Inserting LED lights into your tufa creations

rustinj(z7 AL)December 16, 2004

I'm guessing all of you know more about electricity and wiring than I do, at least up until a few days ago. I've been surfing and reading about LED lights for the past week because I want to include some soft lighting for my next indoor fountain. Apparently, LED technology has really advanced in the last few years (I wouldn't know that if I hadn't read it). Anyway, you can get some really bright LEDs in almost any color, and their estimated lifespan (if installed correctly) is 100,000 hours. That's over 11 years, so it shouldn't matter if the wiring is permanently embedded in the tufa. I got 50 super bright LEDs from Ebay for less than $10. Add resistors, and a 12V power supply and the total cost should be less than $20.

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leigh_wi(Z5 WI)

Wow! That's interesting! How are you embedding them? Got pics? This would be great for outdoor lanterns as well!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 1:20PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)

Hi Leigh,

I'm still trying to work out the details, but I'll take pics as I go. I'm not brave enough to try any outdoor wiring projects...too afraid I'll kill someone. There are sunrise/sunset switches you can rig to solar cells and an LED (if you want to spend the extra $$ and can figure out how to wire it). You could make a little solar powered circuit for each lamp, or take the shortcut and dissect some premade accent lamps :) The LEDs are waterproof. You just need to waterproof the connections and switches.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 2:00PM
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dixiesmom(Austin,TX z8a)

Where did you get the wiring instructions? I was looking into this for some Halloween projects, and had trouble finding simple wiring instructions. I mean simple, not schematics.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 2:17PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)


I'm not sure what you am I actually connecting it, or what components are needed? As far as actually connecting it, I'm planning to use a soldering iron. The components I got: 12V DC converter (not sure, but I think they're called AC to DC transformers), LEDs, a switch, and some resistors. The power supply should be voltage regulated to prevent power fluxuations. The LEDs are 3mm at 8000 mcd. The actual wiring configuration and the resistors you need depend on the power supply voltage and the number of LEDs you plan to use. It gets complicated, but there are plenty of online tutorials to help you figure it out. I'd be happy to tell you more, but I'm not sure I can explain it as well as the people that actually understand this stuff :)

Start here
Then check this site out

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 4:52PM
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Thanks for the LED links, I've been doing some research on this and will be in investigating further. I have been commissioned to make a few lighted garden lanterns using solar power. LEDs seem to be the way to go, but it is a bit complicted figuring out power controllers, voltage, etc. My biggest stumbling block has been finding solar panels (available in Canada) that look half decent. If cash was no object I would be doing exactly what you suggest, taking apart some of those solar lights on the market and re-wiring to make them work for my purpose. I hear eBay calling!

BTW, had a peek at your website, great stuff!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 10:45AM
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rustinj(z7 AL)


Yeah, I think ebay is the best bet. You can get some ideas about the type of components you might need, such as sunrise/sunset switches, and solar panels here but at these prices it would still be cheaper to take apart premade lamps. If you search for "3mm LED" or "5mm LED" on ebay you'll get quite a few hits. Keep in mind that the brighter the LED you get the narrower the light least that's the trend I noticed. I guess you could focus it at some sort of reflective material to scatter the light. Let me know if you find any deals.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 12:12PM
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dixiesmom(Austin,TX z8a)

Okay I found alot of info on one of my favorite Halloween websites.
Wolfstone's Halloween Technology Roadmap.
Check it out;


Here is a link that might be useful: LEDS for dummies

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 12:54PM
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dixiesmom(Austin,TX z8a)

Here's the power page;


Here is a link that might be useful: Powering LEDs.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 12:58PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)


Those sites were great...I think I saw them once and forgot to bookmark them.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 2:15PM
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lazydaisy(z7 NTX)


    Bookmark   March 16, 2005 at 8:36PM
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dian2(z6 pgh pa)

Tommyc over on the pond forum has led lights set up around his pond. The original post has disappeared but he provided this web site and said the led's from here are brighter than you can get in any store. He had a whole wiring diagram for using outside. I started doing one but want to make some kind of hypertufa mushroom, frog or something to put the lights into so they are not so obvious around the pond.Here is a small sample I did with just one light

Here is a link that might be useful: led lights

    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 6:55PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)


You can get really good deals buying them on Ebay. How do you plan on waterproofing the connections? I like the look of your single light reflecting off the plants!!!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 9:19PM
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dian2(z6 pgh pa)

