In just another month or so, it will be that time of year again: time to put up Christmas lights. The ritual of putting Christmas lights on our homes may be the world’s largest collective experience with electrical danger. In an effort to outdo our neighbors and overzealous Christmas light hangers down the streets, we put our breakers to the test by attempting to string up as many lights in the most convenient way possible. This sometimes means plugging string after string of lights into a single socket so that we only have to switch one switch. Is this safe? Rather than risking a home fire, or having to make an extra call to your electrician in Santa Monica, take a few extra precautions and wire your Christmas lights the smart way.
If you live in a newer home, there is very little chance that you will actually overload your entire system with holiday lights. How many lights, however, should you plug into a particular circuit? Your circuit breakers are designed to trip whenever the circuit breaker becomes overloaded, overheated or if there is a short from a damaged wire somewhere.
Determining Circuit Capacity
The solution to this is determining how much can be plugged into a single circuit. Find the circuit that serves your outdoor electrical outlet and look at the number on one end of the breaker switch. It is normally 15 or 20 (amps). You can then multiply this number by 120 (volts) in order to find the total amount of watts that the circuit can handle. You then multiply that number by 0.8 to find the total amount of wattage that is safe for that circuit.
You can then check the wattage on each string of lights and add them up to make sure that you are not overloading that particular circuit. While this may seem to take extra time, it can actually be a fairly quick process once you get started, especially if you are using the same type of light strings. For additional assistance, or electrical advice, call us at H Electric. You can find all of our contact information and resources on other electrical topics at www.electriciansantamonica.org.