If You Are Making Your List And Checking It Twice, Don't Forget To Call Your Electrician

The holidays are quickly approaching. It has been estimated that approximately 86% of people will put up some type of holiday decorations. If you are one of these people, stringing your holiday lights is just the beginning. Once you have everything where it suppose to be, you have to ensure that you have the correct electrical infrastructure to safely get them up and running. If you are trying to keep up with the Griswolds, or simply want to a nice display of outside lights, your local electrician can help you to get it done.

What Makes Up Your Electrical Infrastructure?

Your electrical infrastructure is all of the components that allow electricity to come into, and run throughout your home. This infrastructure can be broken down into two basic types. These are:

  • Permanent - which includes your breakers, fuses, and outlets
  • Temporary - which includes drop cords, power strips, timers, and anything else you add to your electrical system for a short period of time.

During the holidays, most homeowners add a considerable number of temporary components to their electrical infrastructure. This is in addition to the other users, such as porch and driveway lights that may already be on that particular circuit.

Adding additional components does not present a problem until the amount of power your components need exceeds the amount of power your breakers can provide. When this happens, you run the risk of overloading your breaker, which will cause your breaker to trip, and create a potential fire hazard.

How Much Power Do You Need?

To determine how much power you will be able to place on one circuit for your holiday display, you will need to calculate the number of watts your circuit can hold. To calculate this, there are several things you need to know.

Volts = Is the amount of pressure under which your electricity moves throughout your home. Most household outlets carry between 110 and 120 volts. If you are in doubt about how many volts your outlets will carry, remove the face plate and the voltage should be printed on the socket you will see within.

Amps = Is the number of electrons of voltage that passes a particular spot in one second. Most circuits and circuit breakers have a capacity of 15 amps. It is recommended you do not exceed 80% of their capacity to keep from overloading your breakers. 

Watts = Is the amount of electrical power a device, or your Christmas lights need to make them work.

To calculate the amount of wattage your circuit will hold, you will use the following formula (Amps x Volts = Watts). So your 15 amp household circuit would be able to handle 1800 watts (15 amps x 120 volts = 1800 watts). When you multiply this by the recommended 80%, the amount of suggested wattage used on that circuit would be 1800 watts x .80, or 1440 watts.

If you want to determine how many amps you are using, your formula will look like (Watts/Volts = Amps). 

How Many Christmas Lights Can Your Breakers Hold?

Each string of your Christmas lights should be clearly labeled as to how many watts they require. The size of your lights, the type of your lights, as well as the number of lights on the strings will dictate the amount of wattage your lights require. 

For example

  • 50 Incandescent mini lights = 20.4 watts
  • 100 Incandescent mini lights = 40.8 watts
  • 25 Incandescent C9 Stringer sets = 175 watts
  • 25 LED C9 Stringer sets = 2.2 watts
  • 70 LED Mini lights = 4.83 watts

In addition to this number you must also take into consideration the required wattage of the cords they are connected to, as well as anything else plugged into other outlets on the circuit. Using the formula above, you should be able to determine the number of lights you can string together by calculating the total number of watts while still staying under the 1440 watts suggested on one circuit. Remember, the lower wattage bulbs you use, the more lights you can have. Distribute your lights to various outlets that are not on the same circuit.

If you want to put up more lights than your system will hold, call your local electrician, like those at http://attaboyservices.com/, to install additional breakers, or temporary service panels to handle the load. While they are there, have them to inspect your holiday wiring to ensure everything is properly grounded. This will reduce the risks of your display shorting out during the holidays or becoming a fire risk.