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The local State Surplus store here in Raleigh, NC had three box / pallets full of surplused LED traffic signals. I asked, and evidently no one has returned any saying they don't work. I asked about power, as they had one of the lights zip-tied to a warehouse beam. They told me the lights operated with regular AC 120 volt power. And they'd rigged one up and plugged it into the wall. I didn't get a very close look at how they did it. And I have never cut off a power cord and spliced it to something. So I need some advice on how to do this safely. And also any ideas about how to deploy these Big Boys Toys outdoor for, erm, the 2015 Holiday Season(s). I could see having a motion detector scare where an array of the red ones lights up, etc. But for the Other Holiday, perhaps just incorporating into my Gemmy light and sound show 6 channel unit. Or, making one humungous tree frame and positioning the lights so they're like typical lights on a tree. Tons of possibilities. Only three bucks each, so I picked up 17 of them. :)

Here's a picture for scale--these are positioned on the trunk lip of my Ford Fiesta hatchback:

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More photos to come...

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And a YT video of my haul:
 

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Yeah, they're 120v AC. If you can open them up easily, it's best to connect a power cord directly to the unit where the two existing wires are (remove the existing wires). If you can't open them, you'll need to splice onto the existing wires. You can pick up some of those cheap brown or green 2-wire cords at any home improvement store and just cut the female end off. One of the AC wires is HOT, the other is NEUTRAL, it doesn't matter which wire goes where. If you have to splice onto the existing wires it's best to solder them and use heat shrink tubing to cover the splice.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yeah, they're 120v AC. If you can open them up easily, it's best to connect a power cord directly to the unit where the two existing wires are (remove the existing wires). If you can't open them, you'll need to splice onto the existing wires. You can pick up some of those cheap brown or green 2-wire cords at any home improvement store and just cut the female end off. One of the AC wires is HOT, the other is NEUTRAL, it doesn't matter which wire goes where. If you have to splice onto the existing wires it's best to solder them and use heat shrink tubing to cover the splice.
Thanks MatrixMom, Gatordave, and J-Man. :) If I can get these things to power on safely, I may pick-up a few more this week before they're all gone. $3 each was such a steal--couldn't resist; you could say I was Illuminated. It was so funny; on the two days I visited the surplus store, people were looking at the three pallets of them and asked out loud, "What would someone do with these?" Guess I always have my Haunter / Holiday Decoration goggles on. We Think and See Differently. :) Damn shame they don't make U.S. traffic signals in Blue--would be a great color for Halloween.

I'm thinking it may not be possible to open the units. But then there are several brands / manufacturers represented in my collection. If there's one where I *can* access the innards, then I may purchase more of that brand. They might also make great presents for the Right People. :)
 

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These are a terrific find. I will have to correct Matrix though, I think you will be able to see your display from outer space.
YEP! Kirk and Spock will have to travel back in time to see what's going on!
HM
 

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Note, these are LED not regular light bulbs so it may make a difference which way you wire it up. LEDs only want current to flow in one direction, so if you hook it up to an AC line cord and nothing happens swap the lines and see if that works. Also, I suspect that a lot of these will have some elements that are not working, but will be bright enough for your needs.
 

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Great score, Mike! If you get any more, send me a few!

I would think if the label on the lights says "120 volt AC", they should work no matter which wire you hook up to. Each light must already have a converter built in to it. If the label said DC, I would agree you might have to swap wires.
Yea,like namrog said--some of the elements are probably burned out, just like most of the lights I see still in service.
Have fun with them!
(Oh, I like your green car!)
 

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Note, these are LED not regular light bulbs so it may make a difference which way you wire it up. LEDs only want current to flow in one direction, so if you hook it up to an AC line cord and nothing happens swap the lines and see if that works. Also, I suspect that a lot of these will have some elements that are not working, but will be bright enough for your needs.
Not the case when the power required is AC. There is an internal converter and/or resistors built into the units.
 

