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As professional Christmas light installers, we often find ourselves working on large-scale commercial projects, like the one we’re currently tackling for a Hallmark movie set. These projects present unique challenges that require specialized knowledge and tools to overcome. One of the primary concerns when dealing with commercial lighting setups is the immense power demand required to power thousands of incandescent lights.

The Importance of Measuring Amperage

Incandescent lights, while visually appealing, are known to draw significantly more power than their LED counterparts. In a typical residential setting, this may not pose a significant issue, as the electrical system is designed to handle the relatively modest power requirements of a home. However, in a commercial setting like the one we’re working on, the sheer volume of lights can quickly overwhelm a circuit, leading to potential circuit breaker trips or, even worse, fire hazards.

To mitigate these risks, we rely on a crucial tool: the amp meter. By using an amp meter, we can accurately measure the amount of current being drawn by each section of the lighting setup, allowing us to make informed decisions about how to distribute the load and avoid overloading the circuits.

Measuring and Monitoring Amperage

In the video, you can see us using an amp meter to measure the current being drawn by the curtain lights we’ve set up around the skating rink. As we plug in the meter, it immediately displays the amperage being pulled, which in this case is a staggering 10.34 amps.

This information is invaluable, as it allows us to determine the appropriate course of action. We know that we don’t want to exceed 12 or 13 amps on a single circuit, as that could potentially overload the system and cause a dangerous situation. By monitoring the amperage, we can make informed decisions about how to distribute the lighting load, whether that means adding additional circuits or finding ways to reduce the overall power consumption.

Adapting to Commercial Lighting Setups

One of the key differences between residential and commercial lighting setups is the sheer scale and complexity involved. In a typical home, you might have a few strings of lights, each drawing a relatively modest amount of power. On a movie set, however, we’re dealing with tens of thousands of lights, all of which need to be carefully managed to ensure the safety and reliability of the electrical system.

This is where the expertise of professional installers like ourselves comes into play. We understand the nuances of commercial lighting setups, the importance of proper circuit management, and the critical role that tools like the amp meter play in ensuring a successful installation.

Lessons for Homeowners

While the scale and complexity of a commercial lighting project may seem daunting, there are still valuable lessons that homeowners can take away from our experience. Even in a residential setting, it’s important to be mindful of the power demands of your Christmas lights and to take steps to prevent overloading your electrical system.

One of the key takeaways is the importance of using LED lights whenever possible. LEDs are significantly more energy-efficient than their incandescent counterparts, which means they draw less current and are less likely to cause issues with your home’s electrical system. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to have an amp meter on hand, even if you’re not dealing with a commercial-scale project, as it can help you identify potential problems before they become serious.


As professional Christmas light installers, we’ve learned that navigating the complexities of commercial lighting setups requires a deep understanding of electrical systems, a keen eye for detail, and the right tools for the job. By using an amp meter to carefully monitor and manage the power demands of our lighting setup, we’re able to ensure the safety and reliability of the electrical system, even in the most challenging of environments.

Whether you’re a homeowner looking to decorate your house or a commercial client in need of large-scale lighting solutions, the lessons we’ve learned from this experience can be applied to help you achieve your goals while maintaining the highest standards of safety and efficiency.


Why is it important to use an amp meter when installing Christmas lights?

Using an amp meter is crucial when installing Christmas lights, especially in commercial or large-scale settings, to prevent overloading the electrical system and potential fire hazards. The amp meter allows you to accurately measure the current being drawn by the lights and ensure you don’t exceed the safe limits of the circuits.

What are the main differences between residential and commercial Christmas light installations?

The primary differences are the scale and complexity of the lighting setup. Commercial projects, like the one for a Hallmark movie set, often involve tens of thousands of lights, which can quickly overwhelm a residential electrical system. Proper circuit management, load distribution, and the use of specialized tools like an amp meter are essential in commercial settings.

Why are incandescent lights preferred over LEDs in some commercial settings?

In the case of the Hallmark movie set, the production team specifically requested the use of incandescent lights because they provide a more desirable visual effect for the high-end video equipment used. While LEDs are generally more energy-efficient, they can sometimes cause issues with flicker or other visual artifacts that are unacceptable for professional-grade video production.

How can homeowners apply the lessons from commercial lighting installations to their own Christmas light projects?

Even in a residential setting, it’s important to be mindful of the power demands of your Christmas lights and take steps to prevent overloading your electrical system. Using LED lights whenever possible, having an amp meter on hand to monitor current draw, and carefully distributing the lighting load across multiple circuits are all valuable lessons that can be applied to home Christmas light installations.

What other tools or techniques do professional Christmas light installers use to ensure a successful and safe installation?

In addition to the amp meter, professional installers often rely on a variety of other tools and techniques, such as voltage testers, circuit breaker finders, and specialized lighting products designed for easy and efficient installation. They also prioritize safety measures, such as proper grounding, the use of weatherproof connectors, and the implementation of redundant safety systems.

Mastering Christmas Light Installation: Avoiding Electrical Pitfalls with an Amp Meter

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