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What’s that sounds.... CRAP! Lights Destroyed! NEWB FAIL


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This happened last year. I thought I would get it posted before everyone starts setting up for this year. Hopefully nobody will make the same mistake I did. Sorry its a little lengthy.


I had been using LOR for a couple years and I decided to start playing around with pixels. I bought a DMX controller and a few pixel strips (4 to be exact). I spent hours trying to figure out the setup/configuration and even more time programming. At the time I didn't realize I needed to re-inject power, so all the strips were connected. I knew there was a little voltage drop, but didn't notice it in my setup room.


Installation day came and I was excited to get everything up and running. I spent all day getting the lights hung. Everything was perfect. The pixels were on the gutters and looked better that I expect. White tape didn't look too bad on my brown gutters. I wanted to save the Pixels for last, so I pulled the 24V extension cord to the side or so I thought. It was getting late and a little dark, Looking back now I should have stopped, but I wanted to see how everything looked. I work for MONTHS on this, I WANT IT NOW.


I started plugging in the standard incandescent and LED string into a live extension cords just to confirm I had everything set to the correct channel. I had 2 cords left, I thought they were the bushes I had on the front of the house. Wow was I wrong.


I plugged in the next cord and there was a sounds, something I won't forget. it sounded like frying bacon. For the vegetarians out there, if you have ever been around HIGH voltage lines when it is misting or sleeting..... it sounds a lot like that, only worse. At that exact same moment, I noticed a BRINGHT RED GLOW filling the whole yard. I looked up and noticed the Pixels were on. I said a few choice words and unplugged as quickly as I could.


This all happened in about 2 seconds.


Unable to get the lights working correctly on the 24V power supple (only a few red LEDs would work), I pulled down the Pixels and I almost cried. Most all the LEDs were burnt and in several places the LEDs and chips burned through the rubber jacket. I am very lucky I didn't start a fire.


A couple hundred dollars wasted and a HUGE lesson learned.


Don't be a Cotton Headed Ninny Muggings! LABLE YOUR ELEMENTS AND EXSTENSION CORDS. After this incident I spray painted my Low Voltage extension cord ends a different color and I now use wire labels and label everything.

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We have all made some mistakes due to long setup days. When your tired.... STOP !


As another safety measure, you should not use regular extension cords to extend pixels, or any other low voltage lighting.

I understand how tempting it is, because of cost, but you found out the hard way. At least change out the connectors so it is impossible

to ever put 120V onto the low voltage items.


I hope you were able to recover for this year.



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I spent over $100.00 on plastic label maker tape to mark every lighting wire on both ends. I also put labels on every power supply and both ends of every network cable. It is a little costly but much cheaper than replacing 74 pixel per meter strips.

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This happened last year. Yes replaced them. Unfortunately I was not able to get replacements before it snowed. I'm not going up on a ladder in the snow. I figured it I had enough bad luck for one season.

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Sorry this happened last year, BUT, your "Newbie Fail", is a good lesson for Newbies and veterans alike. I also like your comment "I'm not going up on a ladder in the snow." That is a very good decision you made. I don't even like using a ladder if it's sunny. Too many things can go awry. I do it, but I don't like it.


Just last year (4th year doing a show), I soldered the wrong wire on some pixels. Thankfully, the cris-crossed wires were data and ground, as opposed to one of them being the hot wire. 


So, the lesson, Check, re-check, and then, check again. 

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I cooked a very expensive P12S pixel controller earlier this year because I got into too much of a hurry. Lesson learned....the hard way. So to the OP, you aren't alone. Most of us have ruined something along the way.

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Sorry this happened last year, BUT, your "Newbie Fail", is a good lesson for Newbies and veterans alike. I also like your comment "I'm not going up on a ladder in the snow." That is a very good decision you made. I don't even like using a ladder if it's sunny. Too many things can go awry. I do it, but I don't like it.


Just last year (4th year doing a show), I soldered the wrong wire on some pixels. Thankfully, the cris-crossed wires were data and ground, as opposed to one of them being the hot wire. 


So, the lesson, Check, re-check, and then, check again. 

I did that earlier this year, reversed the power and The ground. Luckily it only burned up the first pixel, the rest worked fine after. Was probably overtired. They were pixels from Ray that the blue wire is power and brown is ground. Didn't notice the mistake in the dark colors lol

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100% agree that a regular extension cord should NEVER be used for low voltage circuits.  Thank about this.  In the electrical world, every different voltage and current rated connector is different and non-compatible.  This makes it impossible to plug them in wrong.


