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Re: light wiring

>1-what do i look for to connect the ballasts to the bulb sockets

You need 18 awg, solid conductor wire. The important thing is that it 
should be rated for 105 C use, which is type TFFN. You will probably need 
to get this stuff from an electrical supply house or a wire and cable 
distributor. AH Supply includes it with their kits, but I don't know if 
they will sell it seperately.

>2-what do i look for to connect the ballasts to the power outlet

A plug and cord assembly. You can save some money by using a molded cord 
assembly over buying seperate cable and a plug. Such an assembly should be 
under about $5 from a surplus house, try http://www.allcorp.com. Be sure 
this is also 105 C rated wire -- usually it will be.

You want a three conductor cord with a grounded plug. The chassis of the 
light fixture (if metal) should be connected to the GREEN wire in the cord 
which is the ground (might also be green with a yellow stripe). The metal 
ballast housing should also be grounded. When making the ground connections 
you should use a tooth lockwasher so that the teeth will bite through the 
paint on the fixture/ballast and make good electrical contact with the 
metal underneath.

>3-should i skip 1 and buy waterproof end caps that are $10 a pair

Even with end caps you will probably still need the wire. There used to be 
molded endcaps with wire leads already attached, but I havn't seen those in 
years. Now everybody seems to just sell regular endcap-only endcaps. 
Personally I wonder how much value the "waterproof" part really adds. I use 
regular encaps on all of my tanks and have not had any problems with them, 
and they were a lot cheaper.

If you need to run a longish length of wire (but not too long -- there are 
limits on how far the wire should go between the ballast and the bulb, try 
to stay under 15' or so), you could try some simple zip cord. Zip cord is 
the two-conductor stuff you see cheap extension cords made with, and most 
hardware stores will have it (it is type SPT-1 or SPT-2). Most of the time 
it will be 105 C wire, but there is some 60 out there so check. The temp 
rating will be printed on the wire. If you use the stranded wire you will 
have to tin the conductors with a soldering iron in order to get them to 
stay locked into the endcaps.

>thanks for any advice, and i hope this hasn't been covered (i didn't
>find it, but my search wasn't exhaustive)...

Sounds like a new question to me :-)

BTW, word of advice: use stainless steel hardware in the hood. SS hardware 
won't make rust streaks over time in the humidity.