The display is up! But the work is never finished. With rain, wind, and cold, various problems arise throughout the light season. The main issues is pixels that either lose a color or stop sending data. The lights we use are ws2811 pixels. Everything we have is 12 volts and we can run between 150 and 300 lights in a string.

For reference, here is an example of the lights we use: Bullet Nodes – Wired Each light has three wires going in (12v, Data In, Ground) and going out (12v Data Out, Ground). Data only goes one direction and the WS2811 chip controls a RGB LED.

The most common issue is a single color going out in a pixel. Most commonly, this is the Red LED as they require less voltage than the Blue and Green LED’s (For instance, they may require 2 volts compared to 3 volts). As our show is all 12 volts, each pixel has a set of resistors to lower the voltage to the appropriate LED. As Red uses less voltage, the drop is greater and seems more probable to burn out either the Red LED or resistor than the other colors. When one color is out in a pixel, we replace just that one pixel.

Another issues occurs when wires get pulled in the wind, water gets into a pixel or the WS2811 chip is somehow defective. When a pixel is completely out with all the pixels that follow it also out, it could be a problem with either the first pixel that is out or the last pixel that was lit. To resolve these issues, we tend to replace both the last lit pixel and the first pixel that is out. Though it is likely one of these two pixels still works, troubleshooting is easier by just replacing both.

There are a variety of ways to splice in pixels. Wires could be just twisted together and covered in electrical tape. Heat shrink solder connectors ( : heat shrink solder connector) could be used. My preferred method which is permanent is to physically solder the wires together and use adhesive heat shrink ( : heat shrink 3:1) over the connection to make it water proof.

The tools I use are shown in the picture. I use a soldering station (Premier Programmable 3-Channel Soldering Station (, heat gun ( : heat gun wagner 2363333), wire stripper (IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Stripper, Self-Adjusting, 8-Inch (2078300) – Wire Stripping Tool –, helping hands ( SE Helping Hand with Magnifying Glass – MZ101B: Home Improvement), solder and a pair of wire cutters.

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One thought on “Fixing Pixels

  1. As if prior years displays were awesome..THIS YEAR’S is FANTASTIC especially when you talked about adding those circular pixel panels on the church as well as on your home… truly a sight to behold…as my wife and I did last Sunday night watching in awe of this electronic Christmas pageant as it told stories and played outstanding holiday music

    I’M JEWISH and appreciate
    all the programming, syncing and hard work you do each year to brighten our evenings.

    Thank you Pastor Nietzer!!! Merry Christmas Stay Safe!!

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