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Sealing connections for RGB

Discussion in 'RGB Lights - Intelligent Pixels and 3-Channel RGB' started by Bill Ellick, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Appologies if this is in the wrong area. If so, would a mod please move it. I am posting this on a few different forums.
    With the advance of the use of RGB lighting it needs to be noted that the sealing of the electrical connections and RGB strips (whether they are encased in a coating or inside a silicone sleeve), there remains a need to seal any open spots to prevent water ingress and potential damage to components or electrical shorts.
    Some may think that it is better to leave the connection somewhat open to air so as to let things dry out. I will not make any attempt to debate that here but want to give folks some information on silicone caulks to help prevent troubles later on.
    Most people who own homes have used silicone caulk at one time or another to patch up around windows or doors or seal around a tub or shower.
    You may be familiar with the nasty vinegar smell that some caulks give off? These types of caulk are ones to stay away from when working with your lights. These are an acid type of cure that is bad for any electrical components and other things as well.
    Here is a nice little page from a site in the UK that I found that will give you some better idea on the types of silicone caulks and their usage.
    http://www.thewindowman.co.uk/sealants.htm
    A typical form of the so called neutral caulk is GE Silicone II. It should be noted that the regular GE or GE I type of caulk is NOT a neutral cure and should not be used.
    Of course GE does NOT recommend that silicone caulk of any kind be used on electrical but we tend to work around that for this hobby.
    I have not done extensive research on this as of yet, but most silicone caulks even if neutral cure are not really rated for electrical component applications unless you get into the area of RTV type silicone.
    This may give you some info on RTV types:
    http://www.korsil.ru/content/files/catalog1/rtv_5240%20.pdf
    Usually you end up getting into the area of industrial or military RTVs and/or two part potting compounds when looking for safe types of materials for electrical connections and components.
    While they are the best, you also will pay a large price for them and that alone may deter most from their usage, especially in something such as a hobby.
    I use two part potting compounds for things like permanent connections that I know I will never want to disturb or where there are connections to weatherproof connectors from components.
    I think that the relatively cheap GE II, DAP, or some similar style of neutral cure silicone will be more than adequate for connections from RGB strips to wiring leads or strip to strip connections.
    Another venue for the neutral cure style of silicone is automotive, marine, and aircraft suppliers (although the aircraft ones will be more than likely very expensive).
    Another possible option would be to use a form of plastic epoxy for connections such as Locktite:
    http://www.homedepot.com/buy/paint/adhesives-tape/0-85-fl-oz-plastic-epoxy-loctite-54207.html
    which you can find from many home center style outlets. I have used this form of epoxy to repair blowmolds with very good results but have yet to try it with any RGB components or electrical connections.
    Another problem is that the RGB strips coming from China can have a few different types of coatings on them as well. Some say silicone and some are a resin coating or they use the silicone tubing to encase the strip or have both the tubing and a coating on them.
    Whichever type you use will dictate the form and/or type of sealant that you will want to use.
    Hopefully someone who is testing out some of the RGB strips can do a testing of different silicones soon to see how they hold up to weather, time, and the elements as well as how they adhere and seal the actual strips as well.
     
  2. bdeditch

    bdeditch Full Time Elf

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    Looks like Dow Corning makes the Neutral Silicone in the US.



    Dow Corning® 982 Silicone Insulating Glass Sealant
    Dow Corning® 982 Silicone Insulating Glass Sealant is a two-part, fast-cure, neutral-curing silicone sealant intended for use as a secondary sealant in dual-sealed insulating glass units that will be structurally glazed. Available in black and gray.


    Dow Corning® 982 NSG Silicone Insulating Glass Sealant
    Dow Corning® 982 NSG Silicone Insulating Glass Sealant is a two-part, fast-cure, neutral-curing silicone sealant intended for use as a secondary sealant in dual-sealed insulating glass units. It cannot be used for IG units that will be structurally glazed. (NSG=Non-Structural Gray.) Available in gray.


    Dow Corning® 3-0117 Silicone Insulating Glass Sealant
    Dow Corning® 3-0117 Silicone Insulating Glass Sealant is a one-part, RTV-cure, neutral-curing silicone sealant intended for use as a secondary sealant in dual-sealed insulating glass units that will be structurally glazed. Available in black and gray.
     
