Christmas and Garage/Patio/Driveway Lighting Controller

I have always enjoyed being able to build things others can only dream about and, because it's nice not having to stumble around in the dark or having to go out of my way to switch lights on & off, I built a light controller to take care of these tasks. The controller normally controls the garage interior, and garage and house exterior lights. Exterior lighting consists of 2 lights on the garage and 1 at the back door of the house that illuminate the driveway and patio area between the house and garage, plus 2 lights under the peak of the house roof that illuminate the driveway running beside the house to the front street (see photo). These exterior lights are also manually controlled by 3-way switches at the garage and house doors.

The controller is activated by operating the garage door opener or by a switch at the garage walk in door. When activated, the controller turns on the interior garage lights so that one can see while getting in and out of the car. At night, a photocell signals the controller to also activate the exterior lighting. At night, a motion detector viewing the patio and drive way area also signals the controller to turn on the exterior lighting. If activated, the controller will reset and turn off lighting after several minutes.

During Christmas, the controller is also activated by a 24 hour programmable timer and controls the Christmas lighting at half or full brightness. When Christmas lighting is programmed for off or half intensity, the lights are turned on at full brightness whenever the normal exterior lighting would have been activated (I usually disable the normal patio and driveway exterior lights as they distract from the Christmas lights which provide more than ample exterior illumination when operating at full brightness.) An example of typical programmed operation is Christmas lighting on at full brightness at 6:30 AM. The photocell will over ride the timer and turn the lights off after sun rise until it returns dark again in the evening. At 9 PM the timer switches lighting to half brightness and at 1 AM it turns the lighting off. Operating the lights at half brightness reduces power consumption, extends lamp life and provides a unique lighting "glow".

Intensity Control Details

The main Christmas lighting circuit is one 15 amp circuit from the garage electrical panel. Control is via two back-to-back SCR's. Both are triggered for full wave AC power and full brightness. Only one SCR is triggered for half wave AC power and half intensity. Intensity control for any additional lighting circuits required is easily provided by using special extension cords with inline solid state AC relays. 120 volt AC input control for the additional solid state relay controlled circuits is obtained by simply plugging into the main lighting circuit. As the relays controlling additional circuits only receive half wave control when the main lighting circuit is at half intensity, they also provide half wave power.

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