I also suggest using different color Cat-5 cables for different purposes.  For example, all my "normal" home LAN network cables are blue, my LOR cables are purple and my E1.31 cables are green.  Although the connectors are all the same, if you adopt a standard and adhere to it, it reduces the possibility of plugging a LAN cable into a LOR device or vice versa.

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I've invested money in many different styles of watertight connectors. I use a different style for different purposes that way nothing can get plugged in the wrong way. One example would be I use the larger diameter four wire connector for the dumb RGB. I use the smaller version for my DMX with power injection. Large 3 wire connector for 12 volt pixels the smaller one is for the 5 volt

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey all,


I *JUST* dove into the deep part of the lake ... I finally broke down and ordered a LOR 16 ch starter and the advanced ST4 - I have DMX stuff here and sACN (E1.31) so I chose to integrate into a more common stream.


I have built, programmed and operated my own lighting controllers for the past 10 years.  Always having fun however the years and technological pace … yeah, I am getting older – retirement is on the horizon.


I've been an electrician for over 30 years.  As I read here, there is always a good reason to not have different voltages on the same style connector.  AND it is also part of the National Electrical Code.  IF you burn your house down because you ignored the NEC, good luck with your insurance company.  Here's how I handle different voltages - it is pretty easy and works (IMHO it is ALMOST idiot proof).


Proverb: Make it idiot proof and an idiot will prove you wrong.


To clarify my next bit ... LOW VOLTAGE is less than 50v - High voltage is greater than 50v.


I use several voltages for my lights 5v, 12v & 24v DC and 120/240v AC.  I am not including the Solar Panels and batteries b/c that’s used for the lighting however it is not part of the actual system.  AC connectors are just for that.  Alternating Current.  Ever notice how some plugs just won't fit together?   And I don't mean because of bent ends.  Or the plug has a turned leg?  Keeping it simple: because it is not designed for general use.  It has special uses.  NEMA 5-15 plugs (which y'all use on a daily basis) will fit into a 5-15 receptacle *AND* and 5-20 receptacle.  However ... a NEMA 5-20 PLUG will not fit into a NEMA 5-15 receptacle which are the most common receptacles in homes since .... well, forever.


NOW to the point:  Since I use several DC and AC voltages, I choose to make sure they cannot get mixed up.  My "DIY" controllers all have TWIST LOCK connectors recessed into their cabinets with ratings of 20/30a and 120/240v.  I cannot stand wires hanging out all over the place when I put stuff up for the season so this is a personal preference and really doesn't drive cost up through the roof.


I had choices to either build an enclosure with receptacles on a panel or pigtails which most everyone using LOR has dangling out of the CT-1500.  One of my controllers has 32 ch of quad receptacles (each quad is 4 channels), weather proofed.


The twist locks are dedicated - so there goes most of the problems since a good 'ol piece of 10/4 SO cord is good for 30a per phase.  In layman's terms: 7,200 watts MAX.  This doesn’t take into account the breaker rating of 80%.  ALSO note one other important piece of information.


ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ... use Ground Fault protection.  There are people in their graves who wished they did.  Test it!


The LOW VOLTAGE connectors I use are entirely different and IMPOSSIBLE to cross connect in any fashion to high voltage.


I took a good look at the low voltage connector offerings.  No matter what, there are PROS and CONS to every connector and ultimately comes down to COST and ease of use.  There are plenty of water proof connectors and some are fairly easy to use and some are a NIGHTMARE.  Some require special tools for assembly which can be expensive too.


OK - Here's what I did and maybe this can help someone else.


I am not advocating any particular piece of equipment for use.  Its what I’ve used and still use.  ALSO NOTE: these are NOT weather rated but hold up quite well for 5+ seasons, no issues outdoors.  See ‘weatherproofing’ below.  It is how I do it.


ANDERSON POWER POLE connectors.  These are designed for DC power use.  I use these in the 50A and the 30A variety,  They are also used in industrial environments and for years I’ve had to fix them more so because someone trashed the end or fail to turn off the power FIRST! (they don’t like arcing too much).


