Planning Holiday Lighting

Whether you’re lighting a single tree or going full Griswold, it’s a good idea to plan ahead to be sure you have the equipment and electrical service you need. Do it now and you won’t be trying to string lights in sub-zero cold and wondering why your breakers keep tripping.

Look at Your Load

Holiday lights add to the load on your household current. Take a moment to add up the wattage of ornamental lights and other decorations you’ll be using to be sure they don’t overload your circuits. It’s a simple calculation—add up the wattage total and divide it by 120, the voltage of your household service. That gives you the number of amperes (amps) you’ll need to power the decorations. Chances are the number will be small if you’re just adding a few strands of lights or a wreath or two, especially if you’re using newer energy-efficient LED lights.

Then determine the capacity of the circuit you’ll be plugging into. Most household branch circuits are either 15 or 20 amps. You can tell by the number stamped on the circuit breaker (or fuse) that protects the circuit.

Unless you’re adding more than a few amps to the load, you should be fine, but don’t forget that there are probably other outlets on that circuit. If you have power-hungry appliances or tools on it, you may need to use a different circuit.

Use the Right Outlets and Cords

Electricity and water don’t mix. Lights and cords should be UL-approved for outdoor use and plugged into GFCI-protected outdoor outlets. If you use extension cords, know that long cords add resistance to a circuit, so be sure the cord you use is rated for the load you’re putting on it. Lightweight household cords should be avoided. They’re easy to damage and aren’t designed for outdoor use.

Use only proper GFCI-protected outdoor outlets; running cords through windows or doors is dangerous. A damaged cord can electrify a metal window or door, plus it breaks your weather seal, adding to your heating bill.

Work Safely

It gets dark early, so if you’re working late, be sure your area is well-lighted to avoid accidents. Better yet, put the work off until daytime. You can see better and it’s warmer.

Ladders are one of the most common sources of household accidents. Make sure your ladder is stable and don’t overreach. Moving a ladder beats calling an ambulance. Metal ladders are also great conductors of electricity. Avoid damp or wet areas, be careful with live cords, and pay attention to overhead lines.

Use approved clips and hangers, not staples that damage cords and cause short circuits.

If you’re not comfortable doing the work yourself, there are companies that will do it for you. Many even offer design services for your outdoor display.

Now’s the Time to Add Power

If you don’t have the outdoor power you need, or if your outlets are outdated, a licensed electrician can add outlets, circuits or any other services you may need. This is a job that should be left to the pros who have the knowledge and equipment to do the job right.


A little forethought and safe work habits are the key to hassle-free holiday decorating. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you.

Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 for more information or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.

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