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Thanks to all for the help / advice and for comments.

Can't promise anything at this point; but what colors / styles would people be interested in? @Dave, if you happened to drive out to Raleigh, I could let you have a few. Shipping these might be a real pain. Let me think about it though--probably after the holidays. Too much else going on right now. I have an ex-work buddy out near Charlotte who I drive out to have beer and a burger with and reminisce about old times about once a year or so. It's been a while since I've seen my friend, so maybe I could drive out to you. Probably would be this Spring if that's not too late. Or, if my wife and I go to Biltmore / Asheville for a weekend, would you be willing to drive out there for pick-up? We're big fans of Downton Abbey, and now I want to do the Butler's Tour (behind the scenes) at Biltmore. Incidentally, World Market stores have exclusive Downton Abbey products. I like the red and white wines with the Downton Abbey label--there's a several paragraph narrative on the back of the red wine - "revenge is sweet" about Mr. Bates. I could post a pic if anyone was interested. I have the white, and that also has a cool narrative on the back of the label. But that's wrapped up as a gift for my wife. Not cheap--$17 a bottle. And only one type of red and one type of white. But really cool if you're into the show. There are also Downton Abbey Tea tins, jams, etc. Unfortunately, World Market will *not* ship the wines, evidently. I wanted to have some sent to my in-laws down in Orlando since we're flying this time for Christmas and not checking bags...

I um, well, golly gosh, kinda sorta made another trip to the Surplus store on my way home yesterday. Not exactly on the direct path to my home. And I picked up 7 more, for a total of 24. Such a killer deal at $3 a piece. I *need* these. :) Not sure how many, if any, I'm willing to part with. Likely a once in a lifetime score. And don't know how many I'd need for whatever project I decide to deploy these on. I'm sure I'll get a better idea once I start plugging a few in, seeing what the brightness level is.

Mostly what they have left are solid green, red, and yellows / orange. But the ones in better shape may be gone. There are probably more yellow / orange than anything else. No more "black" red and green arrow units that I recall. But there are some clear cover red, green, and orange arrow signs left--at least as of yesterday. May try to get a few more orange ones--thinking about fire effects, and believe the Gemmy Fire and Ice "fire" light is a combination of red and orange LEDs. Might be interesting to combine a red and orange traffic signal with one or two of the F&Is to see what type of effect results.

Ok, now the following is getting off topic and stream of consciousness-like. But I was walking through either Lowes or Home Depot the other day, looking for a 24" x 48" plexiglass sheet that they'd cut into two 24" x 24" pieces for me--to use in my center upstairs window for an infinite candle corridor. HD would *not* cut plexi for me. Lowes was happy to--yea! :) Anyway, on my way to the plexi, I saw heat lamps. The old school kind that may be used in bathrooms--whose, I don't know. Only seen one in a domestic setting in a hotel once. And the kind that were probably used in Epcot Center's Test Track 1.0 ride in the heat Environmental Chamber. I'll never forgive them for taking three of my favorite scenes out of Test Track--the Cold Room, the Heat Room, and the misting Corrosion chambers... Anyway, I'm wondering--is there any safe way to deploy an array of heat lamps in a yard haunt to enhance a Fire Effect? Engaging more senses tends to improve an effect. That said, I probably ought to open a separate thread for this. But it was always thrilling, on Test Track, to ride through the Heat Room, with the ride vehicle being flanked by two huge arrays of heat lamps on either side that you could feel pretty strongly. :)
 

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Thanks for the offer, Mike!
Well, I don't really even know what I would use them for. Just like a lot of stuff in my garage I've bought from surplus vendors and haven't used yet.
Let me know when you make your Spring trip. I'm just outside Charlotte, too. Or, if you get your charity haunt going next year, I'd drive up to see that.
You're getting a really good deal on those lights. Electronic goldmine carries some, but they want $35.00 for theirs. They use a different kind of LED display, though.
http://www.goldmine-elec-products.com/prodinfo.asp?number=G19219

I love going to the Biltmore House. Haven't been in many years, though. We used to have annual passes.
We went on Easter when my daughter was little for the Easter egg hunt. I'd never seen so many plastic eggs before!
 

