Solder Pots

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by PlantscapeSolutions, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. PlantscapeSolutions

    PlantscapeSolutions LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,012

    Has anyone else used a Cast solder pot or made their own solder pot setup. I've been using my solder pot for years on my 10 gauge main line splices. If you solder your will pretty much get a zero drop in voltage versus all these guys that use wire nuts. Wire nuts are bad about corroding over time and shorting out. Once you solder a splice the wire nut has something solid to bite onto and it will pretty much last forever.

    I also loop all my lights to insure even voltage. There are way to many companies running lights above 12 volts close to the transformer and below 10 volts at the end of the line.
  2. Classic Lighting

    Classic Lighting LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 512

    I have used solder pots in the past. Solder makes a great connection. I switched this year to barrel lugs with lithium greased caps due to the simplicity. IMO, solder is a pain because it has to be kept constantly hot. Also, in the event of adding an additional wire, the entire connection has to be cut, re stripped, soldered, then capped. With barrell lugs, simply loosen the lug, add wire, tighten lug, cap. Just easier IMO.
  3. PlantscapeSolutions

    PlantscapeSolutions LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,012

    Here is a picture of my setup. The solder pot was about $195 on The tray is from a tool box I had. You can buy solder in sticks. The flux I just buy at Fry's Electronics. I just use a soda can with water to cool the connections after I solder them.

    If you have a 100' cord on a reel you can easily move the solder pot around the jobsite. I use Kichler Quick Connect Discs for the lights and the solder on any main line splices. I've offered to do the solder for lighting connections as well as a $20 per connection upgrade. I've never used Garden Light but they also use a version of the connecting disc.

    I find that all types of connections are inferior to soldering. Soldered connection show no measurable resistance while all other connections do cause resistance. I've found many over loaded systems installed by others where the connections were barrel lugs or wire nuts and the splices over heated and melted.

    If you solder and run a loop you can run more lights and have better voltage consistency. Unfortunately, with many companies it about cutting corners and landing the job. The norm tends to straight runs of skimpy 12 gauge wire that is spliced twenty times. The voltage drops twenty times as a result and the voltage is often in the 14 volt to less than 9 volt range.

    I'd like to see Kichler come out with an improved disc that was better quality and possibly had a gasket with a corrosion proof gel in it. I like the discs because it's easy to reconfigure the lights if you need to.


  4. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    I have to disagree with you on the voltage drop thing. I use thousands of wire nuts per year and have tried a few other systems, and I have not seen voltage drop issues when using wire nuts. I am open to testing your theory. I think I will take a 50 foot or so section of 12 guage wire and put a load on it, and just cut it and wire nut it a few times to see if the voltage drops. I may be surprised, but I am guessing even 10 sets of wire nuts won't drop a tenth.

    and the wire failure thing. over the last 15 years doing lasndacpe lighting, I have not ever had one of my grease wire nuts fail by way of moisture intrusion, but I admit they will fail when pulled out by tension. also, over the past 20 years of repairing and installing irrigation, I have yet to find a grease nut that was properly tightened in a valve box that has failed either. those I often find submerged in water for years.

    finally, I think I am not alone in thinking that if loaded properly, 12 guage wire has a place in landscape lighting. I would not call it skimpy, as most folks use either 10 or 12, and many use 16 guage for lead extensions. If you get your fixture voltage from 10.8 to 11.6, i am fine with 12 or 10 all day long. I have not used 8 guage wire on install in several years.

    are you doing solder and grease nuts? or just solder then a wire nut?
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  5. PlantscapeSolutions

    PlantscapeSolutions LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,012

    Wire nuts work great for irrigation work because you get a a solid bite on the solid core wire. It is very difficult to pull a wire nut off properly solid core wire when properly installed. I don't care how well someone think's they have installed a wire on stranded wire just a gentle tug on the wire and your connection is compromised.

    This often creates a short that can heat up and be a fire hazard. I used to use wire nuts and I would tape them up or you could even tie the main line in a knot to take the stress of the spliced area. But it never failed we'd be working in the flower beds later on doing mulching or other work in the area and nuts would come loose. The other problem is a little movement would cause a little water or even air to enter the wire nut and cause corrosion or just simple oxidation of the copper which would cause resistance.

    I usually just 10 gauge everything by default and loop the wire from the transformer to all the lights and then back to the transformer. I look forward to doing some LED jobs where I can crank up a single run of 10 gauge main line to 15 volts or so and all the LED's will self adjust to the proper voltage.
  6. emby

    emby LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 380

    I too solder 90 percent of my connections. I also use silicone filled wire nuts with electrical tape over the connection on top of that.
    I use barrel connectors with water proof heat shrink for discreet connections such as wiring a pergola or in trees. Basically any spot that I cannot get the solder pot, I use the barrel connectors.
    My solder kit is the Cast kit and I have zero complaints with it.

  7. Viewpoint

    Viewpoint LawnSite Member
    Messages: 80

    I solder every new connection as well, but I've never used a solder pot. I can't imagine the hassle of lugging around that kit through someone's yard on the end of a cord tinning 30+ splices.

    I use a 1 lb spool of 16GA flux-core solder and a small butane torch. The torch and spool fit in the bag, and most connections on clean (new) wire don't need any additional flux. There are no cords, and the torch gets the connection hot enough to suck up solder in a few seconds.

    Soldering the connections is time consuming as is, but a solder pot seems even more cumbersome. Am I missing something?

    -Andy Thomas
  8. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    So are all you guys who are using flux (acid) on your connections and then dipping into melted solder ( not burning the flux off with heat) not concerned about what the acid will do to the copper strands over time?

    Thousands upon thousands "grease" filled wire nuts used over the past 12 years and have never had an issue. Like all things they must be installed correctly. I still find clean bare copper when I cut open connections dating back to 1998. Do it right and there are no issues.

    That being said, I do think that the Lighting Shrink product is superior, as is the ACE (but a PITA to deal with on every connection)

    There will never be an end to this debate, and that is fine. Bottom line is that we all need to ensure that our connections are strong and waterproof. Solder, Tubes, Crimps, Nuts, Barrels, .... to each their own.
  9. elegance_alex

    elegance_alex LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    We solder and cap with moisture proof wire nut.
  10. Classic Lighting

    Classic Lighting LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 512

    A solid connection can be made with or without solder. It's a matter of quality workmanship, not material utilized.

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