Thanks rustinj here is a pic of the wiring.I use wire nuts to join the two wires together and I silicone the base of the LED covering the soldered +/- prongs and even the resistor. Water will seep into electrical tape and cause the wiring to rust. The lights are now running up a piece of PVC pipe with a hole drilled into the cap for the light to poke through, so they are basically out of the elements per say. But I do not like the look of the pipes so I want to ,make frogs, or mushrooms to run the lights up and into.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 3:38PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)

Dian2, Thanks for the info! I've been using hot glue over the connections. I've also used some heat shrink tubing, with hot glue over the ends. Good luck with the frogs and mushrooms...can't wait to see it. Justin

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 5:34PM
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Hi Simon,

Thanks for the great information--much appreciated. But you have to watch out when you put your own commercial site on these forums. I think they become rather angry with that and will bounce you. But who knows how to interpret the rules . . . . In the future, you may want to keep it lowkey. :-)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 6:21PM
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DebZone8(S.Puget Sound)


Thanks so much for sharing your professional knowledge with us--I'm going to save your instructions!


    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 8:14PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the tips and info! There are so many things these LEDs can be used for...I'm hooked. I'm sure you'll be forgiven for plugging your own site after suggesting Ebay, Radio Shack, and Walmart alternatives :)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 11:54PM
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Thanks for the information Simon!
I've been messing with LEDs and solar power, but it's NOTHING compared to bigclive!
That's an informative link, not to mention cheap entertainment! lol


    Bookmark   April 3, 2005 at 11:56AM
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I do have a working prototype from a contact that made an RGB LED controller.

It has 4 channels for RGB allowing 2 banks of 2 controls.
Complete with LCD display and control to select 12 or 16 pre-programmed colour change sequences.

I have made my own set of strip lights containing 15 leds, 5 red, 5 green, 5 blue using one of the channels.

Its not easy designing from scratch, hence why I now purchase and sell direct from the manufacturers.
LED technology and its control are changing all the time, from even more powerful LEDs, some single one are quoted as 5watts to fancy controllers and user control over whole garden lighting systems.

Have a look at
This pond water feature contains 9 fountain nozzles, each nozzle contains 3 red, 3 green, 3 blue leds.
There is a built in controller to turn on the leds and the
Individual nozzles creating patterns of vertical shooting jets, some of different heights in different orders.

I have managed to see a set working and they would look really nice in the dark.

Wets the appetite a little, let me know if you need any more advice.



    Bookmark   April 3, 2005 at 2:57PM
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I'll be really pleased if I can get 3 (2500Mcd 1.9v) yellow LEDs to run off of one AA battery... :)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2005 at 7:47PM
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You have a small problem.
Each led requires 1.9V to operate at optimum conditions, the AA will produce max 1.5V for a short time. You could posible connect 1 led directly across the battery but you could conversly blow the led without the use of a resistor.

I suggest using a PP3 9V type, it will last much longer and allow you to add extra leds if needed.

To calculate the resistor:

Vf = 1.9v (led voltage for led 1, 2 and 3)
Vs = 9v (supply voltage)
Vd = 7.1v (voltage drop, see below)
If = 0.02A (led operating current 20mA, assumed check the spec for the led)

Rl = (Vs - Vf1 - Vf2 - Vf3) / If
Rl = (9 - 1.9 - 1.9 - 1.9) / 0.02
Rl = 3.3 (Vd) / 0.02
Rl = 165 Ohm, next preffered value is (180 Ohm) use 1/8watt or better resistor.

The leds, power and resistor can be connected in series, please see WIRING MULTIPLE LEDS IN SERIES SECTION using the link below.

Just remember to connect the leds the right way around.
If you need any further help then please contact me direct, I may even be able to build you a small board with the leds and resistor mounted ready to accept a battery.
In the past I have built small led display boards for others on forums, ready for power and just charged a small amount for parts and shipping.
See how you get on first as I find it feel much better if you manage to BUILD IT YOURSELF.

Good Luck


Here is a link that might be useful: WIRING MULTIPLE LEDS IN SERIES SECTION

    Bookmark   April 5, 2005 at 4:16AM
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Thanks Simon. Now my head hurts. :)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 9:01AM
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Just change the white for the three yellow and keep the original AA battery so that id does not cause charging problems.

