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Repairing a LED Palm Tree RV Ornament.

 

 

When we go RV'ing, my wife likes to setup lawn ornaments. One of her favorites is this 2.5ft LED palm tree. However, I have had to buy two of them in the last 3 years as they don't seem to last; the last one having shorted out internally in the rope lighting. And it is getting expensive. So I came up with the idea to strip the 120VAC LED rope lighting from the tree and replace it with low voltage LED strip lighting.

Since you can get just about any color LED strip lighting these days, I was able to find both Green and Yellow lights. I decided on SMD3528 strip lights as they are a bit narrower (8mm vs. 10mm) and they fit just about perfectly on the palm-fronds.

Also, the smaller SMD3528 strips are a bit thinner, which allows them to be bent around the fronds. One issue I discovered with both SMD5050 and SMD3528 strips is that the severe bend around the front of the frond will eventually cause the silicone waterproofing membrane to crack. So I did have to use a bit of Liquid Tape to keep this area waterproof.

  

The wiring job is fairly simple, and I did add connectors at the fronds so I could disassemble the tree. One of the things I hated about the tree was that once assembled, it was difficult to find a place to store it without breaking it. With removeable fronds, the whole thing can collapse and be put into a bag for storage.

 

 

I did have some difficulty in getting a good connection with the LED strips for the fronds. I first tried to use pig-tail connections but found that they would break after a few connections and disconnections. I then tried the IDC (Insulation Displacement Connector) vampire-tap type connectors, but found reliability issues with those as well. I ended up modifying the IDC connectors by soldering directly to the pins.

 


Connector Video.

 

 

 

 

 

The connectors for the fronds are not 100% waterproof, but since the connector's female part encapsulates the inner male part, pointing the connector down will shed water. And I will add a bit of Liquid Tape to the connector ends so that they will be realitively waterproof.

And since we are working with 12VDC, there is little shock hazard.

The connectors admittantly look a bit haphazard, but remember - no one is going to see the connectors in the daylight, so the advantage of being able to dissassemble and store the palm tree in a bag far outweighs any asthetic issues of the connectors.

Since I decided to change the LED strips to 12VDC power, I am able to use a remote control.

 


Repair Video.

 

A few tips:

  • Use 8mm wide SMD3528 LED strips.
  • Use cable ties that are UV rated whenever possible.
  • Use Liquid Tape to waterproof all electrical connections.
  • Keep the power supply inside a storage area or waterproof box.
  • Don't annoy your neighbors after an acceptable evening hour by "flashing the tree" (running automation).