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I'm still surprised at how large these lights are. Just seem like they would be smaller. I have to say I was puzzled at what you could do with these initially but subsequently came up with a few ideas for holiday use.

For example I could see these being used in a xmas set up, at least the green and red and any solid yellow, mounted to a wooden post and decorated as xmas lollipops. Then there's the Santa airport/sleigh runway concept I've seen done with smaller pathway lights. Arrows could be used to point to Santas workshop...

For halloween, I could see two red (or green) ones used as giant dragon eyes for example. Or giant snake eyes of a serpent slithering on the ground. Adding black narrow pupils (maybe cut out from black contact paper) to the lights would create the snake eye look.


BTW in the event Mike has got you thinking about traffic lights now...there are lots of websites that auction surplus ones off. Here's a site with 3 lots of 10 going up for auction in the next few hours in the City of Santa Clarita, Calif. Pick up only which I assume is pretty standard, so nice if you live in the area.

http://m.publicsurplus.com/sms/browse/cataucs?catid=613

You might also check your city to see if they auction surplus off. Here's a webpage from the city of La Mesa, Ca. It lists two ways they dispose of items:

http://www.cityoflamesa.com/index.aspx?NID=92
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the offer, Mike!
Well, I don't really even know what I would use them for. Just like a lot of stuff in my garage I've bought from surplus vendors and haven't used yet.
Let me know when you make your Spring trip. I'm just outside Charlotte, too. Or, if you get your charity haunt going next year, I'd drive up to see that.
You're getting a really good deal on those lights. Electronic goldmine carries some, but they want $35.00 for theirs. They use a different kind of LED display, though.
http://www.goldmine-elec-products.com/prodinfo.asp?number=G19219

I love going to the Biltmore House. Haven't been in many years, though. We used to have annual passes.
We went on Easter when my daughter was little for the Easter egg hunt. I'd never seen so many plastic eggs before!
You're welcome Dave. Not a problem. Would love to visit or have you visit me here in Clayton / Raleigh. Checked out the EG link you provided and I have some that look exactly like it--at least the criss-crossed surface pattern. Don't know about the innards. I've yet to clean and inventory the units I purchased. They're sitting inside the de-mausoleumed Big Lots vinyl greenhouse in my garage. I've gotta say, I'm impressed and happy every time I drive home and see my private stock of 'em. Trying to build-out more Christmas. If you wanted to see the Christmas Light Fight Winner's display around that time, my house and his are about a 20 minute drive between the two. I liked his Shooting Star Effect, Santa's Sleigh "rear exhaust" colored fog blasts (seen commercial DJ units that illuminate fog with colored light), and rope light pathing through his property. Although I don't think viewers are allowed to walk through the display. Massive yard far from the road. Sad that I didn't get to see it lit up and operating this year. But something to look forward to for next.

Cool on the Easter Egg hunt at Biltmore--didn't know they did that. No kids here--just me, my wife, and two very spoiled cats. :) But I got nominated by neighborhood kids as one of the two best Christmas-decorated homes in our neighborhood. I want to knock their socks off next year and "win" the #1 slot by a mile. The traffic signal lights will help. :) The kids, and parents toom were just so captivated by what I did. Through amping-up my Christmas display this year, my wife and I have gotten to meet more of our neighbors. I love it. Both Halloween and Christmas decorating brings people together.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Love *all* your ideas for the lights, both Halloween and Christmas. Thanks for posting.

