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How to Prevent Christmas Lights from Tripping the Circuit Breaker

Residential Electrical Services Grand Rapids MI

If you love stringing Christmas lights all over your house and lawn, you’re not alone. Stringing Christmas lights is a holiday tradition that ushers in the Christmas spirit and occasionally trips the circuit breaker. To stay safe this holiday season, you’ll want to follow our tips for how to avoid blowing a fuseor tripping a circuit breakerbecause ofyour Christmas light display.

For more information on why circuit breakers trip, our East Grand Rapids electricians at Flat River Electric are here to help!

How to safely run Christmas lights

Why Does the Power Go Out When I Trip the Circuit Breaker?

Many homeowners are confused when they throw the switch for their elaborate Christmas light displays only to plunge their entire home into darkness. To understand why Christmas lights trip the circuit breaker, you’ll need to understand how circuit breakers work.

The circuit breaker is designed to protect circuits from being overloaded with too much electricity and starting fires. When you demand more electricity from a circuit than what is considered safe, the circuit breaker trips and automatically shuts off the power for your home. While this may seem like an inconvenience, the circuit breaker serves an important purpose by preventing electrical fires.

Prevent tripping breaker over holidays
When the breaker trips, it’s also not a major setback in your holiday fun. Generally, it just requires you to rearrange your plugs, move a few things around, and flip all the necessary switches in your fuse box. If you need help locating your home’s fuse box, our best tip is to look for the grey control panel on the wall. It’s usually about two feet by one foot and often found in the basement somewhere near your hot water heater or furnace.

Find a Different Outlet

Often times people plug too many things into one wall, which generally runs in a series. If you have ten appliances in your kitchen plugged in and turned on, you’ll probably trip the circuit. The same goes for your Christmas lights.

Just because you have all your lights plugged into a surge protector it doesn’t mean your home is immune to tripping the breaker. You’ll need to distribute the power draw across a variety of panels. Think about it as you might think about a raft’s buoyancy. If too much weight is on one side of a raft, it’ll top over. The same is true if you have too much power being drawn from one section of your home. Distribute it to keep your holiday cheer afloat!

Utilize Outdoor Christmas Lights

Pay attention to what type of Christmas lights you pick when you’re in the store. Some of the Christmas lights will be marked for interior use, while others offer outdoor usage.

Prevent xmas lights from tripper breaker.

Some of this has to do with the luminosity level each light offers. For interiors, people often like something softer to create a more welcoming aesthetic, where outside a brighter light shines well when contrasted against the dark night. Indoor Christmas lights are often not designed to resist the elements either and may cause the circuit breaker to trip.

Use Outdoor Extension Cords

Did you know that there is a difference between indoor and outdoor extension cords?

Michigan weather can be brutal, which is why you’ll need to buy outdoor extension cords that will be able to withstand rain, snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures. Indoor extension cords are not recommended for outdoor Christmas light displays and should be kept inside. Failing to adhere to an extension cords usage capabilities could result in a blown fuse, tripped circuit, or even an electrical fire!

If you do blow a fuse, please contact a professional electrician as special safety equipment is required to change it!
How not to trip a break with holiday lights

Attach No More Than 3 Strings End-to-End

You’ll need to check the instructions that came with your Christmas lights to determine how many strings you can safely attach end-to-end. In general, our residential electricians recommend not attaching more than three strings end-to-end.

Each strand of lights will have a maximum connectivity rating. These ratings will also be based on the optimal wattage output printed on the box, and on the type of light you use. LEDs have become far more popular than traditional lights because they require a lot less power while offering a lot more light. There are Christmas light wattage calculations that can assist with your lighting needs depending on all these factors.

Use Outdoor Power Outlet Stakes

If you have ambitious plans for your Christmas light display this year, you may want to pick up some outdoor outlet stakes. These power stakes are similar to surge protectors in that they offer a multitude of outlets with some overload protection options.

Today, most power outlet stakes are waterproof and also have timers so you can program your lights. This is a really popular option for people who want the lights to come on at a specific time, like when the sun sets. Because of the water protective nature of the outlets, you won’t have to worry about tripping the breaker like you would with traditional methods.

If you’re looking to set up a synchronized Christmas light display, then a synchronized system will be another addition to your power output that you’ll want to watch. Still, outdoor stakes will help! Because most light displays require LEDs too, things aren’t as ludicrous as one might think (unless your project scale is something requiring thousands upon thousands of lights!) Everything just requires proper planning, placement, and of course…the right song!
Prevent Christmas lights from tripping your breaker

Still Tripping the Breaker?

If you are still tripping the circuit breaker after following our tips, we recommend contacting one of our licensed electrical contractors online or by phone at (616) 987-0978. Overloaded circuits are one of the most common reasons for circuit breakers tripping, but not the only reason. If something is giving you a hard time, we’ll be sure to help set it straight. Our East Grand Rapids electricians at Flat River Electric want you to be safe this holiday season! For more electrical tips and tricks, check out our blog page where we have tons of content!

[This blog post has been updated.]