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#139691 - 12/10/03 01:15 PM X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
SvenNYC Offline
Member

Registered: 08/19/02
Posts: 1685
Loc: New York City
What do they look like? Do you use special connectors to string fairy-light festoons together or standard household plugs?

I'm interested particularly in the British light-sets. Are they also series-string like the USA-type midget sets or parallel with a power transformer? I'm trying to imagine tiny 24-AWG wires going into a huge white plastic glob of a plug...or is there something tidier (like a shaver plug) and connected to the mains via an adapter?

Any pictures of what you use?

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#139692 - 12/10/03 02:26 PM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
pauluk Offline
Member

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
Series light chains were the mainstay of British fairy lights for many years, usually twenty 12-volt lamps for use on our 240V supply.

These would be connected to whatever plug was needed, which in modern times may well be the BS1363 13A fused plug.

I have a lot of these chains fitted with the less bulky 2-pin 5A round-pin plugs, used with suitable adapter leads.

Some modern sets use electronic flashers and sequencers, and these are generally parallel low-voltage run with the same sort of molded double-insulated cord and p;lug as you would find on any other modern appliance.

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#139693 - 12/10/03 03:41 PM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
djk Offline
Member

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 1269
Loc: Ireland
In Ireland at the moment the vast majority of sets on sale are either 12 or 24V with a plug in transformer. They're wired in series but with a by-pass so the bulb going won't take out the whole set.

The irritating flashing type strings have multiple circuits to allow them to chase etc

The older sets were the same as paul described. Usually dark green or semi-seethru green twisted pair cabling. And yes we do use the BS1363 plugs on them.

I have even seen a set wired to a 15A BS546 plug!! It does look comical.

Some sets also arrive with "Europlug" 2-pin flat plugs which are quite often just jammed into a 4-way BS1363 power strip under the tree.. or as I've also observed into 4 shaver adaptors on a powerstrip.. meaning they were all fused at 1A ! Seemed to work fine though and actually can't see a huge problem with that arrangement.

Outdoors CEE-17 is required and in anything which is within reach of people safety extra low voltage is now compulsary.

http://www.noma.co.uk/christmas/faq/christmaslightingsets.htm

explains everything about xmas lights

[This message has been edited by djk (edited 12-10-2003).]

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#139694 - 12/12/03 04:56 AM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Simple sets are usually classic series strings, with or without bypass, fitted with a Europlug, thin dark green wire. Old ones had a round ungrounded plug. Fancier lights usually have round 2-conductor cord and a contour plug. Old sets had bulbs with real screw threads, newer ones have some weird connector, cheap sets have soldered bulbs. Usual hookup for outdoor sets: Cord squeezed through a closed window and extension cord reel wrapped in a plastic bag. Better way to do this is a connector cover (a plastic box with rubber seals that snaps shut around a plug-and-trailing socket connection). Those boxes are listed for outdoor use. I once had a set with an ungrounded plug. Some genius took it off, fitted 2 pieces of solid 1.5mm2 conduit wire (purple for some weird reason) to a bulky outdoor Schuko plug and connected the setup to the lights with a strip connector. No tape or anything. Thankfully he included the old plug in the box, so I removed all the bullshit and refitted it.

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#139695 - 12/12/03 05:04 AM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
djk Offline
Member

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 1269
Loc: Ireland
Normally in commercial buildings here you install CEE-17 IP rated socket outlets in the eves of the building and also perhaps at various points where xmas trees may go.

On the streets you'll see blue CEE-17 sockets up high on buildings or even suspended on tightly pulled wires (non-electrical) that cross over the street to hold up xmas decorations. So when it comes to installing the xmas lights guys just hook them onto these wires and plug them in.

It's easier as the wiring only has to be done once.

Also strangely enough our PoCo, ESB installs most of the city's street xmas lights. Their linesmen and lineswomen were up in "cherry pickers" decorating various xmas trees around the city! Might explain why things are done so tightly to code.


[This message has been edited by djk (edited 12-12-2003).]

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#139696 - 12/14/03 01:41 AM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
pauluk Offline
Member

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
The thin, green-colored twisted cord wired to a huge BS546 15A plug certainly looks out of balance. Just imagine it going into a CEEform plug!

The older sets here used to have a tiny screw-in bulb, but these days the wedge base with wires just folded over is the most common, like the one illustrated in the link above:



 Quote:
In the USA, where the voltage is 110v and the safety regulation are not as severe as in Europe, many parallel wired sets are used inside and outside; many have an add-along facility too. Unfortunately our regulations make this sort of set impractical to make at a price anyone would want to pay, and many of these US sets are downright lethal and are illegal to import into the EU.


Don't hold back now -- Why not tell us what you really think?!

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#139697 - 12/14/03 10:40 AM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
Hutch Offline
Member

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 383
Loc: South Oxfordshire, UK
Paul, who are you quoting above – has the post been withdrawn? From a South African perspective, wiring the Christmas lights to a BS546 (16A in RSA!) is quite normal – though it usually involved removing the cheesy two pin BS 5A molded plug commonly supplied with the sets. The plug pictured below is stamped “220V – 3A” and the lights are certainly bright when plugged into the 240V supply I have here! I suspect this is a set designed for mainland Europe with an old BS plug thrown on for the small South African Market.



Some would plug their lights in using the pictured adaptor that is still very common over there, although you will not find any equipment supplied with BS two pin plugs – other than Christmas lights!

These adaptors get used by people to plug in Europlugs, but they’re not the right fit and make for a dodgy connection. Having a dislike for adaptors, once I knew something worked, I cut of the molded one and fitted a proper plug.