If I had enough of them, it would be cool to make a huge two digit Christmas Day Countdown Clock. Thing is, I doubt I have enough of them to use as "pixels" for representing a two digit display of range 0 to 9 each. Guess I could do a 9 Day Countdown Clock, creating just a single digit clock. Haven't done the math, but certainly would have enough colors to make uniformly colored digits. When I returned to the surplus store upon my return from Orlando, there was only half a pallet left--all yellow / orange--evidently the "nobody loves me" color. As I write this, I realize I could have gotten a ton of those, $3 each, for the Countdown Clock concept; since the digits wouldn't need to be red or green. Damn! Oh well; I should probably make a weekly visit to the store. Although the cashier said he's only seen one other shipment of traffic lights in several years. So I was right to buy as many as I did.

I'm still surprised at how large these lights are. Just seem like they would be smaller. I have to say I was puzzled at what you could do with these initially but subsequently came up with a few ideas for holiday use.

For example I could see these being used in a xmas set up, at least the green and red and any solid yellow, mounted to a wooden post and decorated as xmas lollipops. Then there's the Santa airport/sleigh runway concept I've seen done with smaller pathway lights. Arrows could be used to point to Santas workshop...

For halloween, I could see two red (or green) ones used as giant dragon eyes for example. Or giant snake eyes of a serpent slithering on the ground. Adding black narrow pupils (maybe cut out from black contact paper) to the lights would create the snake eye look.


BTW in the event Mike has got you thinking about traffic lights now...there are lots of websites that auction surplus ones off. Here's a site with 3 lots of 10 going up for auction in the next few hours in the City of Santa Clarita, Calif. Pick up only which I assume is pretty standard, so nice if you live in the area.

http://m.publicsurplus.com/sms/browse/cataucs?catid=613

You might also check your city to see if they auction surplus off. Here's a webpage from the city of La Mesa, Ca. It lists two ways they dispose of items:

http://www.cityoflamesa.com/index.aspx?NID=92
 

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Yes, I liked that guy's shooting star also. Very cool effect!
I'd love to see his display sometime. good to know you are only about 20 minutes from him.
I agree that decorating does bring people together. I get more comments on my Halloween display, but only because the whole neighborhood walks through my yard on Halloween. That doesn't happen for Christmas, of course.
 

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mike, it will require a lot of wiring but I think the easiest thing to make out of this would be a segment display which could display multiple words based on the number of lights you have. It’ll require a lot of relays so that these LEDs could be powered on safely by supplying a signal to a relay. A little care needs to be taken to ensure that the relays you use are AC and supply the required amount of current to the LED.

smt pcb
 

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Random idea... Do the haunt as some kind of evil quiz show, using the red and green lights as right/wrong indicators. Mix it with a blaring noise (that maybe gets louder the more they get wrong) and it could be pretty creepy. Add in some kind of impending threat that gets closer the more they get wrong.

Kind of Saw-like.

(Of course, that doesn't help you with the wiring part, just a random thought.)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Civi and michael, thanks for the ideas. With my limited skills I'll probably need to do something much similar, like turning them on and positioning them behind bushes, uplighting parts of my house, aiming them out of windows, etc. Wish these things could fade; tried with my two channel fader light controller but they're either on or off, really.

Over the summer, hoping to find a way simply to get them to light safety from the terminals to socket, inventory what I have, and discard any dead ones; these things are permanently sealed and cannot be opened. Like someone said, there are probably dead LEDs on some of them--or they're just part of a regular replacement cycle.

Another guy I spoke with at the state of NC surplus store, despite what the cashier told me, said they actually do get shipments of these several times a year. But I haven't been going regularly as I have enough stuff to play with.

Good news for some here is that, in about 3 years hopefully, I'm moving to the Orlando, Florida area to a much smaller house with a tiny one-car garage. And so will want to sell off a lot of my Halloween stuff. That would include most or all of the lights. Won't be for a while though. But I don't want to ship--they're way too large and heavy. Will want to sell them locally to someone willing to drive to my place here near Raleigh, NC.
 

