I am an artist trying to make an installation but I'm not too familiar with electrical work.

I want to have multiple light bulbs wired to one button. Each time the button is pushed one light bulb comes on. There will be probably over fifty of these bulbs.

Could you provide some design hints about how do I accomplish this?


I've been told I need to be more specific so I will try with some additional background.

I have a certified electrician who can help me understand language and execution if needed.

I would be using either 40 watt, 60 watt, or 25 watt bulbs. The kind of light bulb simply needs to have that classic look and be relatively cheap, so I'm not concerned about how bright it is. Those are just bulbs within my price range (because I need a lot of them).

The goal is to have a large long arched trellis with light bulbs hanging/on the sides looking similar to string lights. these bulbs would respond to one button and every time the button is pushed a singular light comes on.

Edit** The bulbs would stay on. I'm willing to hear anything anyone has to offer regardless of price, no need

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    \$\begingroup\$ @laptop2d I think that we're back to the stuff I said about reading the question and comprehension aren't we? \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Uszak Mar 16 '17 at 3:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @laptop2d it be great if you stop acting like judge and jury in these things as well... \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Mar 16 '17 at 5:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @flannelsupreme For a forum where you WILL get a good answer. (1) Read this page - Ignore the links except the following one. [2] Go to **this page read it (overlap with above) and then join the list by filling in the boxes at the bottom. Hopefully you'll get a "welcome" email. Send questions to piclist@mit.edu . Put [EE] in the start of your subject line and a subject line (this one is fine) and ask away. Helpful people will guide you to an answer :-) | No spam. Leave anytime. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Mar 16 '17 at 5:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you have a certified electrician helping you, why don't you ask him to just build this for you? \$\endgroup\$ – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 16 '17 at 8:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it is a shame that your question was deemed inappropriate. the community could have really helped you get where you want to be, while making it a learning experience for you. too bad that that wasn't happening here. I feel bad for you. \$\endgroup\$ – dannyf Mar 19 '17 at 14:40

You need some kind of microcontroller-based solution, plus some relays and a power supply.

Given your background and project needs (50 bulbs), I'd recommend you to use an Arduino Mega 2560, plus several boards of 10+ relays (or, even better, SSRs), and an AC/DC power supply with a high current rating for all the current that the relays will draw.

Also, you'll be better off posting this question to the Arduino site in stack exchange.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ thank you for your advice! I'm looking into those supplies now. \$\endgroup\$ – flannelsupreme Mar 16 '17 at 1:22

After your clarification, what I've said below may not directly work, but you can still do something similar to control them (send a single 1 instead of series). However, switching higher-current bulbs will definitely need some type of driver. Or you can go with old-school relay logic. :) But, if you don't want to design something from scratch, consider something like the Insteon or X10 home automation modules. You could then program a scene that switches to a different bulb.


It depends on how you want the lights to come on. If it's going to be like a bar graph I'd use seven simple 8-bit shift registers, like a 74LS594, plus a debounce RC circuit. Depending on how much current you're sinking or sourcing, you may also need some drive transistors or relays.

Your button would be connected to the clock line of the registers and you'd have a second button for clearing them. You'd wire the input of the first register to Vcc to produce 1s. As the 1s get shifted through the registers each subsequent output goes from 0 to 1, which would be used to turn on your bulb.

To explain further how this works, it uses a series of shift registers. The register I recommended has a serial input, and serial output, and a parallel output. Every time it receives a clock signal, all of the bits are shifted one position. After the reset button is pushed, all of the bits are set to zero, so all of the lights would be off. Here's what the initial state looks like:


The first "in" pin is wired to Vcc (power) to produce a 1. When the clock button is pushed, all of the bits shift over one:


So the first light is lit. Continuing to push the button continues to shift the bits, turning on more lights:




Pushing reset would set everything back to 0, turning all of the lights off.

The parallel outputs would be used to turn on a light.

If you wanted a single light turned on, you'd need a method to send a single 1 into the input and follow it with zeros. You could do that with adding a flip-flop, a switch, or NOR gate in front to change the bit stream. It would be similar as before:





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  • \$\begingroup\$ I strongly suggest you try the site I mentioned. | Your 'how it works' description is still unclear. You need to spell it out. Are there eg 50 bulbs and pressing one button or several buttons advannces 1 light per time 1 2 3 4 ... 50, or goups of lights that do this, or ??? \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Mar 16 '17 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RussellMcMahon I only saw a mention to the OP to go to the PIC listserv; which site are you suggesting? | The original post was unclear what was needed, so I provided general guidance on how to start to design a controller. But I'll be happy to expand on what the idea is. \$\endgroup\$ – melds Mar 16 '17 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ The PICList is what I waqs suggesting. Despite the name it is far from being solely list oriented. It has people with an extremely wide cross-section of experience and an atmosphere conducive to casual Q&A if required. I'd see it as complementary to SE. Traffic level is far lower with large bursts when a suitably 'intense' topic arises. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Mar 17 '17 at 10:47

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