  3. OP
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    Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Thanks for the links on the Dow stuff. Any sources for any of it in a clear?
    I have had a couple of people ask me as a follow up on this about liquid electrical tape and hot glue.
    I use the liquid electrical tape myself both at work and for my own uses around home. It works as intended to seal and insulate electrical connections quite nicely (since that is what is was designed for after all).
    The only drawback to my original post for RGB things is that the liquid tape is black and most RGB strips are white or clear and I would rather use a clear sealant on the strips that I have since they have a clear silicone coating on them already. But yes the liquid electrical tape would work just fine as well if that is what you like to use. I was more trying to make an invisible repair to an RGB strip when having to make the electrical connections or making one a certain lenght. Guess I am a little more than normally anal at that aspect of things.
    As far as the use of hot glue, I have not tried it to seal electrical connections. I would be hesitant in using it for any connections that might have any flex to them as it will tend to break loose quite easily and not seal well. I also have no knowledge of what if any electrical resistance or insulating qualities that hot glue might have. Seems like it might not be the best item for insulating or sealing electrical to me but perhaps others can shed some light on how well it works over time. Perhaps for a rigid connection that does not move at all it might afford adequate protection. I just have no working knowledge at this point to make any recommendations one way or another on it.
    My own personal feeling is that it is really not intended for electrical work so I would not use it.
    It may be prudent for someone who has conversations on a regular basis with Ray Wu to inquire as to what they are actually using for the coatings on the RGB strips that are being made? Perhaps it would be nice to find out if it is a type of silicone or resin that can be purchased over the counter so that we can make it available to the general public for this hobby if the price of it was not too bad?
     
  4. bdeditch

    bdeditch Full Time Elf

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    What about that Plastic Dip Stuff?


    http://www.plastidip.com/home_solutions/Plasti_Dip
     
  5. OP
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    Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Plasti-Dip is pretty messy to work with and takes a long time to dry.
    It might be useful for using if you were to make solder connections with heat shrink on them and then use the plastic dip to coat over it.
    At that point I think I would say use the liquid electric tape as it is made for it and is thicker than the plastic dip and won't run as much.
    The plastic dip works great for tools and such to make handles and stuff though. I do use it to recoat my tool handles ever few years when they start to wear and tear.
    I guess if you were to work around the properties of the plastic dip, you could get it to coat things over.
     
  6. Denny

    Denny New Elf

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    The local Home Depot sells the liquid electrical tape in a variety of colors besides black. Besides black, I have purchased white, red, and green there. I think they have blue also.
     
  7. OP
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    Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Well since I started this, I want to add some actual testing to things to see what really does work and what doesn't for this.
    So I took a reel of dumb rgb strip that I have and cut off 4 individual sections for testing.
    I found that a good pair of sharp scissors will make a nice clean cut through the rgb strip. To remove the coating I used a razor knife and very carefully pushed it gently down through the coating till it was almost to the strip. Then it was easy to peel the coating back and off the connections very cleanly without any trouble at all.
    I would also recommend that anyone who is going to work with the strip purchase a pair of hemostats as shown as they make it so nice and easy to hold the wires to solder to the strip. A set of helping hands is also a nice thing to have to make it easier to hold things while working on this stuff.
    Then I took some 24 awg solid copper phone wire and soldered connections on the strips to simulate the wiring onto the strips. I used an old 40 watt soldering iron that I have with a chisel tip on it to get somewhat of a "rough finish" for the connections as not everybody will have a nice $200 soldering station to work with and I want this to be more of a real world style of test for everybody to use.
    Then I used some various coatings that I have here to cover the connections and also sealed up the ends of the wires so that moisture won't get in from the end and make a difference.
    So now I have these 4 pieces attached to a piece of wood strip and I will put it outside in the weather tomorrow after all the coatings have had 24 hours to cure.
    I plan to leave this out and photo it everyday for at least the first month or two to see how the weather affects the different coatings.
    The only thing I did not have on hand right now was any clear neutral silicone but I do have a white so I used that for now.
    Another thing I noticed was that the hot glue was very easy to apply and does give you a nice clear covering. I may have to change my opinion of it even though it still is not a "recommended" coating for electrical by any manufacturer that I can find so far and there are very many different types of hot glue as well as the temperature ratings for it out there. But it was nice to work with over almost any of the other coatings.
    So now let the testing begin and I will see how these hold up through the summer and next fall and winter.
    I will try to make updates on this every month or so.
    Bill
     

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  8. bdeditch

    bdeditch Full Time Elf

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    It will be interested in seeing the results.
     