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Update: wiring successful but lighting results unimpressive

Ended up using GE Quick-wire plugs from Walmart ($2 per two pack) to wire my LED surplus traffic lights. Snipped off any "U" terminals with scissors, got to bare wire using a wire stripper, then used a screwdriver to screw shut. Don't know that they're weatherproof--or how safe they are. But I got them functioning. Wired-up around 22 or so. Have a few left to go. Surprisingly, only two units were duds out of the whole lot--that's the good news.

The bad news is that I was unimpressed with the overall brightness of the lights in my collection. Except for those with clear plastic covers and filled with concentric circles of LEDs. Main thing I'm trying to convey is that these work better as "indicator" lights rather than floods or spots. Many of the units when pointed at a white surface, for example, don't project a circular beam; but rather a weak line. Possibly because there may be only a sectional line of LEDs inside, with a many-faceted plastic lens that scatters the light too broadly to illuminate anything well--if that's the right way to say it. The LED light illuminates the inside surface of the lens, but doesn't radiate a whole lot of light *out*. Hope something out there with a more formal knowledge of lighting can restate some of this with the right stagecraft vocabulary.

Makes sense in a way. Seeing these things up close, I've noticed much the same type of lens pattern with car brake lights. The function there is the same--be bright enough and large enough to visibly send a signal to other drivers--but not blind them! Again, one of the few exceptions would be the clear lensed units--those pass my closed eyelid brightness test. I power up a light, close my eyes, then "gaze" directly into the light. If my reaction is "Holy crap, that's gotta be bright!" then I have a winner. But my "eyelid" test reaction to many of the traffic lights in my collection--especially the green ones--has been "meh..." You know, the sense that even a good LED flashlight is brighter / more intense.

They don't seem dimmable either--although a few of the yellow and red ones I have with the clear covers do seem to have some sort of fade-out decay. Not always consistently. I made a video of 19 of these lights connected to a two channel christmas light fader; a yellow and red "strand" to the left and a green "strand" to the right. Still waiting for it to upload. The response profile between the units varies a bit, but the green ones seem to have more of a binary on/off response vs. the red and yellows. Again, nothing's really consistent using the two channel auto-fader unit I plugged them into.

Thought about taking some photos of individual units pointed at a white surface to show how each illuminates a surface. But since I'm one of the few out there who either have or may be interested in using these things for Halloween, that may have a low return (re: helping others) on "investment."

It's all a bit of a bummer. Albeit an educational one. Cash outlay wasn't huge. But the effects potential could have been tremendous. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I got a kick out of finding them so cheaply--something so unique. Not all experiments turn out how you want them to. I do wish I'd purchased just one of each kind, wired them up earlier, and tested before I bought so many.

So, not sure what I'm going to do with them. The "arrow" units are a nice novelty. The low intensity lights could work well for some of the potential applications Spookie mentioned: mounted for large lollipops, a dragon's eyes, etc. Frankly, the various LED Fire and Ice lights have a lot more "oomph" and utility than the traffic lights.

If I had more reds, it might be cool to place one in every window of the entire house, front and back, upstairs and down, covering each window with wax paper, to get some sort of uniform spooky demonic glow. The benefit of using these over incandescent flood lights is that the LED traffic lights, naturally, are cool to the touch. The downside is ability to fade smoothly or at all. Thought it would be a cool effect to have an entire floor of windows fade in and out in sync with each other, as if the house was breathing.

In the garage, I've also just got them grouped tightly together. Not sure how they'd look constant on, pointed at a scene, perhaps distributed around a scene vs. being tightly clustered. I will say that, with the fastest setting on the two channel fader, they could be useful for a UFO-crash scene, with fog blown through. Dunno. Never tried an alien theme.

Anyway, thought some of you would enjoy the update, stream of consciousness as it is. Again, video to follow. I inherited my wife's iPad "3" / "the new iPad" after she bought an iPad Air 2. The video file it created was huge; hence the long YT upload time.
 
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