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Ok so for my cords this year i am plan to get the cheap $1 6 ft extension cords and to cut and extend them with lamp cord. Now i was wondering what methods others use when splicing these cords together. I don't know how i feel about just wire-nutting and electrical taping, but soldering and heat shrinking will be quite a headache when it comes down to 48 or more cords. anyhow just looking for some input from others on this. thanks

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Investing the time in a good quality connection will save you headaches later. If I were doing that I would definately solder and shrink tube the connections. However if your going through that much effort. Why not buy a bulk spool of SPT wire and vampire plugs and receptacles?

Chuck

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Bad idea!!!!

Too many connections. Too much time wasted on splicing. May be cheaper in cost but its a cheap way to do things.

Invest in longer cords. Buy bulk SPT cords and ends. You will have custom lengths and less splices.

I did use the cords you are talking about some where around 300 or so of them. However the cords were not spliced they were used the length of the cord for custom setup. The cords were as short as 24 inches and the longest was 15 foot.

Its not worth the chance of blowing a controller or having to get out there during a show and repairing a damaged controller or wiring.

Anthony

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I agree with Anthony, too many connection, too labor intensive. Toss some bulk spt on a spool and you run across the yard , throw a vampire on it and your done. A couple of other notes.

1. Mark all your cords to the nearest foot. This way you will know how long it is for the different connections. A silver sharpie works well.

2. Get a measuring wheel to add to your collection. Again this saves time in setup. You will know your distances between the controllers and the "stuff".

3. Have lots of pockets for cutters and supplies. Saves in time.



Time is our enemy. The least amount of time you spend outside setting up the more enjoyable it will be.

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Here's how I extend lamp cord/Zip cord. Cut it with at least 3" of wire before connector. Pull the two wires apart on each side of the cut. The side with the molded connector separate about an inch. The other side 3"-4". Slide a 3" piece of shrink tube down over both conductors.Then slide a1 1/2"piece of appropriate diameter shrink tubing down each conductor on the longer separated part. Now strip all 4 conductor ends back 3/4".
Now take the smooth conductors and twist them together inline. You want to have a good connection before soldering. Solder the two together. Making sure the solder wicks up both sides and looks silver throughout. Repeat for the other conductor.
wait for them to cool and slide the smaller shrink tubing over each solder joint. Shrink them tight. Now take some silicone caulk and put on each side and on both sides of the wire. Do this about an inch from the solder joints. Then slide the bigger tubing down over the connection point and shrink that down tight. the silicone may squirt out a little, but this way you know it's sealed tight.
This sounds like quite a process, However if you do it assembly line style...one step 48 times it actually is quite efficient and quick.


Good luck,

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There are times when you need to splice cords, but avoid doing it if you don't need to. For an example, I built a string of about 60 4-channel chasing candlesticks out of 6 boxes of 10-string candlesticks.

2117004226_33f8da28a2.jpg?v=0

The candlesticks use C7 bulbs with SPT1 cord, but in order to make them into 4-channel chasing strings I had to cut and splice a length of SPT1 cord between each stick. Based on the quantity, I had to get this done as efficiently as possible, so I used butt connectors. To keep the water out, I squeezed silicone caulking into each end of the connectors before crimping them with a good crimping tool like this:500-037a.jpg

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I'm also in the camp of just making your own cords rather than cutting and splicing. I found last year that anything up to 15 ft it was more economical to buy the cords and anything over 15ft it was cheaper to make them. Labeling the cords according to length is also an excellent sugestion.

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I was suprised at how easy making my own ext. cord was. I'll be definately doing that again this year. The only thing that I had a problem with was the C9 vampire sockets. Making that connection was real hit and miss for me and I even jacked up a flasher because of it.

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Steven wrote:

To keep the water out, I squeezed silicone caulking into each end of the connectors before crimping them with a good crimping tool like this:500-037a.jpg




I recommend anybody who is into this hobby, buy a good set of crimpers like this. I invested in a expensive crimper a few years go, and it is one of the most used tools I own now, and almost never have a crimping failers. And a lot easier on the hands when crimping.
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Steven wrote:



To keep the water out, I squeezed silicone caulking into each end of the connectors before crimping them


There are buttsplices that have a glue already inside. They are heat activated. They are designed for repairing submersible cable.
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dakotasbub wrote:

Ok so for my cords this year i am plan to get the cheap $1 6 ft extension cords and to cut and extend them with lamp cord. Now i was wondering what methods others use when splicing these cords together. I don't know how i feel about just wire-nutting and electrical taping, but soldering and heat shrinking will be quite a headache when it comes down to 48 or more cords. anyhow just looking for some input from others on this. thanks

What price do you put on safety?
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Robin wrote:

Why not use vampire plugs? You can get them for about $0.55 a piece.

