After I renovated the lighthouse made by my grandfather, we talked about having one at the point on the other side of our cove on Lake Arrowhead. Linus and I immediately set about putting a new lighthouse together, and by the end of the evening we had assembled the majority of parts to make a decent looking lighthouse.
We wanted a tapered base and I remembered an attachment that had come with a Black & Decker electric leaf blower for sucking leaves up, and after some searching, we found it. Once we had the base, we decided that some PVC pipes would fit into the top pretty well. We found a brandy bottle that would make a good window for the lantern room but then Linus found a pickle jar with vertical sides that was even better. We managed to cut some threads on the inside of a PVC 3” - 4” adaptor pipe so that the jar actually threaded into the PVC. Some plastic leftovers from an air conditioning air filter kit made appropriate sized window frames. An old lamp fitting made a roof, and we managed to attach 4 bolts around the edge of it to hold it onto a small ridge on the bottom of the pickle jar. When dismantling the light fitting, we discovered a large cylindrical heat sink that looked very much like a Fresnel lens of a lighthouse, so that had to be included too!
We attached the ‘Fresnel lens’ to some threaded light fitting rods so that it would sit at the right height in the middle of the pickle jar, and attached it to the metal lid of the pickle jar.
To prevent rust, we replaced the metal lid of the pickle jar with the plastic base of a yogurt tub and covered it with flyscreen to prevent insects from nesting inside. We installed the electronics between the lid and the heat sink and connected it to a jumbo LED inside the heat sink.
The top assembly had to be connected to the leaf blower base somehow and we devised a plan whereby a PVC threaded plug would be fastened to the top of a square baluster, and the other half of the threaded pipe could be pushed into the head assembly and then threaded down onto the baluster, effectively sandwiching the leaf blower base between the head and the ground.
To prevent the base being pushed into the ground we created a foundation from an old plastic tray. Knowing that we would probably never get the baluster support to be 100% vertical, we made a ring of plywood that fitted within the base and could be screwed to the base such that the lighthouse was vertical. Holes in the base and square plug allowed a power supply cable to be threaded up to the head of the lighthouse to provide power.
The old PVC fitting was very old and had faded to a tan color so we painted it black and also painted the upper half of the leaf blower white, thus giving us nice alternating layers of black and white.
We packed it all in a milk crate with the tools we expected to use:
We picked a suitable spot on the point where we could see it from our cabin, and we took advantage of extremely low water level to add some big rocks to the shoreline to create a rocky coastline suitable as a lighthouse habitat. It is a nice moss covered area which we hope will form a nice ‘lawn’ around the tower.
The metal baluster is wedged into a 14" hole that we created by pounding a piece of 4" x 4" lumber into the ground.
Rain and snow is expected to blow in below the glass part, but should drain down the inside.
The lighthouse is 41½” tall (105cm).
In order to get low voltage (12VAC) power to the lake edge we needed to buy a roll of outdoor low voltage cable as the 350 ft. length needed far exceeded what we had available!
Initially the plan was to simply have the lighthouse start flashing when it got power, but then we realized that it would be fun to also have it indicate upcoming weather conditions; rain, snow and fog.
I wrote a small program to fetch the current weather and upcoming forecast and decide what flashing pattern should be made active. The flash pattern is as follows:
The light will be on for 2s, and off for 8s, from 30 minutes before sunset through to 30 minutes after sunrise. During the day, it is off unless there is rain, snow or fog.
During, and 30 minutes before the rain is predicted, it will be on for 3s, off for 3s, day or night.
During, and 30 minutes before the snow is predicted, it will be on for 8s, off for 2s, day or night.
During, and 30 minutes before the fog, mist or smoke is predicted, it will be on for 5s, off for 5s, day or night.
══ ══ ══ Clear (night)
═══ ═══ ═══ ═══ ═══ Rain
═════ ═════ ═════ Fog/mist/smoke
════════ ════════ ════════ Snow
A bridge rectifier converts the 12V AC power to about 7V DC. We then pass that through a DC-DC converter (Buck converter) to provide 5V DC which powers a Wemos D1 processor that is running RemoteSign ESP software. A 3.3 V output of the Wemos is fed to a MOSFET module that switches the jumbo LED using the 5V power with an 80Ω resistor. The RemoteSign software connects the lighthouse to our Wi-Fi network and receives commands from RemoteSign Sequencer (running in my study) to flash at the appropriate rates depending on the weather and time of day.
These are the parts we used to construct the lighthouse.
- Light fitting cap
- Light fitting decoration
- Light fitting escutcheon
- Glass pickle jar
- Part of an air filter frame
- Heatsink from a LED light
- Threaded light fitting tubes
- White LED
- Heat shrink tubing
- WeMos D1 mini running RemoteSign ESP
- MOSFET module
- DC-DC converter
- Bridge rectifier
- Cable tie
- Base of a yogurt tub
- Wire & solder
- Euro terminal connector
- Leaf sucker tubes from a Black & Decker leaf blower
- PVC threaded plug
- PVC 3" to 4" adapter
- PVC cleaner and welding solution
- Plastic tray
- Self tapping screws
- Aluminum deck railing baluster.
- Black & white paint
- Black tape
We had all the materials on hand!
The weather data
The weather data is fetched from https://openweathermap.org/ and uses the supplied sunrise and sunset times and the forecast to determine Clear (Day), Clear (Night), Rain, Snow, Fog modes. When the mode changes it connects to RemoteSign Sequencer and runs one of five scripts that send the lighthouse commands out to both lighthouses.
So far, it has endured below freezing temperatures as well as heavy rain. There is some condensation on the inside of the pickle jar, but I suspect that will dissipate with drier weather.
We can see it blinking at night from the cabin