DIY: RGB LED Spotlight Conversion

IMG_4405Project Background

Each year, I put out floodlights to help “Fill in” colors that wash onto our house.  I’ve always used the cheap, easily available, colored, 80-100 watt flood lights with simple holders.  These worked out OK, however there were some drawbacks.  One, they draw (comparatively) significant power.  Lots more power than the other sections of the display.  For example, in 2013 I had 8 total spotlights (5 green and 3 red) that work out to around 640 watts which equates to about 2.5 amps.  Secondly, if I have 5 areas to light, but wanted another color, I had to add another 5 lights for every new color.  This can end up taking up a lot of my display’s “energy budget”.  [For Red, Green, and Blue, I’d have to have 15 lights x 80 watts = 1200 watts or around 4 amps!]

Obviously, if you’re interested in saving energy in lighting, the first answer to explore would be LED lighting.  So, if you put in RGB LEDs into each spotlight, you’d only need 5 total, and use MUCH less energy.

My Project Parameters

For my needs, I wanted to be able to control the full RGB color for each floodlight, and have each floodlight be able to be independent from the others.  So for 4 spotlights, it requires 3 channels x 4 spotlights for a total of 12 channels.  I have a Light-o-Rama 16 channel DC controller board that I plan to use with this.  I could have taken the approach to “gang” together all 4 spotlights and only use 3 channels for all of them, but I prefer the option to be able to “chase” the spotlights, as well as having total flexibility to have each spotlight be a different color if desired.

Project Materials

  • Floodlight_4250$10 (On sale) – Sacrificial Shop Light
    • I used Harbor Freight’s Halogen Shop Light – Item No. 66433
    • I was only concerned about the case as I wanted to replace all the other parts, so whatever you can find at a good price.
  • Floodlight_4234$7/lot of 20 – RGB LED Modules
    • 5050 SMD RGB LED module, DC12V input, waterproof, 20 pcs a string
    • I’ve had great luck with Ray Wu’s Store
  • 4 conductor wire – 18-20 gauge
  • Optional: 4 circuit connector with receptacle and plug
    • This is for flexibility.  You may want to add this for easier connecting/unconnecting to the controller board instead of hard-wiring it directly to the controller
  • Misc. Tools: Cutters, Wire Stripper, heat shrink, soldering iron, etc.

Conversion Process

Step 1. Disassemble your sacrificial shop light.  Remove the bulb, the switch, and cord, as well as the metal reflector inside the light.  Save all pieces in case you can reuse any for this project, or some other project.

Floodlight_4129 Floodlight_4138 Floodlight_4139 Floodlight_4140
Floodlight_4142 Floodlight_4130 Floodlight_4134 Floodlight_4131

Floodlight_4239Step 2. Measure the LEDs and see how many can fit into your shop light.  Mine fit 10 very snugly.  Things to consider are how these will be mounted, and how much light you’d like to see come out of this light.  I wanted as many LEDs packed in as possible, so mine sit up pretty high, closer to the glass front so I could use 10 modules.

Mounting the LED Modules

This section will depend on your needs, the size of the light housing, and how you want to organize the LEDs inside the light, among other things.

What I decided to do was to make a simple wooden base that I could attach the LED modules on and install into the housing.  Here was my process:

Floodlight_4235Measure and cut wooden bases that will fit inside the light housing.  I am making 4 lights, so I made a base for each one.

Floodlight_4236My modules came with convenient sticky tape already mounted on the back.

I reinforced the tape with a dab of hot glue to help hold the modules to the base and to each other.

Floodlight_4240Once everything was mounted on the base, and after a test fit, I soldered on a 4 conductor wire to the modules and covered with heat shrink for good measure.

Here are a few shots of a testing the colors of the assembled unit.
Floodlight_4244 Floodlight_4243 Floodlight_4242

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