Robin, I'll tell you something about vamp plugs or sockets. First how does a vamp connector work? Well you got these two little spikes and a ramped hood. You lay the wire in a trough with these two little spikes. Then you install the ramped cover / hook and it presses the wire down on the spikes as the cover is closed over the wire. Eventually the spikes pierce the wire jacket and pushes between the strains of the copper wire.

The problem is frst there is no hard compressed connection between the contact point (spike) and the wire strands. Second is moisture, what is keeping it out? Even the jacket will allow moisture into the connection and this is followed by corrosion. Lastly is the question about what is keeping anything from shorting the cut end. Here you have two contact points open very near each other.

This whole set-up is just plain cheap. So the old saying that comes to mind is this "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.
Frankly, I prefer getting a spool of SPT wire (I paid 78 bucks for 16Ga 500' landscaping wire at HD) and some heat shrink tubing. I spent a little more and got the good stuff with the sealant built in. While applying heat the glue / sealant melts and fills the voids. I will admit to putting a smug of RTV in the groove to help seal it from moisture.

I agree, the fewer quick connections out in the open. The few problems. Vamp plugs need to be taped over to keep out the snow and rain. Plus the problems I mentioned above. Extention cords, their connectons need to be water sealed. Any kind of quick connections exposed to the weather needs to be water proofed. Were hard connections that are soldered and properly sealed from simple short and water proofed at the same time will cause you few if any problems. And even though I do not live in blizard part of the country like Minot. I rather not be out fussing and cussing this or that short that took out the fuse if not the box. And as few LEDs I have this year. Even one string will make a big hole in my display. So, I am building with min problems in mind.

Sorry I got long winded.

Max
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Max-Paul wrote:

Robin wrote:
Why not use vampire plugs? You can get them for about $0.55 a piece.

Robin, I'll tell you something about vamp plugs or sockets. First how does a vamp connector work? Well you got these two little spikes and a ramped hood. You lay the wire in a trough with these two little spikes. Then you install the ramped cover / hook and it presses the wire down on the spikes as the cover is closed over the wire. Eventually the spikes pierce the wire jacket and pushes between the strains of the copper wire.

The problem is frst there is no hard compressed connection between the contact point (spike) and the wire strands. Second is moisture, what is keeping it out? Even the jacket will allow moisture into the connection and this is followed by corrosion. Lastly is the question about what is keeping anything from shorting the cut end. Here you have two contact points open very near each other.

This whole set-up is just plain cheap. So the old saying that comes to mind is this "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.
Frankly, I prefer getting a spool of SPT wire (I paid 78 bucks for 16Ga 500' landscaping wire at HD) and some heat shrink tubing. I spent a little more and got the good stuff with the sealant built in. While applying heat the glue / sealant melts and fills the voids. I will admit to putting a smug of RTV in the groove to help seal it from moisture.

I agree, the fewer quick connections out in the open. The few problems. Vamp plugs need to be taped over to keep out the snow and rain. Plus the problems I mentioned above. Extention cords, their connectons need to be water sealed. Any kind of quick connections exposed to the weather needs to be water proofed. Were hard connections that are soldered and properly sealed from simple short and water proofed at the same time will cause you few if any problems. And even though I do not live in blizard part of the country like Minot. I rather not be out fussing and cussing this or that short that took out the fuse if not the box. And as few LEDs I have this year. Even one string will make a big hole in my display. So, I am building with min problems in mind.

Sorry I got long winded.

Max


Sorry Max,
I need to take an opposing view of the use of vampire plugs and sockets. I've been running 156 channels the last few years, and only 7 of my extension cords DON'T use vampire plugs on each end.