I use allot of DC with a central redundant power supply for my lights.  A personal preference as most of my home is LOW VOLTAGE LED lighting, so I use what I have instead of buying a bunch of power supplies.


I use #4 SO cord to supply DC power to my primary controllers.  DC power has disadvantages that must be compensated for. DISTANCE is the biggest disadvantage to DC power (as some seasoned folks know).


Power Pole connectors come in different COLORS.  Some of these units are made to only connect with a LIKE device.  So you can’t plug in the 5v to the 24v feed … The ‘NO SMOKE ZONE’.


Google it and you will find everything there is to know about these nifty devices.


The ‘contact’ fingers can be easily crimped on and push into the housing.  The 50A and larger connectors denote (+) and (-) on the housing which can help avoid reversed polarity.


Pick a color scheme for your application.


I use RED for 5v, YELLOW for 12v and ORANGE for 24v.  So far – so good.  There is a color code standard.  I had this stuff lying around years ago and chose these colors for my use.


The smaller 30A (actually listed as a 15/30/45A in the catalog) is where the real magic begins.  Although these connectors are interchangeable, COLOR is key.  I maintain the same color scheme for the low current connectors – (i.e. Yellow/Black for 12v, etc)


These low current devices can be single or grouped as many ways as you choose.  I use 3, 4 and 5 pin groupings with the corresponding POWER color.  (i.e.  for a 12v RGB strip:  Yellow, Red, Green, Blue or for any of my 5v Pixels: Red, Green, Black)  The voltage color is always POSITIVE (+) and the black is always NEGATIVE(-).  Pretty reasonable and reliable.  The "Reward" for this effort is the size of the wire you CAN use.  Prefab waterproof connectors (on the CHEAP) at best 20ga but most are 22-24ga (big voltage drops!)  Power Injection?  *MAYBE*   This depending on the length of your string/strip and it's construction.  I have used double injection because the manufacturer didn't do such a good job and the copper traces in the strips were too thin for a clean color at the ends.


I don't care to debate clock/signal degradation using my method.  I use WS2811's and have MANY 8-pin P-Dip on a PCB for signal regeneration @ 5 meter intervals over almost any cable type including Cat3/5/6.  These little darlings are mounted onto the cable since they are so tiny.  Weatherproofing and cable integrity is kept at a maximum using double wall heatshrink.


There are some good instructables which show you how to assemble these into clusters or any other need you might have.


NUMBERING or other identifiers … head out to the local home improvement center electrical department and get a book of NUMBERS and some CLEAR tape.  Use the numbers and secure them with a good clear tape.  You won’t regret the extra step with the clear tape.  Keeps the numbers from falling off or becoming illegible over time.


I have a Panduit and a Kroy labeler which makes labels on Heat Shrink tubing – in control cabinets with thousands of RED wires, you learn to appreciate this.  There are countless used units for sale and these are pretty rugged.  Heck, if you really want to keep it on the CHEAP, I have used my P-Touch labeler and clear tape for my larger cables – 10+ years and they still haven’t fallen off.


The last part of the rambling is WEATHERPROOFING.


Something I’ve done just because I can and it works well.


*DANGER*  NEVER EVER use Power Pole connectors outdoors for HIGH VOLTAGE.


My 50A connectors are sealed at the connector pins by double walled heat shrink tubing (the sticky stuff that oozes out type).  I use high voltage ignition SILICON GEL spread over the contacts.  (available as spark plug boot grease at the local automotive stores, get the BIG tube – it’s cheap enough).


For the smaller connectors there are several methods you could use.  I have used both with positive results.


    1) Double wall clear heat shrink covering about 30mm of the cable and just up to where the connectors slide together.  While it is still warm, squeeze the glue onto the cord or between the wires.  That ensures it seals well.  Squirt a bit of silicon gel into the connector end and you have a reasonably protected connection.  Probably more protected than extension cords (another reason is to protect these connectors from potential AC coupling and catastrophic results).


Single wall heat shrink (the most common) has no glue in it and shrinks to HALF SIZE where double wall shrinks to 1/3 its size and offers a moisture barrier.  Double wall (glue type) has been used for direct burial underground splices for quite a few years now – it has a proven track record.


    2) Hot Glue squirted into the BACK of the connector where the wire enters.  My grandson sort of went the wrong way once.  Do not over-do it!  You just want to seal the end where the wire comes in … too much can get into the contact cavity and either prevent them from fully connecting or worse – a failed connector.  After it cools, squirt some silicon gel into the housing and you’re good to go.  It provides a good level of moisture protection and an added bonus of stress relief.


