How To Install Christmas Lights Without Tripping Breakers

It’s that time of year again when we break out the string of lights, and hang them inside on our trees, and outside on our homes and front shrubbery. Let’s take a look at how to install Christmas lights without tripping breakers. Even if you’ve installed your Christmas lights already, you can always go back and make sure your string lights aren’t in any danger of future breaker issues. 

The good news: Most new string lights are LED, which are super efficient, and don’t use a lot of power. It’s still always good to check before you hang them just in case of a tripping breaker issue.



How To Install Christmas Lights Without Tripping Breakers

There are a handful of items to do before plugging in those bright, colorful LED lights:


Examine the package or tag/plug on cord for amperage rating

It’s always first a good idea to see what you are working with. By figuring out the amperage rating for the lights, you’ll be able to tell if you’ll have enough “juice” to plug them into a specific outlet. This will help prevent overloading the circuit that the outlet is on, which causes the breaker to trip in the first place.

You can easily determine the amperage rating on the package of the lights, or the tag/plug on the cord. If the information only gives you the wattage, you can divide that number by 120 to get the amount of amps.


Determine if anything else is on the same circuit where you want to plug your lights into

An outlet is wired to a circuit in your main electrical panel. That circuit can only hold a certain amount of amps, usually 15 or 20 amps. So, if nothing else is plugged into an outlet, and that outlet has its own circuit breaker, you can easily tell by the amperage rating of the string lights if it will max out the circuit or not. 

Sometimes it isn’t that simple because multiple outlets can be on the same circuit breaker. You check which breaker is utilizing which outlet by plugging a lamp into it, and turning off the circuit breaker at the main panel. If the lamp turns off, you’ve found the breaker it’s on. 


Calculate the amperage of what’s on the circuit breaker to make sure you have enough room for the Christmas lights

Once you’ve figured out how many outlets are on the circuit breaker, it’s time to ensure that the Christmas lights on the same circuit won’t trip or blow the circuit breaker. You can do this by adding up the wattage of all devices plugged into the outlets that are on the circuit breaker, and then taking that wattage and dividing it by 120 to get the amps. 


How It Adds Up

If you have 6 lamps on one circuit breaker, add up the wattage of all of those bulbs and divide it by 120 to get how many amps are being used on that circuit. So…

If you are using a 15 watt LED bulb in each lamp and there are 6 of them, you are using 90 watts on that circuit. Divided by 120, you are using 7.5 amps. So…

If you bought a 50ft string of 200 LED Christmas lights (Indoor/Outdoor rated) on Amazon or Home Depot, and they say only 7.5 watts, you are good to go with putting them on the same circuit. These string lights will only use 0.06 amps!

The script could flip though. What we mean by this is that your circuit could be almost maxed out, and you could be buying incandescent Christmas lights:

If you bought a 124ft string of 500 incandescent Christmas lights (using an example on Home Depot’s website), they use 120 watts. Divide that by 120, and you get 1 amp. That’s almost 16 times the amount of power that those other LED string lights use!

It all comes down to your circuit load, and the product that will determine if you will trip a breaker or not. Plain and simple.


Always Double Check…

Before assuming that your lights will be fine, it’s still always a good idea to make sure that your Christmas lights won’t trip any breakers. First and foremost, it’s for you and your family’s safety.

Tripping breakers mean that your circuits are overloaded, which can result in all types of electrical hazards.

Even if you buy energy efficient LEDs, make certain that your circuit isn’t already almost overloaded with other devices and appliances.