I have found them fast to connect, inexpensive and reliable. I simply cut my cords to the desired length, put the ends on, test and go. Here in NJ, the winters are wet, cold, windy, and generally miserable. There is no need to waterproof or seal the connections in any way. It's actually the opposite - if you attempt to seal up a connection and dont' make a perfect seal, the water WILL get in, and now it has no easy way out. Water trapped in your connection WILL lead to a problem. If you leave your connection unsealed, the water will get into the connection, and run right out. As far as shorting out the cut ends, as long as you cut the end cleanly and the plug/socket end is installed properly, there is no way the two copper conductors will come in contact. Copper will not travel across the open end through osmosis or any other means, nor will the electricity that flows through that copper.

Since I don't change my layout year to year, I have harnesses set up for each controller, so I can just pull out a harness from storage, plug one end into my controller, and run the other ends out to where the light strings will end, and I'm ready to roll. (I know, a little off topic, but could be useful info for those less experienced).

D.T.
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Max-Paul wrote:


Lastly is the question about what is keeping anything from shorting the cut end. Here you have two contact points open very near each other.

Frankly, I prefer getting a spool of SPT wire (I paid 78 bucks for 16Ga 500' landscaping wire at HD)



Another vote for vampire plugs and sockets. I ran 256 channels last year, all on vampires.

My vampires have a "pocket with a divider" that the cut ends slides into. NO WAY for anything to short. Physical barrier.

I have a personal concern about using landscape wire with only a 50 volt ?? rating on the insulation at a 125 volt application. It was not designed for that! I know some people do it though.

You paid almost 16 cents a foot, I buy SPT1 or SPT3 for about half that price, and it has at least a 300 volt rating (if not 600 volt - will have to dig some out to see for sure)

Safety is very important to me. I also agree, do not try to seal connections from water, the water will win, and stay trapped in the connection. I have not had any GFCI trips from using vampire connections with daily rain and my display runs rain or shine.
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Hi DT,

Hey we all have opinions. I stated mine and you stated yours. No problem with that. But I am not a rube and I think you either misread my post or I said something to make you think I am. Based on the following quote from your reply.

"As far as shorting out the cut ends, as long as you cut the end cleanly and the plug/socket end is installed properly, there is no way the two copper conductors will come in contact. Copper will not travel across the open end through osmosis or any other means, nor will the electricity that flows through that copper. "

No were in my post did I speak of "Copper will not travel across the opend end through osmosis". Give me a break here DT.

What I was saying that with the two copper strands so close and open to the air. That it would not take much water to bridge the gap. Right might not have been my words exactly, but close enough. I think the only 25 dollar word I used was corrosion. But surely not osmosis.

Again, everyone has one and we both voiced ours. But in the future dont try putting words in my mouth like Osmosis. Now that was funny..



Max

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I still think the best (and easiest) solution is to find the after-christmas sales and BE THERE around 9-10 am when Target goes 90% off.

This year, the 3 packs of spt2 cords were $.99 each ... and thats $.33 per completed 6' cord ... hard to beat.

The prior year, Home Depot had clearance spt2 cord 3 packs in Jan or Feb ... and had a 15',9' and 6' all for around $1.25 (per 3 pack). You buy a case of those and your in excellent shape for connecting most items except the controllers themselves.

Then if you distribute your controllers wisely (around the yard, the roof) ... then your talking short connections to most items. I probably used 80-85% of the display with only 6,9 or 15' spt2 cords ... and even in the snow.

The in 2008 someone found a killer deal on 12/3 50' cords that were only $12 shipped ... and for me, they arrived in 1 day flat.

So deals (if you can find them) can make things a lot easier, but I understand that approach is not for everything and probably not as clean as custom cut cords with vampire plugs.

But I figure I don't do the same thing every year, so I don't want custom lengths because I want the freedom to change. I can see how a big display would settle down and start doing a large percentage the same each year, so then the custom cords begin to make more and more sense.

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One nice thing about "custom cords", if you don't need a particular length in the future, cut the wire to the new shorter length, reinstall the vampire plugs, put the surplus wire in inventory or install vampires and use it somewhere else.

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MP,
Ever pull up a lamp cord after a hard rain. The water pours out of them. Electric will bridge two contacts through water whether they touch or not.

I have cords that I made without vampire plugs, I have cords that I made using 16g speaker wire in a sleeve, like Cat5 all of them have worked well. However, if you buy an extension cord and then cut it in half and then splice it onto another cord. I will have made maybe 10 in that time using the vampires for roughly $0.20 more in cost. When you are making 2,3,4,5 miles or more of cords then time is a factor.


