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rjanuary
07-02-2007, 08:01 PM
Haven't seen a topic on this subject so I thought I would start one. This Christmas will be my first display so I thought I would start looking into the cheapest, safest way to wire up my lights. I am planning running between 48 to 72 channels of about 90% having just one set of lights dropped off of them. It looks to get quite expensive buying ready made extension cords so I am looking into alternatives. One option I am considering is using two different color wires (White for neutral and Black for hot) on a 500 foot spool of wire rated for 600 volts for 35 bucks at the Home Depot. What's everyone else using if they don't mind sharing?

Thanks,

Richard

biffklg
07-02-2007, 08:16 PM
thats exactly what I am doing right now with my 4th of july display. Plan on doing it again for xmas. Works just fine.

rjanuary
07-02-2007, 08:27 PM
Cool, I plan on running a tape measure to get some a rough idea on how much wire I'll need. Are you daisy chaining your neutrals on common areas to save on wire?

Richard

rjanuary
07-02-2007, 09:14 PM
Sounds like a pretty nifty idea Jeff! The boards I'm going to be using will all have built in SSR so that will mean I will have to run more wire. I've calculated that I will require about 1200ft of wire for my hot lines, plus neutrals.


Richard

cmurray
07-02-2007, 09:37 PM
Richard

Are you planning on having your controller/ssr inside or outside?

The idea is to place your controllers as close to the center of your display as possible. A single control cable for all 64 channels then a shorter one to each set of 4 SSRs. If my display is going to peak at 45 amps then I will have only 3 entension cords entering my display. Once in the display all the SSRs are piggey backed onto each other for the 15 amp load.

http://computerchristmas.com/ForumBoard/read.php?f=4&i=13591&t=13590

this was a good discussion on ther topic of how to power a display.

Joel

P. Short
07-02-2007, 09:53 PM
I'm not 100% certain what you are proposing, nor am I an electrician, but these schemes seem fraught with danger. In particular, if the neutral becomes physically separated from the hot wires and a piece of metal ends up in the middle of this loop, potentially dangerous currents may be induced in the metal (or resulting in unintended heating of the metal). There may be other problems as well that I am unaware of. This doesn't seem like a very safe practice, nor a very sensible place to save money.

--

Phil

rjanuary
07-02-2007, 10:35 PM
My controller boards with built in SSR's will be located inside.

I am only in the initial planning stage so I definately want to make this a safe display and will by no means cut corners to save money. I did plan on keeping hot and neutral wires together to prevent any unforseen problems that might arise. I'm also considering running wire down some of my spare PVC pipe. The other topics mostly cover running wires out to SSR's out in the yard so I wanted to see how I can do this using a board with built in SSR's located inside.

I appreciate all the feedback.


Richard

jderba
07-03-2007, 08:27 AM
Jeff,

I know a lot of people use SPT-2 wire, but since you mentioned that you use it,
I was wondering if you had any problems or concerns using it outside.

I thought it was rated for indoor use

Jack

P. Short
07-03-2007, 10:13 AM
Jeff,

If you are a member of the IBEW and work with these things every day, there are a lot of things that are almost instinctual for you. I would suspect that you went through a lengthy apprenticeship where you were taught the rules of the trade (but perhaps not the reasons for everything that you do). This means that many things that would be perfectly safe for you would not be safe for other people, because they don't have either the experience, know the written/unwritten rules, nor have any theoretical background to determine which aspect of their construction is a bit risky. And these projects are much more exposed to the public than the internals of power distribution substation.

You were very careful, for example, about keeping the neutrals together with the hots, using electrical tape to wrap up the entire assembly. But someone who does not have your years of experience with electrical work may be tempted to make minor changes to this plan, some of which might cause problems.

That is why I'm down on some of the things that have been written here. Not because they are unsafe in your hands or in the hands of some people, but because the communications here is so imperfect and there is risk when dealing with inexperienced people (which, in fact, I consider myself in this matter).

--

Phil

ErnieHorning
07-03-2007, 11:19 AM
Please remember that this site is viewable worldwide by people with absolutely no previous experience with electricity other than flipping the switch on the wall.

Whereas I am perfectly capable of attaching a microprocessor to a power line without the use of a transformer or designing circuits without the use of optoisolators, I’m not going to place that kind of information on a public site.

pete
07-03-2007, 11:42 AM
I agree with Ernie. Please be carefully what you post here. Experience is everything when it comes to electricity. And some of our members have little...like our youngest member who just 14-15 yo. So please be careful with what you post. And those with little experience with electricity, reading these post, please be careful with what you attempt. It take very little electricity to really mess up your day.

Blink Happy

Pete

pete
07-03-2007, 11:49 AM
Blink Happy

Pete

scharbon
07-03-2007, 01:21 PM
I am one of those elecrically challenged. I generally impress myself when I can plug in my power tools and the circuit breaker doesn't trip. :D I would prefer not to electricute myself, the neighbors dog, or burn down my house, so I plan on using store bought cords (for now).

That being said, can I use the indoor cords outdoors? If so, whats the catch - why do we all buy those big giant orange cords?

Thanks. I appreciate all the info on the forum and the good ideas you guys put out.

Steve

BillAd
07-03-2007, 01:49 PM
Richard,

Are you able to locate the control/w SSR's outside to help reducing the expense of running lengthly 120 volt cords? (not to mention a mass of wires running inside). This approach is quite common.

Bill

ErnieHorning
07-03-2007, 02:32 PM
... can I use the indoor cords outdoors? If so, whats the catch - why do we all buy those big giant orange cords?
The major difference is that outdoor cord is more resistant to Ultra-Violet radiation. The indoor cords will deteriorate with time outside (insulation becomes brittle and cracks). This depends on your location and how much sun you get (just like sunburn, clouds don’t block much). Most people get at least 4 or 5 years out their indoor cords down by the equator; remember that they’re only out for a month or so.

