Whether you are setting up lights for the holidays or installing permanent patio light strings in your backyard, protecting your outdoor light strings should be your top priority. Protecting outdoor light strings focused on making sure your lights are outdoor rated and how to keep connections safe. Now we’ll discuss how to keep from overloading your strings and circuits, as well as protecting wires from damage.
Stay Under the Maximum Wattage and Connections
In order to keep from shorting out your string or blowing a circuit in your house, you need to stay under the maximum wattage or number of connections the light string can handle. Maximum wattage is the total wattage an individual string can handle. When connecting more than one string, the maximum run is the total wattage multiple strings can handle. Max connection is the total number of light strings that can be safely connected together. When calculating maximum runs from the bulb wattage, the best rule of thumb is to use no more than 80% of the possible wattage. If you need to reduce the wattage on patio lights and commercial spools,use LED bulbs.
Avoid Overloading Your Circuits
Drawing too much wattage through a circuit can lead to tripped breakers, shorts, and even electrical fires. Most homes have either 15 or 20-amp circuits. 15-amp circuits can handle no more than 1800 Watts, and no more than 2400 Watts can be used on a 20-amp circuit. As with light strings, you should try to stay under 80% of those amounts. Before plugging in your lights, check to see if your outdoor outlets are on a shared circuit or have their own dedicated circuits. Try to spread the light strings out between circuits as much as possible to help reduce the load.
Avoid Overloading Extension Cords
Did you know that extension cords can become overloaded as well? All extension cords have a maximum amperage rating listed on the packaging. Exceeding that can cause the cord to overheat and potentially become a fire hazard. Find the amps of your lights by dividing the total wattage of the strings by 110 (Amps = Watts/110). Once you have the amps, the length and wire gauge needed for the extension cord can be determined. Be sure to get a cord in the length you need while avoiding a lot of excess. The current loses voltage the farther it has to travel down the cord. To negate voltage drop in longer cords, choose one with a larger gauge. For example, a 100 foot 16-gauge 2 wire cord (16/2 or 16 AWG /2) can handle 10 amps while a larger 10-gauge 3 wire cord (10/3 or 10 AWG /3) of the same length can handle 15 amps.