Actually Taybrn, I move a bunch of my stuff around every year. Stuff like Castle, snowflakes and ring of stars are the same, and mini trees. But everything else moves around. I find that the border stuff stays put but then everything within the border.

Having said that you will find that you still use the same cords. Two reasons for that. One is that there is only so far you go to run a cord to a controller as we tend to group them. The second is we always add stuff so need cords.

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Lastly is the question about what is keeping anything from shorting the cut end. Here you have two contact points open very near each other.



Max... My reference to "osmosis" was in reply to your above statement, where you ask, "what is keeping anything from shorting the cut end." I was trying to imagine what COULD short out the cut end, once it was inside a closed vampire plug, but coming up with nothing off the top of my head, I thought that maybe you were referring to the magical Christmas force, or even osmosis(OH MY!) to short the conductors. Just trying to help you out, since you clearly didn't know.

Lighten up! :P

D.T.
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Well I suppose the only reply I can add is "each to their own". But I did ask a couple of my fellow electricians and we all agree, so I feel the same still as you all do about your opinions. Just seems I am the republican in a room full of democrats :P.

So, let me just wrap up by saying, that I have said enough. Sure I might use a few vamp connections. But I will not depend on them heavly. And I am glad you all are happy with them.

One last parting shot. Rain water is not that pure anymore. Even if it does not reach the high level called "Acid Rain". Rain has an elevated PH now days. Acid and copper, well just think of it for a bit.. Also DT bare copper exposted to air, what does it do? One word, Corrode.



Max

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Max-Paul wrote:

This whole set-up is just plain cheap. So the old saying that comes to mind is this "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.
Frankly, I prefer getting a spool of SPT wire (I paid 78 bucks for 16Ga 500' landscaping wire at HD) and some heat shrink tubing. I spent a little more and got the good stuff with the sealant built in. While applying heat the glue / sealant melts and fills the voids. I will admit to putting a smug of RTV in the groove to help seal it from moisture.

So while you go the extra mile and expense to make better cords, you use low voltage landscape wire that was not designed for 110 application? :P

Even though the insulation may be rated to 150v, the cord itself is not UL rated for anything other than low voltage applications, 30v.

The 'proper' cord would be SP3 (3 is outdoor rating) designed for 110 application (will usually have 300v listed on the insulation) of sufficient gauge for the load.

Personally, I use both vampire plugs and splice 6' extension cords with SP1/SP2 zip cord and, on occasion, old light strings. :dude:
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iresq wrote:

Max-Paul wrote:
This whole set-up is just plain cheap. So the old saying that comes to mind is this "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.
Frankly, I prefer getting a spool of SPT wire (I paid 78 bucks for 16Ga 500' landscaping wire at HD) and some heat shrink tubing. I spent a little more and got the good stuff with the sealant built in. While applying heat the glue / sealant melts and fills the voids. I will admit to putting a smug of RTV in the groove to help seal it from moisture.

So while you go the extra mile and expense to make better cords, you use low voltage landscape wire that was not designed for 110 application? :P

Even though the insulation may be rated to 150v, the cord itself is not UL rated for anything other than low voltage applications, 30v.

The 'proper' cord would be SP3 (3 is outdoor rating) designed for 110 application (will usually have 300v listed on the insulation) of sufficient gauge for the load.

Personally, I use both vampire plugs and splice 6' extension cords with SP1/SP2 zip cord and, on occasion, old light strings. :dude:

Well what can I say? Outdoor rating, so what, my landscaping wire is outdoor rated too. Might of fact mine is rated for direct burial. So much for that point. Lets see, my wire's jacket it rated up to 150 volts and yours is 300 volts. Gee, I suppose you need yours rated so much higher because you are going to run 277 volts out to your controllers, right? No? I didn't think so, so why all the bother about 300 volt rating? Lets see, my 16-2 wire is rated for about what 15 amps, give or take. Well I sure dont plan to run over an Amp per channel. Might of fact, far less in most cases. UL rated for only 30 volts you say. Well I suppose I am going to be running a little more than that. But I have to wonder what that is all about? If the jacket is rated at 150 Volts AC why derate the operational voltage? Not being a smartass with this question. I truely do not understand the why of it. Whoa, wait a minute. Is that 30 VAC or 30VDC? Aint some of those landscape lights really DC? Now I know that DC applications usually have a lower rating than AC applications. Might we be confussing the two issues?

Still your friend

Max
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