The insulation may not be as tough as the outdoor type (may cut if abused), but I haven’t seen a problem.

rjanuary
07-03-2007, 10:13 PM
Bill,

The only problem with placing my board outside is that I would have to place my computer close to it since from what I'm hearing you can't remote it that far. While we're on the subject of placing boards out in their lawns, has anyone run across their boards being stolen or messed with? Last year I had some kids play a prank on my deer (they were positioned to make love). Haha.

Richard

P. Short
07-03-2007, 10:55 PM
You can place the SSR boards quite a long distance from the controller board. I don't know what the practical limits are, I would expect several hundred feet, at least. Of course, then you would have to worry about your Cat5 cables deteriorating. The SSR boards are pretty cheap, I wouldn't worry too much about them being stolen (particularly if you put a warning label on them).

--

Phil

ErnieHorning
07-03-2007, 11:17 PM
Though I worried about it the whole season, no one touched anything. I left something on throughout my whole display at 23%, mostly so people would see it so that they wouldn’t step on anything. Most of it was white, which took place of the house lights that I leave on the rest of the year. I’ve heard of vandals chopping up displays, sometimes it’s repairable and sometimes not. Several got caught last year also and some people had the video to prove it.

The deer thing happens to a few displays every year, one of them is often an animated one.

FireGod
07-04-2007, 12:37 AM
I agree with Jeff. A shared neutral is a way to save a bunch of money. In all the industrial control panels I design, we run one neutral (or -24VDC which ever the case may be) wire to the indicator lamps on the panel front. There is no reason to run a neutral to each device since it is the same circuit. The CAT 5 to the SSR only has one positive and one negative and not four of each, same cocept. Almost all circuit boards use a ground plane on the circuit board and this is the same concept.

In the USA, the neutral in your house is tied directly to ground so it is the safest circuit in the house (or the yard).

DIY is all about saving money and doing it yourself. We should be using our knowlege to help others do it safely while being low cost.

I myself use 24 gauge telephone wire, one pair per 150 bulb mini string (0.2 amps). This is a very low cost way of wiring a display.

spike
07-10-2007, 12:28 AM
Bill,

While we're on the subject of placing boards out in their lawns, has anyone run across their boards being stolen or messed with? Last year I had some kids play a prank on my deer (they were positioned to make love). Haha.

Richard

The only trouble I ever had was with some squirrels eating wire.
That is about it though.

rmiddle
07-10-2007, 01:26 PM
I agree with Jeff. A shared neutral is a way to save a bunch of money. In all the industrial control panels I design, we run one neutral (or -24VDC which ever the case may be) wire to the indicator lamps on the panel front. There is no reason to run a neutral to each device since it is the same circuit. The CAT 5 to the SSR only has one positive and one negative and not four of each, same cocept. Almost all circuit boards use a ground plane on the circuit board and this is the same concept.

In the USA, the neutral in your house is tied directly to ground so it is the safest circuit in the house (or the yard).

DIY is all about saving money and doing it yourself. We should be using our knowlege to help others do it safely while being low cost.

I myself use 24 gauge telephone wire, one pair per 150 bulb mini string (0.2 amps). This is a very low cost way of wiring a display.

Anyone who thinks about using telephone wire make sure you read what he said 150 Bulb of mini is max. The string of lights use either 20 or 18 gauge wire so the string of light has I higher volt/current limit then the line.

Thanks
Robert

scharbon
07-16-2007, 01:03 PM
I was wondering, picture 24 in "Ron's Pics" posted in the photo album for the Philly Area mini shows what I believe to be a Renard in a plastic case with about 24 female cords sticking out of the bottom of the box. They appear to be about 18" long 3 conductor female receptacles. Whose rig is that and where did you buy the cords? I know LOR sells them for about $15 for 8, I was wondering if you found a better source?

Anybody else out there have a good source for these extension cords or an alternative? I know some people buy extension cords from the $1 store and trim the ends.

Steve

BillAd
07-16-2007, 02:36 PM
Steve,

Be careful with the dollar store extension cords. The ones that are sold in my area have a very thin (perhaps 24 gauge) wire size and very weak jacket. They are listed as 18 gauge UL approved, although you can easily twist the plugs off the wire and the wire size is clearly not correct. I would not trust their use for any application.

I got my cords from a local discount store that purchased the entire inventory of a drug store that went out of business. I bought 50 six foot cords last month for .65 each. If you're passing though Buffalo drop me a line, he had a bunch more on the shelf.

Bill

Jeff Millard
07-16-2007, 02:36 PM
I think you might be talking about Roy's LOR controllers. DrNiceGuy on PC. He got the boxes from a canadian source (I believe it's the same one LOR uses) They were really inexpensive. Contact him on PC to get the source...
Jeff

scharbon
07-16-2007, 02:45 PM
Bill and Jeff, Thanks for the info. I'll stay away from the cheap cords and look into Roy's source.

Steve

Jeff Millard
07-16-2007, 05:01 PM
Steve, I half read your post and didn't realize you were interested in the cords... (stupid me) Roy got the cords from LOR's website... The cases were what he got the good deal on...

Bill, I agree with you about the dollar store cords. They aren't the greatest thing. I bought about 80 of them last year. About half of them are decent moulded plugs. The other half are a snap together plug end that is falling apart after one year of use.

Jeff

scharbon
07-16-2007, 05:03 PM
Oh, thanks, I guess that means I wont bother Roy.

Steve

ErnieHorning
07-17-2007, 12:38 AM
Bill, if you got your cords at the Dollar Tree, they may have been recalled for undersized wire. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls04/2006/dollar_tree_extensions.html