  9. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Dedicated Elf Administrator

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    Bill

    I covered the general sealing of RGB strip in this thread with Nuetral Cure Silicon and Clear Heatshrink

    http://auschristmaslighting.com/forums/index.php/topic,1991.0.html

    Now in reading your input I was driven to do some greater research on general available Neutral Cure Silicones in Aus, the common ones we find to buy do not explicitely list electrical charateristics but at the same time nowhere on the various sites do they recommend against that use.

    Silicone can be manufactured to be either electrically conductive or non-conductive and by all evidence in real use the general neutral cure silicones are non-conductive.
    I've only run across one sealant that was actually conductive (name forgotten) and it was not a 100% silicon.

    Whilst we should likely all endevour to use silicone specifically recommended for electrical work like SILASTIC 1080 RTV SILICONE 310GM TRANS the cost vs risk weighup will usually fall in favour of generic silicone known to work especially for ELV use.

    Phil
     
  10. OP
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    Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Phil
    I saw your sealing thread as well. I just wanted to expand a little on the need to use a neutral type of silicone for sealing connections of electrical as here in the US there are many silicones that are NOT neutral type and will cause electrical corrosion if used.
    I got "called out" a bit on the types of silicone over on the Planet Christmas forum so that is why I decided to run a weather verus time test on some of the RGB dumb strip to see how it really held up over time with some different caulks and sealants on the connections. I did not really get into the electrical specs problems yet.
    I have been working around electronics and electrical for over 40 years now and have done testing for quality control, product usablity and compatiblity, with different sealants in various settings for the military and industry over the years. I have seen first hand what the wrong type of sealant can cause with electrical although most of my contact has been with higher voltage/amperage than just RGB, but the basic fundamental principles are still the same.
    A regular silicone (ie. the vinegar smelling kind - how technical eh) will cause the formation of a white chaky powder on the connection over time which is a direct corrosive effect of the silicone. Of course the amount of time it takes for it to happen is influenced by many factors like time, humidity, weather, electrical factors, etc, etc.. The point is that it will happen, not if.
    Then again, how many people actually clean the flux off their solder connections before sealing them? That can be more corrosive than the wrong type of silicone in the right conditons.
    You will probably find that NO manufacturer of silicone really states that their silicone is safe to use on electrical connections until you get into the higher range of silicones which MOST OF THE TIME are the RTV type of silicones which are formulated to use on electrical and carry a higher price tag for sure or you go to a marine or aviation supplier who uses a potting type compound which is safe for electrical.
    But a great deal of the average silicones out there (at least here in the US) are regular type and not so good for electrical connections which is not to say that they can not be used as a lot of people will use them anyway. They will work for a time but will corrode the connections in the long term. At least there are more of the neutral types coming out now due to environment concerns as well as people just don't like the smell of regular silicone so that will help.
    I am concerned with the use of other things like hot glue too. I know Dave Moore uses it and people do look to Dave for guidance in this hobby. My concern is that there are many formulations of hot glue and quite a few different temperature melting ratings as well for it. Which ones would be safe for use is a mystery at this point. The RGB strip material is going to react to various types of sealants and hot glue just throws another variable into the mix with the temperature ratings and how that will affect the strip as well as the electrical junction where the wires are soldered onto the strip pads.
    I also wonder how the electrical properties of hot glue, plastic dip, silicones (both neutral and regular) will affect the electronic proformance of strips? Being that these are low voltage and low amperage electronic components starts to bring into play the interaction of sealants on electrical junctions because of whatever properties the sealants may have on signals through the junctions as well as across the sealant boundaries between junctions. Granted it may not be a big problem but certainly there is a possiblity of problems when a sealant that is somewhat electrically conductive is used on an electrical junction (or many junctions such as will be found on the DIY type stuff like this).
    I have seen problems where it was found that using hot glue to secure items on a circuit board actually caused some interference with the circuit operation due to micro electrical inference on the circuit. Somewhat like the problem that "tin whiskers" can cause on electronic circuits.
    Granted that I am talking of things on the micro or molecular level but they are there none the less. A problem that most of the people who are in this hobby will never see or worry about unless they get a problem with timing or voltage being "off" and they can't really see why. Corrosion and its effects are very stubborn and hard to see or find.
    I just want to shed some light on a "possible" problem that can occur with this stuff. Also with the cost of an RGB strip around $20 (for dumb strip), I want to make sure that mine lasts just as long as it can without any trouble or having to work on it every couple of years.
    Oh, and I like testing things - LOL. So that is another reason to run some weather tests and keep my aging brain challenged a bit!
    But I am by no means saying that people should not use whatever they are comfortable with using. Just that they should be "aware" of possible side effects from things like sealants, glues, chewing gum, or whatever.
    Bill
     
  11. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Dedicated Elf Administrator

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    I'm actually quite curious how your tests will shape up and am looking forward to the results.