As far as the US lights being dangerous, I don’t know that I would agree. There are enough of them about on houses all over North America in all weathers and I don’t hear of too many problems - any US locals wish to comment?. The most dangerous part is putting them up. The best doctor in town here fell off his ladder last year putting up outside lights and is now a paraplegic.

Depending on the weather, my illuminations have included an internally illuminated icicle with no tripping of the GFCI. US 115V lights should work well (and very safely) on an outside UK setup, using the work-site centre-tapped 110V transformer system.

[I have just measured the xmas plug and it is slightly undersized pin-wise compared to a BS 5A two-pin although this is compensated by a slightly wider pin spacing. By further comparison, I can see that an old BS 5A - 2 pin has the same dimensions as a modern UK shaver plug (BS 4573) and the South African xmas plug does indeed fit very nicely into a UK BS 1363 1A shaver adaptor!]


[This message has been edited by Hutch (edited 12-15-2003).]

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#139698 - 12/15/03 07:35 AM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
djk Offline
Member

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 1269
Loc: Ireland
It's supprising as that's from an xmas light company and I don't really see any huge differences between European and US setups to be honest other than the supply voltage and frequency and some countries may have slightly stricter guidelines on outdoor electrical installations but generally these wouldn't have any bearing on the actual lights.

E.g. in Ireland I can't see why using 110V centre tapped supply ~55V on each leg would be any problem with US lights. You would just use yellow CEE-17 plugs and sockets and an appropriately rated xformer. They would actually be much safer in that setup than they would be in the USA where it would be 115V to ground and possibly without all of the safety features that a site xformer provides here. In fact using that setup is one way of complying with the outdoor electrical safety requirments without resorting to 12/24V sets.

As for mains voltages in use outdoors here we do have tougher requirements than the USA but also tougher than most of the rest of Europe too. If you were to use 220V (230V) lights here you need to take a few steps to ensure they don't cause shocks.

1) The fittings have to be enclosed / fully weatherproof e.g. you need to use lanterns or specially designed fittings
2) Where 220V lighting is used it should be out of touch reach of the general public.
3) All fittings must be outdoor rated.. i.e. blue CEE-17 sockets/plugs and proper outdoor junction boxes.
4) It absolutely must be RCD protected and circuits need to have appropriately rated overcurrent protection e.g. neozed fuses / MCB. Ring circuits are also not acceptable outdoors other than where an outdoor circuit is connected into an interior ring as a 13 or 16A fused spur.

However, you'll find that the vast majority of older iinstallations don't quite meet all of these requirments but are generally quite safe. Public buildings, street displays etc will generally conform though.

In a public display here you'll generally find a mix of 2 or even 3 voltages in use.

Strings that are up high over streets etc tend to be 220V (230V)
Large outdoor Xmas trees tend to be 110V centre tapped and other smaller displays are generally 24V. Building site displays e.g. on the top of tower craines are all 110V centre tapped.

Most domestic outdoor lighting is 24V or even 12V on smaller runs with individual plug-in xformers for each set.

For some reason ETCI does not approve of the use of 13A BS1363 weatherproofed sockets in any fixed wiring situation so you'll find a lot of CEE-17 outlets in use here where as in most other countries you'd find a simple weatherproofed schuko or BS1363 outlet. They get used for everything from providing powerpoints in gardens, xmas lighting, temp outdoor displays, outdoor PA systems, camping sites etc etc.

So you'll find BS1363 extension reels with a blue CEE-17 plug on the end or in some cases even full blue CEE-17 extension reels in use in newer buildings.

Supprisingly enough a CEE-17 reel made to a much higher standard than a typical BS1363 equivilant tends to retail at a much better value price and give you a much more flexible supply outside as it can supply up to 3KW safely.

We had a lot of problems vacuuming the car with various extension cords that tripped at less than 1900W (which is what the vacuum cleaner pulls at full power) so CEE-17 reels made a huge difference.. (you just use a short adaptor lead for the hoover.

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#139699 - 12/15/03 08:38 AM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
SvenNYC Offline
Member

Registered: 08/19/02
Posts: 1685
Loc: New York City
Hutch, what's that wire that looks like gold colored flex for? Did you splice that onto the thin wires of the light string? Wouldn't it have been better to just connect the green wires directly into the plug?

Also, what's this thing I see on some light-strings that say the product contains lead? Do they add lead to the rubber insulation? For what reason and is this the case with all types of parallel two-conductor cord-sets?

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#139700 - 12/15/03 10:14 AM Re: X-Mas tree light connections in UK, Australia & E.U.
Hutch Offline
Member

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 383
Loc: South Oxfordshire, UK
Sven said …
 Quote:
Hutch, what's that wire that looks like gold colored flex for? Did you splice that onto the thin wires of the light string? Wouldn't it have been better to just connect the green wires directly into the plug?


Quite right – technically – on both counts Sven. South African households, like UK ones, do not have sufficient sockets (receptacles) available and so, as usual, an extension cord was going to be required. The Xmas wire was also rather short to start with! Now there is nothing subtle about a South African extension cord. All ready made ones are three core x 1.5 mm2 and with their final insulation, have a diameter of about 8 mm. Add on to this the 16A socket (70x40x100 mm) and plug (or socket and adaptor pictured above – even larger) and one has a piece of wiring that is likely to pull the tree over as well as looking – imposing or b**t ugly depending on your choice.

Hence the splice which is under the wrapping board in the picture. The zip cord, though thin, was still a considerably thicker gauge than the Xmas lighting wire. Kept out of harm’s way over a few weeks at Christmas, I felt comfortable with this arrangement.

[having just gone into the workshop and dismantled/measured an RSA extension cord, I have down-scaled the wire cross-sectional dimensions a bit - still largish though]


[This message has been edited by Hutch (edited 12-15-2003).]

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