Dont worry, it wont go bang, well not too much ;)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 12:05PM
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Tommyc(Mich 5-6)

Heres My Original Post about the way I put the LED's outside. One winter outdoors and they are going strong. The Liquid Electrical tape is good to use to cover the exposed wire, and then wrap it in regular electrical tape. Also, If you use silicone around the bare wire, put it on a little at a time. The wet silicone has a tendency to do something to the resistor, maybe getting inside the plastic coating. Also make sure you overlap the crystal of the LED just a little so that water won't get inbetween the crystal and posts exiting the Crystal. Be careful on buying Super Bright LED's... Every package you see anywhere will say they are superbrights, inreality they aren't. I know the Superbright LED website are truly Super Bright.

LED Pond Lights 2004

Here are the directions to making Pond Lights with SUPER BRIGHT LEDs. These LEDÂs are Super bright Literally. You canÂt get these LEDÂs in any store. Some store clerks will tell you that they are super bright, but in the end, until you see these, you canÂt appreciate the intense brightness and pure color they emit. ItÂs a very easy project and low cost.

Super Bright LEDÂs
5 mm type with high MCD rating. The lower Degree Angle the narrower the beam of light it emits. I like the higher degree when lighting a broader area. The Lower degree produces a narrower more intense beam.

Resistors from Radio Shack
½ watt 470 Ohm #271-1115 (.99 Cents for 5) One per LED
HereÂs a calculator to figure out what resistor to use with different voltage supplies

Wire I used Lamp wire. It doesnÂt have to be too heavy since its not using 110 volts.
Thin Computer wire is what I use from the LED (9 inches) to the lamp wire. Its easy to work with (Bendable) and color coded.

Soldering Iron
Wire Stripper
Electrical Tape
Electrical Wire Twist Caps

Radio Shack 12volt Power Inverter (2.5 to 5 amp) Mine is 2.5
This is the most expensive part of the project. I think the new Radio Shack power inverters are 3 amps. I think its important to be a regulated power supply too. I think its around $35.

1" PVC Pipes and end caps used as the fixtures for the LEDÂs to mounted in.

Drill & Drill Bits for drilling holes for the LED lens to be mounted in.

ASSEMBLY Directions

--Solder the Resistor to the Longer prong from the LED. Solder the computer wire to that led this is the positive side. Now solder a new Computer wire to the Negative prong of the LED.

-- Make sure you wrap each prong with electrical tape separately so that they do not touch when you mount them. Better Yet USE LIQUID ELECTRICAL TAPE.

-- Attach the lamp wire to the computer wire and attach them together by using the electrical twist caps. By using these caps you can easily take the LEDs off of the wire.

-- Drill a hole in the PVC end cap from the side closer to the round top of the cap (or whatever angle you want it to shine onto). Use a 3/16 drill bit. It is smaller than the LED lens but you can widen the hole a little and then the LED will fit snugly into the hole by pressing the LED at the base into the whole with a small screw driver. If you use 7/32 the LED will fit easily but you will have to put super glue into hole to securely hold the LED in. If you glue it in, you wonÂt be able to take the LED in the future.

-- Drill a hole about 4 inches from the bottom of PVC tube. Place the wire through that hole. This is the hole that connects it to the power line that finally connects to power supply. Now using a hammer, gently put the PVC Tube into the ground where you want the Light to go. I didnÂt place the wire under the ground, I just laid it on the ground and allowed the plants to cover the wire. This gives me the opportunity to add lights or do any maintenance in the future easily. The plants hide the black lamp wire nicely. Finally press on the End Cap with the LED gently onto the PVC pipe. There is no need to glue that on. It fits on nicely.

ï® Now finally run the wire to where you locate the power supply. Make sure you place the positive terminal to the resistor side.
ï® Finally, I placed the power supply in the garage on a timer so that its only on at night.

This is a very low cost way of dramatically accenting your pond or anything at night. The lights are brilliant, and much nicer than those Malibu "Landing Lights" everyone uses. I hardly use any electricity, and I do monitor it daily. Below are pics that easily depict what IÂm trying to describe here.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2005 at 10:04PM
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Tommyc(Mich 5-6)

