Wiring safety question on gu10 LED switches
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Old 06-09-2013, 03:58 AM   #1
Bad Wolf
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Wiring safety question on gu10 LED switches


I'm getting conflicting information on what would be an appropriate way to wire my fixture. I'm using 20 gu10 sockets with 4x1w cree led bulbs. 8 warm white, 8 cool white, 4 royal blue. I want to be able to control 4 bulbs per switch without having 5 cords to plug in.

I have minimal electrical experience and only with household wiring so that's probably why I planned this the way I did. It made sense to me. I had one guy (lowe's) tell me in order to have the switches coming off one plug to go to each string of lights I would need to get a couple bus bars and run:

Hot wire from wall plug--->busbar1--->5 wires--->5 toggle switches--->
5 sets of 4 sockets--->busbar2--->neutral from wall plug.

This seemed like a terrible idea since you'd have a hot bus bar right inside your canopy. I had another friend tell me the only function of the busbar in that scenario besides acting as a splitter is to smooth out the power (?) but if I was using a surge protector (I am) I should be fine to just wire all the blacks together and all the neutrals together with switches on the hot wires going to the lights.

This makes more sense to me since that's basically how you would wire 5 sets of 4 recessed ceiling lights on wall switches that were on the same breaker. My only problem with it is that it seems a little messy. I'm not shooting for pretty-just simple.

So my questions are:

1. Is it SAFE to wire all the blacks together and all the neutrals together?
a) If yes, is there a cleaner way to do this such as using a busbar or terminal but without the exposed voltage?
b) If not what WOULD be a safe way to wire it also without the exposed voltage of a busbar?

I'm a very visual person so I've included my concept map. The lights are NOT where they will actually be on the fixture or in relation to each other. I drew it that way for simplicity. Help me connect the dots between switches and plug without burning my house down.

Any other suggestions are welcome just keep it simple. I've already purchased everything but the wire and the switches. Eventually I'm going to replace the manual switches with hard wired timers but $4 switches were all I could sell to my husband right now.

Thanks in advance
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Old 06-09-2013, 04:15 PM   #2
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If you make sure that you have GFCI protection on the hot wire ( either in the wall outlet itself or with an adapter plug), that will GREATLY improve the safety of the system.

You should be able to combine all of the neutrals safely, as that is a standard for home wiring, but with 5 wires, you are going to run out of room in a simple wire nut...I imagine that is why the guy @ Lowe's brought up a bus bar. You can use wire nuts by themselves, but you will be running a lot of pigtail jumper wires & honestly that's a pita.

Instead of using the term bus bar, look into either power distribution blocks / terminal blocks. Those are the same things as using a bus bar, but are more easily contained in a waterproof housing and hidden.

Good luck
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Old 06-09-2013, 05:24 PM   #3
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Good question. I've decided these bulbs will be the best option for me and well. I was looking into trying to source an adjustable power supply so I could dim the lights if necessary, but thats a different thread.

Please post up pictures of what you end up with. I'll be following closely.
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Old 06-09-2013, 06:47 PM   #4
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The circuit looks good to me. Rather than having multiple feed lines combine them to one like below. Instead of wire nuts, solder the connections and use shrink tubing. Then zip tie wires together for structural strength.

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Old 06-09-2013, 09:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustAGuy716 View Post
If you make sure that you have GFCI protection on the hot wire ( either in the wall outlet itself or with an adapter plug), that will GREATLY improve the safety of the system.
Great suggestion!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JustAGuy716 View Post
Instead of using the term bus bar, look into either power distribution blocks / terminal blocks. Those are the same things as using a bus bar, but are more easily contained in a waterproof housing and hidden.
Thank you! I was sure something like that existed but had no idea what to look for.

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Originally Posted by thelub View Post
Good question. I've decided these bulbs will be the best option for me and well. I was looking into trying to source an adjustable power supply so I could dim the lights if necessary, but thats a different thread.

Please post up pictures of what you end up with. I'll be following closely.
I definitely think the gu10's simplify things since the drivers and heatsinks are built into the bulb housing. We'll see how well they perform though. I opted out of the dimmable bulbs because I've not read great reviews for their longevity. But this multiple switch system will give me some level of control at least. I will certainly document my build and post the pics when I'm done. Hopefully by the end of this week. No promises though. I have 3 toddlers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorfox View Post
The circuit looks good to me. Rather than having multiple feed lines combine them to one like below. Instead of wire nuts, solder the connections and use shrink tubing. Then zip tie wires together for structural strength.
I've never soldered anything before but I do like how clean that would be. And it WOULD give me an excuse to make a trip to Harbor Freight. Maybe I'll get my husband a soldering iron for Father's Day ha ha
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:07 PM   #6
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Soldering will also help reduce the risk of corrosion in the splice, which goes a long way toward reducing heat build up and fire potential in the wet environment.
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Old 06-10-2013, 08:34 PM   #7
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Soldering will also help reduce the risk of corrosion in the splice, which goes a long way toward reducing heat build up and fire potential in the wet environment.
Great point! I've been on YouTube watching soldering tutorials and I think I can handle it. I might still use wire nuts initially until I see the lights on the tank and make sure I've got everything where I want it. I've rigged up a pretty great (I think) system mounting each light with two L brackets that'll allow me to pivot the lights in vertical and horizontal arcs after installation like on traditional track lighting so I can aim more light at certain areas and vice versa. So I shouldn't need to play with the placement TOO much. Just want to see it in action before I make permanent connections.
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Old 06-20-2013, 07:33 AM   #8
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Good news! In the course of my interwebbing I found some heatshrinkable butt splice crimps. I found a lengthy discussion on some marine forum about how soldered joints fail more readily than crimped joints. I'm sure for my purposes the difference is marginal at best but it also makes things a little easier on my end since I can probably manage not to screw up crimping wires but have never soldered anything so I choose to believe it. Plus it's on the Internet so it must be true and to sweeten the deal theyre 10 for $3 and I already have a crimper. They should be arriving tomorrow. I wired and mounted all the sockets and did an initial test with wire nuts to make sure the switches worked (they do) so I've got everything ready to be re-wired and shrinky dinked (technical term) as of tomorrow. Yay!
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:27 PM   #9
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Sounds interesting. In my experience, crimps give me a harder time than solder consistently. Especially in realms where voltage drop is detrimental, such as sensor wiring under the hood of a car.