Yeah – the first time you connect one to the other you might have some gel squeeze out or have to push them together pretty firmly … keep a rag with you.



WHENEVER possible keep high voltage connectors away from low voltage connectors to reduce the chance of AC coupling through dampness or wetness.  The cables CAN run in proximity to each other or together providing they ALL have a insulation voltage rating of 300v or higher.  There’s other rules but for this application, the above applies.


Oh … sure, there are plenty of “weatherproof” LED connectors.  In all my years I have still to find a connector that is truly WATERPROOF.  I stick to the JST variety and use silicon gel squirted into both connector ends.  It gets messy but it works.  YES!!  I AM LAZY and will find a way to get it done just as good without all the added MUMBO JUMBO.  >>GRIN<<  AND if/when it goes sour, well, then I will deal with it.


I DO make sure the JST connector is NOT in proximity where water can conduct to a faulty high voltage connection.  So some care is required in the placement and use of JST connectors outdoors.


It is a total pain in the @@$^ to get some of these “pigtails” connected without it having some sort of WART looking disease growing on the wire.  Some folks take 3 or 4 butt connectors, connect the wires, tape it and think it’s okay.  It gets caught up on stuff, looks like !^@#$ and generally prone to failure because moisture built up inside and grounded the DATA and/or clock signal after a heavy rain.  Or even worse:  you have 12v pixels – a 5v controller and a +12V short to the DATA or CLOCK and POOF!  SMOKED CONTROLLER DISEASE


If you want to do it that way … Here’s a piece of information you can use:  Double Wall Heat Shrink, RUBBER or MASTIC tape.  Works great for low voltage and high voltage stuff. 


The last rather interesting approach is to use LIQUID TAPE.  It is available in many home improvement stores.  If you get it applied well, when it dries it creates a rubber like coating which is (for all intent and purposes) weather resistant.  Key word: RESISTANT.


**SAFETY TIP**  I would imagine, like me, many of the wires you use have spent the season in a hot storage box maybe in the attic or where you keep your stuff as you await the “LIGHTING SEASON”.


Inspect EVERY extension cord before you use them.  Run your hand over them and feel for nicks, chips or gouges.  Visually inspect them for any abrasions and exposed conductors.  If they feel unusually STIFF in a normal temperature room(70+F), they could be headed for failure because the insulation is drying out.


Repairing extension cords is easy.  IF it is only a single conductor that may have become exposed, many of us wrap the damaged area with rubber tape 1-2 layers then another 1-2 layers of a good high quality electrical tape.  3M 33 or 88 works BEST.  You can get colored tape to match the cord – put that on after the black tape repair.


I advocate the use of SJOW type cabling.  Up NORTH flexibility can become an issue.  Most if not all of my cords are of the SOW/SJOW family – it’s what I use.  I have some wires that are 25+ years old and show very little sign of outer jacket breakdown. 


When you find a bad cord … CUT THE MALE END OFF unless you plan on repairing it immediately.  This helps to keep bad cords from giving you a rather shocking experience – or worse.


For all the brothers and sisters that use VAMPIRE connectors for your high voltage lighting:  Someone asked me one day how he could protect the connectors he was making up.  No matter what we came up with … IT GETS MESSY.  Silicone Caulk, Silicone Gel, nothing seemed to be CLEAN.  We finally settled on caulk because it would get into the cavities, dries clean, helps resist moisture and re-enforces the connection to a degree.


3 or 4 years later and he still hasn’t had to fix any wires.


Make it beautiful – keep it safe.


I took a few minutes of your time.  Hope you were able to use some of this information for your project or pass it along to someone who might benefit from this rambling.


It is how I’ve done things that work for me – if you see it differently, cool.  No worries!


Happy Holidays!





P.S. My family gave me the nickname “Light House Papa” because one year they thought the airport was going to complain about the lights.  Back in the prehistoric times BEFORE I built controllers, I was actually drawing 45A per leg full tilt (90A total or 10kw) using incandescent lamps!  LEDS = 1-3k watts (gawd the LUMENS you get for pennies!) and with my Solar Power – free lights!


Good luck to all!

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  • 1 year later...

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