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waterproofing plugs & outlets


santajr

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Hey everyone,

Even though I have been decorating for sometime now, I really didn't have anyone to talk to about my display. I have talked to electricians about trying to keep my plugs and outlets out of the weather. I have been wrapping the plug and outlet of each decoration with plastic and electricians tape. I have been told that is the worst way to do it because the heat produces moisture in the cooler weather. I built some wooden boxes to house some of the bigger outlets but I still get moisture. :eek::eek:

I have picked my brain:confused: and others about this problem but no solid answers:rolleyes:. Now I have a new "family" to talk to, I am asking my family for help. Since I am 8 months before setup, I figure I have some time to get some answers from some expert decorators:D. I still consider myself a small time decorator after seeing some of my 'families" displays, but I still used about 4400 feet of cords in my display, 18 timers, and 1 GE Lights and Sound.

If anybody has even a simple answer or a complicated one, please respond to this thread. Maybe your answers will also help someone else that is having the same problems. Also I do live in the snowbelt if that helps to understand why I have problems. I am slightly northeast of Buffalo(about 45 miles) on Lake Ontario. Thanks in advance to all who can help.

Steve :confused::confused:

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Welcome aboard.

Well actually the heat doesn't produce moisture but we won't get into that discussion the bigger issue is how to keep your connections dry. The best thing to do is elevate your connections and then cover them so that they are shielded from rain/snow. By shielding what I mean is providing some type of cover without completely enclosing the connection that way they can breath and not hold the moisture inside,

Some people use inverted tupperware containers while others use the big plastic cups. Use a wooden stake and hold up your connection and then use drywall screws to attach the container to the stake.

Tony

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Hi Steve...

Or should I say Hi Neighbor. I live about 45 miles south of Rochester so I face the same weather conditions as you. I also use about a mile of extension cords and I use 7 Digital light Show boxes and 9 timers. None of my connections lie in standing water and I do not cover any of my connections. My show has been going on for 19 years and I do not have any issues with my electrical connections. I hope this helps you with your inquiry.

May your stay with your new family be long and productive...Bob

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Yup, Dave and I know all about WET weather. Water is not a super conductor, but it does cause issues. So wrapping the plugs only serves to keep the moisture that is going to get in eventually, to stay in. You want the plugs to breathe so the water can drain.

Keeping them off the ground is best. It can be a piece of wood, or stake of some sort, use the display feature itself, etc.... Some cover them with those disposable plastic Ziploc or Glad sandwich containers, but even then, you want the plug off the direct ground. Any moisture at that point is going to contribute to "ground leakage" and will make GFI's more susceptible to popping.

Living in the Seattle area, I have not had really any moisture related problems in even the severest of downpours.

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Wow, thanks for the help.

I had one sting that was my baine. It was nothing but problems. I also coverd the connections with tape. I know see the errors of my ways. I had already been working a way to concel my electrical needs for my 09 display. This just makes what I was thinking that much beter.

Thanks

Kent

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I use the 'weatherproof' outlet stakes from Target and others. These keep the connections off the ground, and the spring loaded plastic cover (latest ones) or other physical protection keeps the water off the plug. Of course, this is in Southern Arizona, so accumulated snow is not an issue. Before I started using these, I'd put the connections in ziplock sandwich bags.

Even with this, I put the childproof plugs into any unused sockets. I don't know that it helps, but it probably can't hurt and is part of my 'fun'.

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Hello Steve and All,

Not knowing exactly what problems you are having makes it hard to give a definitive answer. The advice about elevating the plugs is a great one. Another is to use electrically conductive grease. Dielectric grease is available at most automotive parts stores. Use is very sparingly. Put just a little on the male prongs of your plugs, and spread it so there is a VERY thin film on the prongs. Over time, the dielectric grease will transfer into the female end and coat the mating surfaces.

Many places have a lot of salt in the air. The salt can come from the ocean or from the roads. Any salt placed on roads, tends to get ground into powder and stirred up into the air. Many cities are using magnesium chloride on their streets and I believe that is worse than salt. Either substance will corrode steel or brass very quickly. The dielectric grease prevents this. It also promotes good conductance between the two pieces. You should remove any corrosion with fine steel wool or soft wire brush before applying the grease. Remember, all you need is just enough to make the piece look like a grease spot. This will not eliminate the need to elevate your connections out of snow and rain, but it will help eliminate the effects of moisture.

Good Luck,

Terry

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Forgive my ignorance, but I am having a difficult time understanding why all of the extra effort to protect the plugs. I have been decorating for many many years and have never had any problems. I have lived in Louisiana, Texas, Alaska (for 12 1/2 years where there is plenty of snow, ice and cold) and for the past ten years in California where we have had rain nearly every season during Christmas. I use both indoor and outdoor extension cords (currently have about 3200 feet) and I never do anything extra to protect them. I run them on the ground and into trees and I have never had any issues with tripping breakers or other issues related to water/moisture. Can someone help me understand why the need for the extra protection?

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John,

Are your outdoor receptacles GFCI protected? If not then that would explain the difference. Years ago in my old house without outdoor GFCI protection (pre-code required) I never had a problem either, now with GFCI's I still don't have an issue as long as I protect my cord ends as well as check my display elements for ground faults.