In your case, it probably won't matter much. Be sure to build in some extra wire for future service, just in case.
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:51 PM   #10
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Do you have a link to the connectors? I've never seen a two into one shrink crimp. Using an over sized butt connector for the two wire side can create a weak joint on the single end.

Soldering is the best connection there is. It fails in saltwater because the salt corrodes the joint. Dipping the joint into liquid Vinyl made for tool handles makes the joint 100% water tight. Adding a small zip tie for strain relief prior to dipping ensures a perfect joint. I've used that many times on saltwater fishing boats, usually to replace the failed crimp connectors.
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Old 06-20-2013, 05:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorfox View Post
Do you have a link to the connectors? I've never seen a two into one shrink crimp. Using an over sized butt connector for the two wire side can create a weak joint on the single end.

Soldering is the best connection there is. It fails in saltwater because the salt corrodes the joint. Dipping the joint into liquid Vinyl made for tool handles makes the joint 100% water tight. Adding a small zip tie for strain relief prior to dipping ensures a perfect joint. I've used that many times on saltwater fishing boats, usually to replace the failed crimp connectors.
Zorfox has a really good point. I didn't think about the three wires that need to go together.
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Old 06-20-2013, 07:19 PM   #12
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Crimps are better if you don't know how to solder. A crimp that may corrode is always better than a cold solder joint. Most people new to soldering heat up the solder and drip it on the wires. Done correctly in fact your iron never touches the solder. You heat the wire that heats the solder and draws it into the joint via capillary action.

Zorfox, I've done the oversized connector quite a few time and there is generally no problem. it also depends on the wire size itself. Stranded wire usually presents no problem at all.
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Old 06-21-2013, 04:35 AM   #13
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I think why you saw reef guys having problems with solder joints is the salt residue coming from the evaporation of the reef. You shouldn't have any problems at all with solder over a FW tank. Adding the liquid vinyl will just assure you trouble free operation.
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Old 06-21-2013, 05:19 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GraphicGr8s View Post
Crimps are better if you don't know how to solder. A crimp that may corrode is always better than a cold solder joint. Most people new to soldering heat up the solder and drip it on the wires. Done correctly in fact your iron never touches the solder. You heat the wire that heats the solder and draws it into the joint via capillary action.

Zorfox, I've done the oversized connector quite a few time and there is generally no problem. it also depends on the wire size itself. Stranded wire usually presents no problem at all.
That was sort of my line of thinking. I'm sure I COULD handle soldering just fine. When I was getting ready to replumb my bathroom I feel like I watched the equivalent of a feature length film of just soldering tutorials but thankfully I discovered gator bite connectors before attempting it. (Gator bite and pex are magical) For some reason soldering just makes my anxiety go haywire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorfox View Post
Do you have a link to the connectors? I've never seen a two into one shrink crimp. Using an over sized butt connector for the two wire side can create a weak joint on the single end.

Soldering is the best connection there is. It fails in saltwater because the salt corrodes the joint. Dipping the joint into liquid Vinyl made for tool handles makes the joint 100% water tight. Adding a small zip tie for strain relief prior to dipping ensures a perfect joint. I've used that many times on saltwater fishing boats, usually to replace the failed crimp connectors.
I didn't make it to the electrical supply place before they closed today and I don't remember the brand they ordered but I'll have them tomorrow and find a link for you or post pictures. The connectors are for 16-22 gauge wire and I'm using 18 gauge stranded wire. The guy that ordered them for me said it should work fine doing a two to one connection. I figured I'd do a descending lattice type of deal to reduce the wires down to the plug connection so as not to try cramming a million wires into one splice.

I think the main complaint about the soldered joints vs crimped was more about the stranded wires breaking at the solder because it essentially turns it into a solid wire and so you then have a flexibly discrepancy. But like I said, I think for my purposes either way would be adequate and I feel more comfortable crimping the connections for now. Bottomline: I'm a sissy

Really appreciate everyone's input! I'll try to get some pictures up tomorrow night.
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