Second Thoughts

I had just sent a message to a forum member selling  a Renard Plus TR24, a 24 channel AC lighting controller assembled, tested, and shipped to my door for $100. I reacted very quickly to the for sale post because I had seen other good deals pop up and sell very fast. I did not want to let this one get away. But as soon as I had sent the message, I started having second thoughts. While it was a very good deal, I realized there was still more cost involved.

First, the board did not come with an enclosure. Boards like these needed to be inside a protective enclosure for many reasons. I planned to have the board outside, and I wanted to keep it dry and out of the elements. Danger was a concern as well. This was a high voltage piece of equipment, and I did not want anyone to be able to come in contact with it. Security came in to play too. With a costly investment like this, I wanted to be able to lock it up. Most enthusiasts use an enclosure made for cable, phone, or electrical installations. You have probably seen these on the side of houses, and perhaps wondered what they were. The preferred brand seemed to be Cable Guard. For this size board, most use a Cable Guard CG-1500. I quick Amazon search showed this to cost about 26 dollars. They can be bought elsewhere for  cheaper, but shipping costs usually raise it higher than Amazon.

Second, the board did not come with pigtails. Pigtails are the female plug ends that would extrude from the bottom of the enclosure. That is where the light strand would plug in. Most people made their own pigtails out of extension cord wire and female plug ends. The other end of the wire screwed onto the board itself. The cost of the wire and the plug ends would add another 30 dollars.

And I still had lots of other items to buy. I needed to get an FM transmitter so that visitors could tune into the show. I would need more extension cords that I had used in the past since each light strand would be individually controlled. I probably was going to need a few new light strands as well. I also was hoping to get a Raspberry Pi to run the show so that I would not have to tie up my computer every night.

I started to worry that I had reacted too quickly to the for sale post. Maybe I should have waited for a board that came with an enclosure and pigtails. I had seen posts before that came with these items, but they usually were at a higher cost. Maybe I would get lucky, and someone would be offering one for cheaper in the next few weeks. I felt I need to let the seller know right away, so that he could contact one of the other interested parties. I sent him a quick message:

I may have responded a bit too soon. 😦

I looked back at the post and realized that this board does not come in an enclosure or with pigtails. That would raise my cost up to about $150-160. My limit is more like $120.

I got excited when I saw your offer of $100 shipped, because last week I almost bought a Renard SS24 for $100 that came with an enclosure and pigtails already installed. But was shocked when the shipping turned out to be $50.

You don’t happen to have an enclosure and some pigtails to throw in do you? 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. I think what you’re offering is a great deal. It’s just that I was hoping to dive into this new hobby this year with a simple AC light show that I could get up and running quick. I know I still need to buy a lot of extension cords and an FM transmitter, and a Raspberry Pi to run the show. And that starts pushing me up into a higher cost than I can afford this year.

Sorry if this caused any inconvenience for you. Feel free to take one of the other offers that you received.

After I hit send, I started to worry again that I would not be able to find another deal and the show would be off for this year. I started to second guess my decision. Maybe the additional cost wasn’t too much. But I knew it was. I would just have to try to find a better deal.

The next morning I received the following message from the seller:

I can relate to your predicament in trying to finance the first years show. One of the things I found surprising is how generous people on DIYC can be. I’ve received a lot of extras from people as I’ve bought things. I wish I had the extras that you need but I don’t. I do have some vampire plugs I can throw in. I could add 24 of these (1 for each channel) and a couple of male extension cords. You would still have to scrounge up some wire for the plugs and an enclosure. An enclosure can be anything that protects the controller. I’ve used various types of plastic containers for my first year. Those can also be covered with a trash bag to make them more waterproof. An enclosure like a CG1500 or CG2000 will cost $12 – $14 but those aren’t waterproof either. I use those in my display now but I would classify them more as water resistant. If you need a Raspberry Pi to run the show then I’d also be willing to include a RPi Model B. It’s not the latest/greatest Pi but it’s fast enough to run your show. I still run mine from a Model B.

A couple of tips that might help for your first year… One is that it’s easier to have a plan of what you need (shopping list) and buy things a little bit at a time. It’s nice to have it all at once but it’s easier when you spread out the cost. For pig tails, I went to the local Dollar Tree and picked up green extension cords for $1 each. Just cut off the male plug and you’ll have 3 male connectors for each channel. I used to buy a few of those each payday instead of getting them all at once. Wire is also expensive to ship because of the weight.

I won’t have any trouble selling the controller I have but if you’d still like it then I’ll hold it for you. Just let me know.

I could believe it. He was willing to throw in the female plug ends and a Raspberry Pi computer. That eliminated at least 40-50 dollars of cost for me. I messaged him back to make sure that he was still offering all of that for 100 dollars. He replied that he was, and that he was happy to help out someone new to the hobby. He explained that others had been similarly generous to him when he was starting out. It was his way of giving back. I sent him another message thanking him, and I told him I would take it, and I quickly sent the payment to him through PayPal. He replied that he would ship the items in the morning. Now began the waiting game!

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