Tree Connectors Wiring

Now for the tricky part. 

Hang your bottles with the light strands inside. I closed the top of each bottle with a cork, to help provide strain relief to the wires. Use the leather thong to tie the bottle securely to your support structure. Let the thong take the weight of the bottle, so it's not hanging by the wires, which could pull out or break.

Don't worry yet about wiring or power or anything, just put the bottles where you want them to go. Move them around until they are just right. 

Thread the wires from the bottle up and around the thong so the connectors are hidden up above your structure.

Once you're happy with the placement, sketch out a diagram for data flow. Remember, long wire runs between bottles will degrade your signal, so figure out the most efficient way to get from bottle to bottle without a whole bunch of wire showing.

For extra-long wire runs, where the bottles are spaced far apart, you'll need to add a NeoPixel or bit of NeoPixel strip as a "repeater." Otherwise, your more complex animations may flicker and fail.

Here is a diagram of my data flow. All the wiring is hidden behind branches except the run between bottle #7 and bottle #8, which I hid behind some leaves instead.

Next, sketch out a diagram of your power flow. I connected each bottle to power directly instead of following the data flow, in order to avoid brown-outs near the end of the strip. If you have just a few bottles with only a few lights, this may not be necessary -- you could just run ribbon cable between each bottle. But I've got around 200 LEDs in total so wanted to be sure everything was adequately powered, even for bright-white "lightning flash" animations.

This graphic shows my power and ground wires. Most bottles connect directly to power (or a power splitter). A few of the further out ones are chained from other bottles, but I don't have more than two bottles in any chain.

The other thing to note is the ground wire connection in the upper right corner. With the power flowing along different branches, I was getting a pretty serious flicker in the bottles all the way to the right. Adding a ground wire connection between the two furthest bottles got rid of the flicker.

Connecting Wires

It's easiest to test the system if you build all the connections for each bottle before moving on to the next bottle, rather than doing the whole power system and then the whole data system. 

Power Connector Wires

Start at the wall with your power supply and work outwards from there.

I cut off the jack on my power supply, and soldered on a female connector. The red (power) wire in the power supply connects to the white wire on the connector (or if yours aren't color coded, the one on the left, as you look at the splitter from the top). 

Power will ALWAYS be on the left for a female connector, or on the right (still the white wire) for a male connector. Write this down somewhere, or maybe tattoo it on your forehead. Get one single connector wrong and the whole system will short out.

In order to connect to the splitter, you need a male connector. Your bottles are expecting a female connector (remember, you used a male for the two power wires for every bottle, right?). So, all extension wires for your power system will go from male on one end to female on the other. 

Adafruit sells pre-made extension cables that are 1m long with a male-to-female connector! So if your bottles are 1 meter (or less) apart, you can save yourself some work by ordering a bunch of these. You could also chain them together for longer power runs. Or, you can be an overachiever like me and solder up your own cables that are the perfect length, to make wire-hiding easier later on.

Don't forget that you'll need power to your NeoPixel repeaters as well.

Data Connector Wires

I am using a male connector on the Circuit Playground's A1 pin, so my extension wire will need a female connector. The white wire on the connector will always be data IN, and the black will always be data OUT, to match up with the connectors we soldered to the bottles. 

OUT from one bottle becomes IN to the next bottle in the series, and so forth and so on. 

The bottles' data lines are soldered to a female connector, so they are expecting a male. So the first extension wire will be female to male.

Every other extension wire for data will be male to male, with the data flowing IN one connector wire and OUT the other. Adafruit doesn't sell male to male extension cables so you'll need to solder up your own.

If you're finding all this complicated, well, I warned you. 

Putting it All Together

Work in sequence:

  1. Wall power to splitter
  2. Power to Circuit Playground
  3. Data & Power to bottle #1
  4. Data & Power to bottle #2
  5. Data & Power to repeater (if needed)
  6. Data & Power to bottle #3
  7. Etc, until all bottles are finished

Order more connectors than you think you need! And have plenty of wire and wire connectors on hand. 

This guide was first published on Feb 08, 2020. It was last updated on Feb 08, 2020. This page (Tree Connectors Wiring) was last updated on Feb 08, 2020.