Set the Mood and Make Your Own WiFi-Controlled Lights

Looking to add some mood lighting and atmosphere to your home? Gadget Freak Andries “Quindor” Faassen shows you how to use an ESP8266 WiFi module to build your own network-controlled LED dimmer for indoor and outdoor lighting.

For a while now, I’ve been working on building my own network controlled LED dimmer. I sampled some commercially available remotely controllable LED dimmers, but I found they all either lacked some function I wanted or where WAY too expensive to rollout throughout my house. So, I decided to construct my own version!

The finished QuinLED module.

I’ve been toying with LED strips for several years now using (mostly Chinese) LED controllers. RGB is ok, but for nice lighting in my house I focus on the softer and warmer Warm White LEDs.

To explain the technique we are using a little bit better I will explain pulse width modulation (PWM) dimming in short. Since the advent of digital LED lighting dimming,dimming the light by lowering voltage now longer works. LEDs have a whole different nature than analog lamps and just sending it a lower voltage will only make it flicker or turn off completely.

To make LEDs dimmable we are using a technique called PWM dimming. The name pulse width modulation sums it up quite nicely. Instead of sending a continues stream of a certain voltage (12v in our case) we are very quickly sending pulses of the correct (12v) voltage to the LED. Because of how our eyes work, depending on the duration or load/duty of the pulse, we will see a certain intensity of light.

In one sentence this is an ESP8266-based PWM WiFi controllable dimmer. I call it the QuinLED. The ESP8266 is a microcontroller similar to an Arduino or a Pix. In this case we will program the ESP8266 to dim LED lights connected to it. Once the module is complete you should be able to connect it to either indoor or outdoor lights depending on your preference. 

Here we will concentrate on building the controller:

QuinLEDdimmer v2.6 rev 1.00 PARTS LIST    
     
Board Parts    
All parts selected in quantaties to build min 5 boards!    
Part Type Quantity
Custom PCB Board QuinLED v2.5 rev 1.10  
ESP8266 ESP-01 1
MOSFET STP16NF06L 2
Voltage converter LM2596 1
Terminal Block Green 5mm pitch Green 2
Terminal Block Black 5mm pitch Black 1
Header socket 2x4 ESP Socket 1
Pin header Pin headers 1
Jumpers 2 pin jumper 2
Resistor 0805 10K ohm 2
     
External Parts    
All parts selected in quantaties to build min 5 boards!    
Part Type Quantity
USB to Serial CH340G 1
and Jumper cables 5x Dupont FM-FM 5
or ESP-01 programmer USB Program board with socket 1
     
LED Parts    
Buy as needed!    
LED bar 12v 50cm Alu stip 5630 1
LED strip 12v 5m 3528 LED 60LED/m 1
Garden LED cubes 18v up/down LED Cube 1
     
Power Supply parts    
Buy as needed!    
12v Power Supply 12v, 2A 1
or 12v Power Supply 12v 20A 1
24v Power Supply 24v 6A for garden lights 1
Short Wires 20awg Silicon electrical wire 1
DC Barrel connectors Barrel Jacks 1
DC-DC converter 24v -> 18v for garden lights 1

Soldering and Assembly

After getting all the required components together it’s time to solder them onto the board. I made a 30-minute video going through all the steps of soldering everything together trying to show that it’s actually quite easy to do so yourself!

 

 

To make the soldering a bit easier, the order of soldering I use to stick it all together is as follows:

  1. We start off with the pin headers for the DC-DC converter. I solder these with the long leg pointed down and with the plastic spacer on the top of the board

  2. Next are the 2×2 pins for the jumpers and the 5×1 pin headers. These both go in with the long side and plastic spacer on top

  3. Then, in order to easily be able to disconnect or change the ESP-01, it’s best to solder the 4×2 header socket

  4. After that slide the DC-DC voltage converter on the pins you soldered earlier. This can be quite a tedious process and might need you to bend some pins a little bit to get it on there. Once you get it on in the correct orientation (the little adjust screw goes closest to the ESP socket!) you can need to solder it on the top side and bottom side

  5. Once that’s done, solder on the 2×1 input and 4×1 output screw terminals. Be sure to use plenty of solder so that they have a good connection to the board to transport all the current

  6. Finally we can put on MOSFETs. Orient them so that the metal parts are both facing inward and the black side with the text is facing outward. Push them in from the top of the board to the bottom and push them as far down as they go. I mostly space them so that they are both pointing outward a bit giving better access  to the jumpers in between them (Although you really only need to put the jumpers on once to flash the board)

And that’s it, your board is all together and ready for setting the voltage converter and flashing!

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