Tony

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John,

Are your outdoor receptacles GFCI protected? If not then that would explain the difference. Years ago in my old house without outdoor GFCI protection (pre-code required) I never had a problem either, now with GFCI's I still don't have an issue as long as I protect my cord ends as well as check my display elements for ground faults.

Tony

Thanks Tony, that was what my guess was on the why. But to answer your questions some have been and some have not had GFCI. I live in an older house now but I added 7 outdoor outlets last year and they are GFCI protected. I did not do anything special to my cords and still no issues, and we had a ton of rain this year during Christmas time. Maybe I am just lucky with no tripping. :)

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I really can't pinpoint my problem. I trip my outdoor GFI's and my power stakes. We did get 3 inches of rain just before it snowed. When I started to take down my display this year, I noticed when I unwrapped the plugs, there was alot of ice in the plastic around the outlet and plug. I did find one wire that was cracked, but it was on a line that gave me no problems. I am going to make 6x6 boxes about 4" thick with a wood lid, mount it on an 18" long piece of angle iron. This should keep all connections dry and high. I was thinking of drilling 2 one inch holes in the bottom and plugging them with the plastic vented soffit plugs. Gotta do something, 09 is going to be a BIG year.

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I just elevate every electrical connection. Those little plastic stakes work great. There was plenty of water inside every connection, but I wasn't trying to keep them dry. My main mission was to keep them conducting and not leaking current to ground (ie. GFI pop).

post-8621-129571108257_thumb.jpg

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I have run into a couple of cases where elevation alone was not enough... One was a tree with 39 strands of minis wrapping the trunk, and 48 strands in the canopy. Both inlet cords to the controller were plugged into the outlets directly with weather resistant in use covers. The GFCI's appeared to be completely dry when checked. The controller was mounted with the dongles at least 6 inches above ground. SPT2 runs ran across the ground, and at least 6 inches up the trunk.. I'm guessing that the tree itself was too conductive... Either too conductive to ground, or too conductive to the other branch circuit in the tree.. Though I think it was always the circuit feeding the trunk that tripped....

Now I wonder if the leak is in the plugs, or the unsealed mini socket bases.... If it is the socket bases, sealed LEDs would be a fix, some year in the future... If it is the plugs, grease, or commercial sealed connector LED strings would do it..

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest hockeymom

OK... I just crossed over from the blowmolding world and stumbled upon this thread....

I live in the Appalachian Mountains in PA, and every big rain, I too, watch section after section of my display flip off...

I'm seriously on a budget, but did manage to have an electrician here once or twice to add some GFI outlets to the outside of the house... these are the ones tripping...

So I have been on a mission to figure out how to fix this problem for next year... spent some ca-ching on replacing all the cazillion smaller cords that run to the blowmolds with 'outdoor' approved ones... but that didn't seem to help...

I was going to wrap each connection in plastic bags and seal it up with tape per some suggestions I received... but now I'm thinking... maybe not... hmmmm... keep the suggestions coming as I have hundreds and hundreds of connections, as I have about 300 blowmolds, a dozen inflatables, and am starting to assemble many yard stakes and light strands in the shrubbery... I need to do something! Thanks!

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Angel,

There is a thread on here, I will try to find it. Tony the Moderator mentions getting some higher quality GFI, not the ones from the big box stores. They are a little more in cost, but a much better product.

The biggest thing you can do is keep the connections directly off the ground. As mentioned some use stakes, cups and a lot of other things. With as many plugs as it sounds like you have, even standing the cords up and resting them against your blowmolds are going to help. The just the plugs have to be off the ground,

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Angel,

There is a thread on here, I will try to find it. Tony the Moderator mentions getting some higher quality GFI, not the ones from the big box stores. They are a little more in cost, but a much better product.

,

My faceless GFIs were purchased from HD and seemed to do pretty good in the rain/snow/slush. I think I paid $13 a piece, but I guess there are more expensive solutions. I think the blowmolds are fully insulated from the ground (plastic, correct?) and it would probably be the inbound connections creating the problem.

Nothing beats removing your GFIs and getting a good homeowner's policy (OOPS; did I just say that out loud) HE HE just kidding.

-the Joker

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  • 11 months later...

I hope this question is right for this thread. I saw on one of the forums an insulator, if you will, that the guy put on his controllers where the cat5 cable went in to weather prrof it. Does any one here know where tht thread is or what I am even talking about.

Thanks

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I had GFCI tripping issues, even with all new circuits. Turned out the plugs on the ground were holding in water.

I used some 1/4" plywood (Luan), and cut it to make some 10"L x 4" W x 6" H boxes. Used some square 1/2" wood pieces to attach the luan at the corners. I then cut 2 U shaped cut outs at the top of the 4" sides to accommodate the cords. Next I cut another piece of Luan to cover the top of the box (with a little bit of a lip around all 4 sides). Then I used some small magnets glued to the frame and lid to hold it down.

The boxes are 6" tall so the plugs for the lights hang upside down in the box allowing any moisture to drain out and even with 2-3 plugs connected it's still slightly off the ground.

To finish them off, I painted them with rust-o-leum dark green paint so they bland into the grass (at least until the grass died off from the cold).

I could've made them smaller or used less wood, etc... but I was in a rush to get my display running and just wanted something that worked. Looks were the last of my worries. LOL And yes, they are a little bulky to store, but I only have 6 of them at this point.

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