Christmas Light Power Systems
It’s September and, while most of us don’t want to think about the approach of the holidays until after Thanksgiving (Halloween is soon after all), there are a few things that require more planning you won’t be able to do at the last minute. Specifically, your lights. Around the nation, countless homes are already beginning work unpacking, testing, and laying out their designs for the coming holiday season. Even beyond the time it takes to test each string of lights, there’s one thing you should be working on right now: power.
Why Start Now?
Surprise! With enough lights, you won’t be able to just plug-n-play. Many people decide in mid-November that they’re going to suddenly outdo their neighbors on lights. They’ll buy thousands of bulbs, plug them in, and trip every breaker in their home. Or suffer from damaged bulbs and a few possible overload fires.
Trying to run a complicated set of holiday lights off the outlets inside and outside your home is usually an expensive effort. Beyond the purchase of lights and the nightly power cost, installing new electrical circuits to handle that load can be prohibitive. You need to take the time to plan out not just where you want lights, but how you want them connected. Once you know that, then you can start working on having outdoor circuits upgraded or installed to handle the new seasonal load. That installation takes time and is exactly why you want to start designing and building your holiday light setup now!
Designing a Holiday Power System
So now that we’re in agreement that the time to lay groundwork is now, let’s take a quick look at how to begin.
Step One: Plan out where you want to run lights. You need to know where you’re going to place lights. How long is each light string going to be? What kind of lights are you using? Are you using light nets, fairy lights, or icicle lights? Get a floor plan of your home and yard and draw out where lights will be going. You need to know where to place outlets, junction boxes, and power drops.
Step Two: How much power are you going to need? This will take some time, but you need to account for how much current each node on your system is drawing. Power nodes consist of whichever lights are plugged into the same outlet. Look at the lights on each string, total the power used by each bulb and divide by the voltage to calculate current. For most homes, the voltage is roughly 120 volts. This will give you the current draw taken by each outlet. If the total current exceeds what your breaker can handle, then the lighting system won’t work so you’ll need to reorganize or upgrade your electrical system.
Step Three: Hire someone to help install your power system. These systems can be dangerous and incredibly complicated depending on how advanced your setup is. They need to be protected from yard tools, defended against children and pets, must be weatherproof, and still have to function correctly. Your best choice is to hire a professional.
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