Rewiring Motifs

Rope light motifs come in either single or multi circuit configurations. The single circuit ones are usually static, while the multi circuit versions have a controller that flashes / sequences some or all of the individual sections. Both types usually have just a single mains power plug.

This article involves working with 240Vac electronics.
All 240Vac wiring must be carried out by a suitably qualified person.
(Electrician or similar required by law in Australia - check local regulations)

Completing this project requires a soldering station and knowledge of how to solder.
See Tools required for DIY#Soldering for soldering equipment.

Single Circuit

On a single circuit motif, you will have just two wires (Active and Neutral). There is no problem cutting the existing plug off and extending the cable. Buying a suitable extension lead and cutting the socket off can be a cheap source of plug and cable.

Multiple Circuits

With a multiple circuit motif, if you want to remove the original controller, you will have to check the wiring configuration first. If the controller has a separate 2 wire cable going to each motif section, you're all good. You can cut each one from the controller and extend them with separate plugs and cables, as each section is just like a single circuit motif.

If the wiring from the controller box to the motif sections consists of a common (active or neutral) and one wire per section, it is not suitable for connection via separate plugs. If you did, you would end up with dangerous situations. Shorts can occur if there is any error in the plug or power point wiring. You can also end up with 240V appearing on the pins of any disconnected plug when any of the others are plugged in. Lethal stuff indeed!

You can (with care) connect motifs with a common conductor to a multi-channel controller. Imagine that you have 3 wires emerging from your 240V motif, with no indication of which is which. Time to break out the multimeter and put it on the Ohms range. The diagram below represents the 2 circuit motif light. The resistances shown are just examples and could be quite different. The steps are the same however.

We'll work the wiring out by process of elimination. Assign a number to each wire, 1, 2 & 3. In our example we:
  • Measured 1-2 and got 8 Ohms
  • Measured 2-3 and got 6 Ohms
  • Measured 1-3 and got 2 Ohms
  • Measuring between wires 1-2 gave us the highest reading, so they are the 2 circuit feeds (actives)
  • The left over wire (3 in this case) is the common (neutral)
NB. The original controller may have used switched actives or switched neutrals.

Cable Joins

Here's an example of joining a 2 core cable. Notice how the wire joints are offset (at least 20mm) from each other. This gives the required clearance between conductors and allows the entire join to be covered with (adhesive lined) heatshrink tubing to make a waterproof connection.

You only need to strip 5-7mm of insulation from each conductor. Make sure you tin each of the 4 ends using standard leaded solder before attempting each joint. Bring the matching tinned ends along side each other and apply the soldering iron tip to the joint. Once the solder flows, remove the heat and allow the completed joint to cool for a few seconds. Do not allow the joint to move during this time, otherwise it may fracture and result in a "cold joint" (poor connection).

You may find it easier to use a hobby vice or set of helping hands to hold one or both of the cable ends steady during soldering. Don't forget to slide the heatshrink tubing (approx twice the joint length) over one cable before you solder the ends! Keep the heatshrink well away from the joint area until it is cool again, lest it start shrinking in the wrong place.

Most heatshrink is 2:1 shrink ratio, so pick a size that will slide over the outer sheath without being too loose. As mentioned above, the adhesive lined version will offer better joint sealing without having to fill it with silicone. A paint stripper heat gun will work much better than a hair blow dryer as long as you don't get it too close. Use the lower heat setting first if unsure.

Standard 240V rope lighting is 2 core (Active & Neutral) only. It does not use an earth connection as it is a Class II (double insulated) product. If your new (extension) cable is 3 core, you will need to clip the earth wire (green with yellow stripe) off first. Do this in such a way that the earth wire cannot come into contact with the Active and Neutral joints.
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