Halloween Forum banner

1 - 20 of 62 Posts

·
Mill Creek Haunted Hollow
Joined
·
6,359 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
This is a rebuild of the PDF "Hacking a Boris Skull..." originally posted on the Heresjohnny's site.

How to Hack a Power Strip for Installation of Fluorescent Starter Sockets:

CAUTION: This hack involves altering an AC power strip. If you are not comfortable with working with AC circuits, please do not attempt this hack. If you choose to proceed, the responsibility is yours.

1. This hack will only work for power strips that have individual sockets. The strips that have molded-in sockets use copper frames to distribute power to the sockets, and won't work for this hack.

2. I used a Belkin 6 outlet strip that I got at Home Depot for about $10. You'll need these parts:
- 3 starter sockets, available at most hardware or lighting supply stores
- 3 FS-2 starters
- 4-40 screws and nuts

Tools:
- Small screwdrivers
- Soldering iron
- Wire stripper
- Drill

3. Open the back of the strip to expose the sockets. Using a small screwdriver press on the tabs to release the white wires. The picture shows a black wire, but you get the idea. The white wire in this pic is actually the wire from the starter socket.

Figure 1



4. The white wire called out in this pic is the line that goes into the first socket. Pull it out of the outlet tab but leave it connected to the surge protector board.
White wire (neutral)

Figure 2



5. Drill some holes in the side of the strip housing where you want the sockets to be attached. You'll need two holes to mount the socket and holes for the wires to go through. You can see the ends of the screws in the pics in Step 3 and 6.

Figure 3



6. Mark the drilling locations for the sockets. After you have the holes drilled, install the socket furthest from the power cord using the 4-40 screws. Pull the socket wires through the holes. Cut the white wire to the length needed to reach the socket tab from which you removed the original jumper wire. It's better to have a little more wire than you need – don't cut it too short. Strip about 3/4" of the end and tin the wire with solder. Leave the black wire as-is for now.

Figure 4



7. Repeat this process for the next two sockets. When all three are installed pull the three black starter socket wires along the inside of the strip as shown below. Trim and tin the white socket wires and insert them into the power outlets. Trim the white power strip wire to about a 3" length. Strip and tin the end of the wire. Trim the black starter socket wires to a length that will reach the white wire. Again, a little extra wire is good – don't cut them too short. Strip the ends of these wires and tin with solder.

Figure 5



8. If you have some heat-shrink tubing, slide a piece over the white wire as shown. Solder the 3 black wires to the white wire. Slide the tubing over the wires and shrink it. If you don't have any tubing, use electrical tape to completely cover the junction. You don't want to energize the metal housing.

Figure 6



9. This is what you should have when you're done. Inspect the wiring to make sure that all connections are tight and that the soldered junction is insulated. Replace the cover on the strip.

Figure 7



10. CAUTION: If the strip is powered up without a starter in a socket, that socket has exposed AC terminals. Do not power up the strip without a starter in each socket. Do not hot-swap the starters.

Plug in the FS-2 starters and power up the strip. You'll see that each pair of sockets will have a unique flicker pattern. The starters are pretty cheap – get several and try them out to see how they behave. I've read that FS-4 starters will also work, as long as they're not rated above 30 watts. The max wattage that I've used with this type of circuit is 40 watts per starter.
 

·
Shadow box dancer
Joined
·
1,443 Posts
Wow that is a much more sophisticated and professional job then what I came up with. :) I just wired mine in line so that I could have them in different areas. I do need to add some fuses at some point.
 

·
Bête noire
Joined
·
2,631 Posts
It'll work with FS-5 starters if a higher wattage is needed, but the flicker rate is quite different. The FS-2's will handle up to about 40 watts, but after that the flicker falls off to a very slow rate. BTW, the hack is mine - many thanks to TK421 for ripping the PDF and getting this posted, ditto for the Boris hack. When Heresjohnny took down his site a few months ago, my flicker strip and Boris hacks went with it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
629 Posts
I'm a newbie with this. Is this to make lights flicker? I'm thinking it is and this is really cool. Thank you :)
Yes it is, if you run it with a thunder sound track, it makes a reasonable thunder and lightning effect
 

·
Shadow box dancer
Joined
·
1,443 Posts
I think this is a great hack. I have a question. If you put the starter in line and added a fuse is it relatively safe or does the power strip bring something to the party that I am missing? Another great one Otaku!
 