Garden chick go get yourself a Radio Shack 12v ac power supply from Radio Shack. $12.99 #273-1662. The nine volt battery will only last a couple weeks. Use one resistor per lED and you can hook up 50 LED's forever. Not worth all the fussing about. This is easy stuff. Follow my directions, don't think, just do. Its that easy. 1/2 watt resistors won't get as hot as 1/4 resistors. I accidentally found this through a link. Good Idea about putting these LED's in Frogs and stuff. I'm going to put more LED's out shining OUT through the water falls. I had a spectacular show of colors with my frozen Water falls this past winter.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2005 at 10:26PM
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Very excellent thread! Great information! Thank you for taking the time to post!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 12:11PM
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Try these.
Safe and anyone can use them.
I've seen sets with 20 lights/100 watts for under $30US
I'm throw away the plastic and installing these type in tufa Japanese lanterns

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 1:44PM
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Tommyc(Mich 5-6)

I Think what most people don't understand with these special LED's is really "HOW BRIght these are". They are brighter than anything you've seen. You cannot look at these closeup, they will blind you. These are intense, and unique in everyway. Everyone asks me what I have. Even police have stopped by and asked me if I have some sort of laser alarm system. You can see these a half mile away. They look like little laser pinspots.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 8:41PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)

They are bright!!! Here's a pic of my can still see the LED light with bright room lights in the background. These aren't even the super bright versions.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 1:14PM
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Hi Rustinj
My computer is lit up like that. 15 LEDS in the case. I've disconnected 6 of them.
It lights up my office by itself. I can do everything except read.:)
Outside, however I try to emulate the warm glow of candles.
I use thin strips of mylar that are basically unseen but the lightest breeze moves them around the bulbs making them 'flicker' like candles.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 1:35PM
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rustinj(z7 AL)

Tufaenough, The mylar project sounds very interesting! Do you use different colored LEDs for that? Do you have any pics of it?

Thanks, Justin

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 2:13PM
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Justin I use a cheap Malibu low voltage systems with 7 and 11 watt bulbs not LEDs.
As far as the mylar goes you just experiment. I put pieces in my Japanese lanterns above and behind the bulbs but the pieces are loose. Then hang thin strips like tinsel in front of the bulb.
Any wind moves the bits of mylar and the light looks very much like a flickering candle.
I can't get a picture of the flicker but I will try to post a picture of the inside of my lantern when I get my camera back.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 8:53PM
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Thanks everyone for the information, and Tommyc & Simon, I have saved your instructions for a future project.

I have been using solar panels with AA batteries to power my LED projects and it seems to be working wonderfully. I really like not having to hard wire stuff.

It took me a few tries before I clued into just how bright different LEDs are. The first ones I got were pathetic, and I ended up using some 'mid-range' LEDs. They produce enough light to satisfy the look I'm trying to achieve. Still working on diffusing them somewhat to produce the most pleasing glow, apparently a small amount of silicon over the LED will do that. I also learned that 'yellow' LEDs don't necessarily produce 'yellow' light, but more amber. And that 'yellow' LEDS are actually clear. All very confusing, but once you figure it out it's like having insider information! LOL

Must try David's trick of the mylar. Is it clear mylar or silver?

Thanks again all! Most helpful bunch here.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2005 at 10:07AM
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GC I use the silver stuff for it's mirror qualities but clear might work.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2005 at 11:04AM
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Tommyc(Mich 5-6)

Here's a link to the pics from this winter of the LED's lighting up my pond. They sure beat Malibu lighting. You be the just and look at them in the Gallery.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 10:21PM
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Very cool Tommyc, almost makes the sight of that snow bearable! LOL

I really like using LEDs and think they have HUGE potential for use in tufa and outdoor lighting in general.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 10:42PM
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rockhewer(z4 WI)

Great info here. Has anyone tried fiber optics? I saw a site that had put them in faux rocks for a great night time effect. However for some reason a portion of my bookmarks went into cyber oblivion and they're gone. Would anyone have any info on this? Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 12:26PM
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Do you provide same service in small towns?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 5:56AM
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Thanks for all above posts, i really learned a lot!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 1:08AM
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Thanks for all above posts, i really learned a lot!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 1:09AM
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It sounds like this thread has touched on elements of my quandary.
I'd like to replace the 10 to 20w bi-pin G4 base bulbs on my outdoor 12v Malibu-type system. Has anyone tried any of the LED light options that are out there? The web is filled with LED lights that fit the base I have and claim to fill the outdoor lighting needs for 12v systems.
I considered using 1.6-2w warm white LEDs with my fixtures. The low heat and low power consumption are a plus, and the cost is great considering the lifespan.
Has anybody tried this? It almost looks TOO easy so there has to be a snag.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 10:38AM
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