FAQs

When will the Christmas lights start?

2023 is TBD but we certainly hope to run Halloween and Christmas again.

For 2022, they ran Oct 1 – Oct 31, and Nov 25 – Jan 1.

What are the show hours?

It turns out that our lights look better in the dark. Generally, we would start at dark, and end between 9 and 10pm. In the past, we have run 6:30-9:30pm for Halloween and 4:30-9:30 for Christmas.

How do we see the show?

If you are driving here and want to spend some time, please go down to the town field and parking lot just past the house on the right, and then walk back to the show. Music can be heard on the speakers, the show feels a lot more energetic if you get up close, and there are a few spots where you can take a selfie (or proper photo with). If there is light traffic, lousy weather, or if you are too lazy to walk 200 feet, it is possible for a few cars to park on the right side of the street and watch, with music broadcast over FM radio.

Please only park on the right side of the street, and do not block driveways. The street is now too narrow for vehicles to pass each other beside parked cars, and there are times when children are milling about, so please drive gently.

How long is the show?

It’s generally a 1-hour loop, but we change out a few songs every now and then. Sometimes there is a bit of a gap between end and restart, but not more than about a minute. As the season progresses, the loop may be longer. If there is too much traffic, the loop can be shortened or altered to encourage people to move along, but that hasn’t happened yet. Toward Christmas, we were able to run 5 hours of material with barely any repeats, and between Christmas and New Year’s we had a 2.5-hour loop.

How do you get the lights to work like that? How do the lights all sync with the music?

There’s a computer in the basement running xLights. That sends the data to over a dozen control boxes that divide the data up for the pixel strings and provide their power.

Each song has a “sequence”, a list of effects to be applied to props or groups, much like a sophisticated player piano roll. The computer was given a rough 3D model of where everything is, so effects can wash across the whole house and yard. Sequences are rendered in advance of the show, so everything is ready to be broadcast out to the pixels.

Making a good sequence is a time-consuming art, so naturally I don’t do it myself. What we run are imports of OPS (Other People’s Sequences). It might take a week to build a good sequence, whereas I will spend anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours to import the resulting sequence and tweak it a bit, so it looks good on our layout.

Our show has featured/will likely include sequences from:

How many lights are there?

  • Christmas 2022: Over 88,000 at the start of the season, 105,247 by the end
  • Veterans Day 2022: 87,000 pixels
  • Halloween 2022: 91,000 pixels
  • Christmas 2021: 54,123 pixels

Now, you see, some people would say each pixel should count as three lights, because there’s a red, green, and blue light inside each pixel. But saying there are a quarter million lights on the house just sounds silly.

Does the show take a long time to set up?

Yes.

Between assembling the props, cabling everything, setting up sequences, and so on, it probably takes 10-20 seconds per light. I don’t know how long setup would take once all the “one-time jobs” are done, because there always seem to be lots of “one-time jobs”. Taking everything down in 2022 took just under 60 hours, including a few one-time jobs to improve the storage areas.

How tall is the snowman and where did you get him?

The snowman was drop-shipped from Hong Kong by a company that makes bouncy houses. The snowman is about 31 feet tall. It does vary, if he has a bit of a leak the pressure is lower and he doesn’t stand as tall, but if there is light rain, that seems to seal him and he stands about a foot taller.

Where is the snowman? / Why isn’t the snowman here?

2022 was his tenth season and we have to treat him very gently. The snowman doesn’t handle wind very well and has ripped several times. While we do our best to sew him up, we’re running out of material especially in the armpits. It can also be difficult to dig him out of the snow if he gets buried. So, if he’s not inflated when you come, it’d be because either it’s too windy, he’s under the snow, or he needs a repair. If you really want to see him, you might check our Facebook page to see if he’s inflated before you come.

What do you do for a living?

Computer software engineer.

How long have you been doing this?

We have had regular light displays since moving here in 2009, but ordered the first pixels in September of 2021. Christmas 2021 was the first show.

How much is your electric bill affected?

The first year (2021) our electricity usage more than doubled. I did some quick calculations (see below) and concluded that most of the power was used when the show was off because it is on for 6 hours and off for 18, and the LEDs have significant standby power usage. Even when the show is running, each little light is off most of the time. So, this year, I started shutting off the 11 light circuits at the panel. Electricity usage in October for the Halloween show was only about 20% more than October the previous year.

Electricity usage in 2022 was slightly less than 2021. However, in 2021 I wasn’t able to start running until December 5th, and was still adding lights until December 17th; also there were only ~54k lights in 2021 vs 105k lights in 2022. So, shutting the show controllers off at the panel certainly has improved the efficiency of the show.

Aren’t LED lights super efficient?

Generically, yes, the LED is one of the most efficient technologies we have for turning electricity into light. However, the way they are deployed in our show makes them super inefficient (if your goal is simply to turn electricity into light anyway). An LED runs on ~3V (for blue and green, or 2V for red), but most of these are hooked up to 12V power. This means that 80% of the power is lost to wire resistance, resistors, linear regulators, or voltage drops in the current-limiting chips. The power supplies are 85% efficient at their best load levels, but are certainly running below their most efficient point. The LEDs weren’t 100% efficient to begin with, and some power is lost in the AC distribution. This would suggest that the efficiency of the whole setup could be 10-15%.

This 10-15%, however, turns out to be wildly optimistic. The smart LED chips, controllers, power supplies, etc., consume a lot of power even when the lights are off. Even when the show seems to be very merry and bright, most of the LEDs are still probably off.. one that is full red is only 1/3 on because the blue and green are off. Any pixel that isn’t bright white is mostly off, and moments where all the pixels are on full white are quite rare in the show. It does depend on the sequence, but any given LED is off 80-90% of the time.

Collectively, this means over 95% of the electricity goes to heat, and less than 5% goes to light (before most of that light hits something and becomes heat also).

Do you take requests?

Only if someone has already made a high-quality sequence… then we can possibly add it to the show. (See the vendor list above, or xlights.info.)

Where do you store everything? In the self-storage units next door?

We tried self-storage but it got quite expensive quickly. Everything is in the attic, basement, under the porch, in the shed, beside the shed, behind the shed, in a crawlspace, etc. See our “behind the scenes” videos.

Do you have any quotes?

These are things people said that I found fun… I think of them as “testimonials”…

“How many settings does this have?” — Katie, asking about the megatree, (which has 16m “settings” for each of 3200 pixels updating 40 times a second)

I’ve paid money to see less.” — Someone on the street.

It’s a bit much.” — Someone else on the street.

Not good. Not bad. Terrible, @merryoncherry” — @uncledan of Buellton Lights, when he heard that I used LED strip zigzagging back and forth across coro to do the matrix. (He’s not wrong.)

“How come I never knew this was here?” — Someone who showed up the first week it was here.

“They don’t even do anything like this at Disney!” — Drive up viewer. (FWIW there are a lot of good reasons they don’t mess with anything as fiddly as this at Disney.)

This has got to be the most convoluted way to get a render of a house into xlight that I have ever seen.” — DKulp

if ( user_has_quote_collection == true ) { user = loser; }” — AzGilrock

Oh, the lights change color too.” — Someone on the street.