·
Bête noire
Joined
·
2,631 Posts
If you put the starter in line and added a fuse is it relatively safe or does the power strip bring something to the party that I am missing?
The power strip allows you to change the starters quickly when they die. I've had a few go out when I use higher wattage lights, ~40 watts. The starter pins are difficult to solder, and you usually end up taping the heck out of the wires to keep safe. With a circuit breaker built in you don't need to worry about overloads. I like having three separate flicker effects from one location - I just plug in the lights and go. I used it a couple years ago in the graveyard - I placed the strip in the center and ran cords to the lights placed in various spots around the graves. I wish I'd gotten a video of the graveyard, it was a nice effect.

Using an inline fuse is perfectly OK, and most of the designs using single starters recommend them. I've lost only 3 starters over the past few years and that was running 40 watt lights. If you use them with <20 watts they last a while; I haven't had one go out yet.
 

·
Shadow box dancer
Joined
·
1,443 Posts
I made an assumption based on what I am using. I am using starters out of light fixtures so they already have wires attached. So that is my bad. If I put slide-on connectors at both ends I would be able to change out starters quickly so that is a good idea. In my particular scenario there is going to 2 or three lights "malfunctioning" on my fence. They are going to be pretty far from each other, so I don't think I want to have a power strip for just one light because I would end up needing 2 or three power strips. I saw a tutorial where the guy put a fuse in line with the starter. Is that safe or do I need to have the power strips at each light fixture?
 

·
Bête noire
Joined
·
2,631 Posts
If your lights are widely spaced the strip may not be your best bet, but for up to six 20 watt lights you'd need only one strip. Just don't use the same starter for lights that are close together - they'll have the same flicker rate. Kinda takes the randomness out of the effect. Try some FS-5's with your circuits, too. They have a rapid uniform flicker at low wattages, and can handle a 60 watt bulb.
 

·
Shadow box dancer
Joined
·
1,443 Posts
Cool. I am using the starters I find so I am at the mercy of the salvage gods on that one. :) But, if I find a FS-5 I will try it out. I have a few different ones, but I am on a little vacation so I will have to wait until I get back to see what I currently have in there. I am using two starters right now. They currently are wired last in the line of lights and on each end so they flicker independently and don't effect the other lights. The only thing I am not sure about is the fuse aspect. Any tips on that? Oh and I am definitely going for a random flicker in my particular situation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
324 Posts
If your lights are widely spaced the strip may not be your best bet, but for up to six 20 watt lights you'd need only one strip. Just don't use the same starter for lights that are close together - they'll have the same flicker rate. Kinda takes the randomness out of the effect. Try some FS-5's with your circuits, too. They have a rapid uniform flicker at low wattages, and can handle a 60 watt bulb.


I made up your strip hack last year and is this right??

FS-2 and low wattage bulbs = Slow flicker
FS-2 and higher wattage bulb = More rapid flicker

FS-5 and low wattage bulbs = Even faster
FS-5 and low wattage bulbs = The fastest??
 

·
Bête noire
Joined
·
2,631 Posts
I made up your strip hack last year and is this right??

FS-2 and low wattage bulbs = Slow flicker
FS-2 and higher wattage bulb = More rapid flicker

FS-5 and low wattage bulbs = Even faster
FS-5 and low wattage bulbs = The fastest??
What I found was that the higher the wattage, the slower the flicker. With the FS-5, the low wattage bulbs are rapid and regular, when you go higher, the flicker slows and becomes more random. I have both types of starters - I'll post a video of the effect so you can see the differences.
 

·
Blaberus craniifer
Joined
·
4,920 Posts
How long does the starter typically last when used in this manner? I am assuming it is put under quite a different load then in its intended application.
Has this been answered? I'm curious too as to how long the starters would last. If I turn them on at sunset and off at sunrise for all of October, how many starters might I actually go through?
 

·
Bête noire
Joined
·
2,631 Posts
It depends on the wattage you're running. As I mentioned, I've had 15 - 20 watt bulbs going for the past couple of seasons, probably 60 - 80 hours total. I like to set up my lighting several days before I put the props out, so I have lots of flickering lights around the house for a week or so before the big night. I haven't lost any starters yet with the low wattage bulbs, but I have burned a couple of FS-5's running 60 watt bulbs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Ok looks like I might be S.O.L. but what I'm hoping for is lots of very low wattage bulbs (like 5 watts) and preferably a slower yet quite random flicker.... is this doable with this method? or should I just dump in lots of battery tea lights which is my original idea. What I want to do is light a lot of fake jack o lanterns and I'd rather not have to use batteries but still want the flicker and preferably at least somewhat different flickerings spread out
 
1 - 20 of 62 Posts
Top