I have found myself here at MySensors, and why I am leaning toward OpenHab as a controller, etc...

    @All and in general,

    (discussion of lighting color, temperature, etc...)

    I just had another realization. I probably don't even really need individually addressable LED strip for accent lighting. I am not going to be doing any chase or strobe or other crazy effects for in home accent lighting (unless I wanted to do like landing strip lighting on path to bathroom, LOL!). I could probably save some money by just doing regular (non-addressable) RGB LED strip, or possibly RGBW, or (what I suspect might be cheapest) RGB + separate white strip where needed. I need to check pricing, but maybe I just buy one roll each of RGB and white for lighting purposes? I can save the individually addressable strip for later when I want to do something like a DIY Lightpack setup (which I do want to also do, eventually, as well!). Or are those not any cheaper? I suppose next step (when I have some time) would be to go and look into some pricing...

    Speaking of which,

    @hek,

    If I follow an AliExpress link from the store to a certain item, and then navigate away to say, a search for LED strip, and then end up buying something, does that help support the site? Or only if I buy the directly linked item?



  • OK, my brief shopping trip ended quickly again in confusion and doubt. LOL

    For those with experience, should I be looking for 5050 LEDs, or are 3528s big enough? And 30 or 60 per meter?

    Application, as stated, is accent and work lighting. Some will be under kitchen cabinets, so want those to be bright but dimmable. Same with accent lighting. So, I suppose I should err on the side of being plenty bright, with the option to dim them using software.

    So, does that mean I should look for 5050s with 60 LEDs per meter?



  • Update:

    Looks like you can get 5050 RGB 60led/m IP65 5m strips for only about $13-15 USD, shipped, from any number of random Ali sellers. If so, wow, so cheap, nice! They seem to have good reviews, and some even ship via ePacket, with stated arrival times of only 10-15 days!

    However, reading carefully the descriptions state that some of the "5m strips may be soldered together" LOL, also, they show pictures of 3M backing, but do not explicitly state that the backing is 3M.

    I'm so picky for my hard earned $15 USD, eh? :) First time buying from Chinese sellers on Ali, just nervous, I suppose and want to be careful before I pull the trigger...

    I'm OK with paying a little more for dealing with a known, quality supplier. I think there is a guy, a Chinese seller, forget his name now, who is pretty well known in the Christmas light community for good quality and service. Think his name is Tom or something, I may check his prices and try to deal with him... but I can't seem to remember his name just now... lol

    EDIT: Also, the RGB (non-addressable) seem to run on 12v as opposed to the 5v that the individually addressable run on. So I may have a little more into power supplies (especially if I have lots of separate little strips here and there)?

    Tiny strips of only a few LEDs (+ node) I figured could even run off batteries, for clean, simple installations in areas without power readily available.



  • However, reading carefully the descriptions state that some of the "5m strips may be soldered together" LOL,

    Normally not a problem, but the adhesive on the backside of the soldered parts can be weaken.

    also, they show pictures of 3M backing, but do not explicitly state that the backing is 3M.

    Well they are shipped with the 3M backing... but usually they can just support their own weight and not a gram more. I suggest to obtain double sided adhesive for parts that are more stressed.


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