    Neutral Cure is ubiquous in Australia and you nearly have to make an effort to find acetic cure silicone.

    We always advise against using acetic cure due to the corrosive properties.

    As for hot melt glue to seal connections....... with so many types out there it's a far far greater minefield than silicone.
    I would only recommended generic hot melt glue for actually glueing things.

    At a practical level i have used Neutral Cure Silicon on RGB strip and Pixels for a couple of years now and have noticed no differences between "factory fresh" strip/pixel and stuff with silicone in normal use.
    I've got connections now that are many years old sealed with silicone and on the occasions they are pulled apart there has been no obvious evidence of damage.
    I plan to grab some connections over the weekend and photo record what they look like after multiple years.

    One thing i would point out is that the RGB 5v world may be low voltage but it is not low current, with 100c string currents of 6A and typical megatree currents well past a 100A this is a high current world where voltage drop of even 0.5V is critical.

    I encourage you to really test this out, too often we really on "what has always worked" rather than have real testing occur.
    With most stuff used for maybe 6 weeks and maybe in the weather for 12/16 weeks and a historical practice of let's check it each season to make sure it works we tend to not put as much thought into the longer term effects of things like sealants.
    I know that the concept of a $20 5M rgb string seems expensive compaired to the $1 100c string on post xmas sale for the USA members and therefore drives a desire for long term reliability, here in Oz we never really had the sub $10 options so we will often not consider the same cost v reliability equation.

    I know it's off topic but to illustrate how cost can skew reliability requirements, last season i took down a dumb RGB star with 100c of RGB lights and literally threw the 100c into the bin as they were covered with a sticky residue from the water proofing agent (Selleys All Clear), i think they were still working but when I pay 10c a Led for normal led strings that I consider disposable vs 25c for a dumb RGB pixel, the dumb pixel is effectively a disposable item now as well.

    Anyway, let the testing coninue as I for one am keen to see where it leads.

    Phil
     
  12. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    I have used standard cheap non corrosive neutral cure silicone for the last few years and havent had any failiures or any signs of corrossion. Ive also used hot glue last year and didnt see any failures but i find hot clue set too hard and doesnt actually give a good seal especially on things that have some flex.

    It may be just luck but i havent had any issues with several types of non corrosive neutral cure silicone i have used over the years. But your advice Bill is detailed and worthy of taking note of.
     
  13. OP
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    Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Thanks for the encouragement. Testing is such a lonely job - LOL.
    I too am looking forward to see how this turns out over the course of time exposure and how well the different sealants will hold up. It just seems like something that can help the hobby in the long run to do although we all know that the next big breakthrough in tech or industry can happen at any time and change everything.
    At least this will give people a baseline to look at and see what does or does not hold up fairly well.
    I put out the strips yesterday for the first day of the testing. Yes that is snow on the ground! We had a dusting the night before and it was in the 20's last night as well so may get some freezing temperature time on these for this year before spring really comes on.
    I may move them later as I would like to get a new camera to watch them with (I had a Sony DCS-6620 but it got struck by lightning - yikes). I wish now also that I had a weather station to use to record the daily weather automatically but I guess I will just have to write things down for now.
    I also made one change on the sealants. I had a bad tube of caulk so I changed one test piece to Krylon UV coating which I use on some blowmolds when I repaint them. I wanted to test the Krylon UV stuff anyway so this is good, although being a spray it goes on thin so the coating is not anything I would think of using for electrical.
     

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  14. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    Very nice testing setup Bill, we look forward for reports back on this from time to time.
     
  15. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Dedicated Elf Administrator

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    Ok here's a couple photos showing some wire ends that were sealed with neutral cure silicon and clear heat shrink.

    This is an end point of an icicle light section, the end would have been sealed 4+ years ago and has had at least 2 years of actual exposure to the weather.
    IMG_0244sm.jpg




    In this one i stripped the plastic of one of the wires that had been sealed, neither the plastic nor the copper show any indication of issues and the clean colour of the wire shows we had an excellent seal.
    IMG_0247sm.jpg


    Cheers
    Phil
     

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