Are you looking to install outdoor lights? Whether you are looking to be festive by stringing up as many bright lights on the outside of our homes as humanly possible or if you need more lighting in the business parking lot, you must be wondering how many outdoor lights can you string together.
But how many lights can you really string up? Despite what movies might tell you, there is a finite number.
To get the most out of your space, you might want to daisy-chain your lights together on a single outlet. Most outlets can support 210 watts safely. Since each strand of Christmas lights is about 10 watts, you can safely string 21 strands of Christmas lights together.
A Look at the Basics
Before we get any further, let’s stop and take a look at the situation. You’ve seen Christmas Vacation for the 56th time and decide that this year you really want to make your house look like a Clark Griswold original. Of course, if you had Clipsal home automation you would not have to worry about this.
But before you can start stringing up as many lights as humanly possible, you should know how to do it safely. Remember, you want to have fun with it. What you don’t want to do is start a fire that could ultimately do major damage.
Different Light Types
There are two common types of light used for outdoor Christmas decorations: incandescent and LED lights. Incandescent tend to be a lot cheaper but they also cost a lot more to run since they use a lot more electricity.
LED take a lot less power to run, making them the far more efficient option. But they also tend to be a lot more expensive to purchase upfront. The other benefit to LED lights is that they tend to last a lot longer, so you can probably get greater use out of LED lights than incandescent.
Use a Dedicated Circuit
No matter which style of light that you choose, it is highly recommended that a dedicated circuit be used for your holiday lighting needs. That makes the math a little bit easier. Not only that, but it can save potential headaches when it comes to overloading the circuit.
Should you manage to overload the dedicated circuit, the consequences shouldn’t be much. For modern homes, the breaker will trip which then causes the power to cut off to that circuit. All you need to do is cut out a few lights and reset the breaker to get the lights back on.
How to Determine How Many Light Strings You Can Use
The aforementioned 21 strings is just a good baseline to follow but what if you want to know precisely how many you can fit onto a single outlet in your home specifically? Before you start plugging things in and tripping breakers, there are a few helpful ways to learn how many you can string together.
Determine the Maximum Load
First, start by deciding which circuit that you will be running your holiday lights from. Most homes have a circuit for outdoor use but it all depends on the way your home is configured. When you know where you are running them, go to your electrical box and make note of whether it is a 15- or 20-amp circuit.
No matter what style of lighting that you choose, it is a good rule of thumb to never exceed 80% of the circuit capacity. That is a good buffer in the event of power spikes or surges that will ultimately trip your breaker. Besides, it is possible for frequently tripping breakers to overheat wires, causing a potential fire as well.
So, if you have a 15-amp circuit, your maximum wattage is 1,440 (80% of 1,800 watts is 1,440). On a 20-amp circuit that is able to handle a max of 2,400 watts, 80% of that total would be 1,920 watts. Always give yourself that buffer room.
Know What Other Items are on That Circuit
A dedicated circuit is recommended for a reason. When you have any other household items on that circuit, it should count towards your 80%. You don’t just get to magically ignore it because it cuts into your wattage budget.
Going with a dedicated circuit has multiple benefits. For one, you don’t have to share the power distribution with anything else. For two, should the breaker trip, only the lights will go out. That means only those lights are out and no other appliances or household items.
Do Not Exceed the Maximum
You can scour the corners of the internet and find the same warning: do not exceed the 210-watt maximum. With LED lights, that really should not be an issue but it can be with incandescent lights.
You are doing more than risking frequent breaker trips. Do it enough and you could potentially heat the wires, starting a fire along the way. What started out fund can wind up being a big issue for all the wrong reasons.
A Final Tip
There are some out there who like to think of themselves as having ingenuity. Like running multiple power strips into one another. But if you have had that thought, get it out of your head right this moment because it is a bad idea.
You are doing nothing more than creating a fire hazard by running multiple power strips together. Your outlet can handle only so many watts at one time no matter how you are distributing the power. You are simply overloading the outlet in a different way. This is a serious fire hazard and should not be attempted.
What’s the Verdict?
When the holidays roll around and you feel like being the best Clark Griswold that you can be, stop and consider your circuit maximums. You should have enough freedom to get crazy with it, even more so if you have a dedicated circuit.
As long as you stay within the 80% limit on your outlets, you should have no reason for concern. Then you can use as many lights outside as you possibly can to make your house the talk of the neighborhood.