Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dolls' house lighting with round wire - Part One - power strips and transformers

Everyone who wants to know more about lighting, check out this Greenleaf article on Lighting your Dollhouse.  It really is very helpful!  I just wanted to give that link before I launched into my own (certainly less useful) explanation,  However,  I know that sometimes hearing the same stuff described in a slightly different way helps me make connections, so I'll give it a shot in the hope that it's helpful for someone else :)

I'm only going to deal with round wire because it was recommended to me at the beginning as the easiest, most durable and simplest to trouble shoot of the two wiring systems,  so it's all I know.  It's also best for front opening dolls houses.  The other commercially available system is tape wiring. (It's possible to use a hybrid of both methods, but I'm going to stick with what I know!)  (Small World Builders has a great tutorial on choosing a lighting system).

1. For any project, you need to buy a 12 volt power strip / socket board and a 12 volt transformer that will connect with and convert whatever AC power source is used in your country. 

Power strip:  The power strips are all pretty much alike, and they attach to the transformer with the sort of connectors shown in the first photo below.  They have sockets into which you plug your lights, and a fuse to help protect everything.

A typical power strip showing the connectors you'll screw to the transformer, plus a spare fuse.
My powerstrip for the WAHM

Transformers:  If you buy the transformer from eBay, make sure the transformer you buy has the right kind of plug for outlets in your country. A North American transformer won't do you much good if you live in the UK, for example.  A dolls house company in your country should be able to help you get the right one.

This is the big 40W transformer for the WAHM.  You can see the connectors from the
power board screwed into place at the end of it.

The 12 V transformers come in various wattages, which determine how many 12 V bulbs they can power.  (NB: The following list is simplified, because the bi-pin bulbs generally draw less current than the screw in ones, but this is a good, conservative rule of thumb):

A 5 Watt transformer will power up to 10  bulbs.
A 10 W transformer will power up to 16  bulbs.
A 20 W transformer will power up to  33  bulbs.
A 40 W transformer will power up to  64  bulbs.

Remember -- that's bulbs, not light fixtures!  So if you're hanging chandeliers, remember to count the bulbs!

I bought a pretty large transformer (40W) for the WAMH, because I'm using a lot of chandeliers, and want to have lots of power for them.  I've already got 16 bulbs on the ground floor, and I'm just getting started!

(For much more detail about transformers, what they do and how to choose one, see the article on transformers).

More on lighting to come!


  1. Thank you so much Nina. That was good information and maybe much more clear than the wordy information given in directions by some companies.

  2. Thank you so much, I have used tape wire in 3 houses and always had trouble with loosing connections over time. I am redoing my current house and will be sure to use round wire. For years several sources have led me to believe round wire was old fashion, looks easier to me from your post.

    Victoria :)

  3. Hi Nina! The part I have the hardest time with is figuring out where to "hide" the power strip! I know they make decorative fake battery box things.... but I don't like to put it underneath the house where it is hard to reach! I'm sure there are ingenious ways I have not thought of to make it accessible and hidden!
    PS - I hope you are safe in the coming storm! I am watching Earl - he's going just East of us here in Mass. He's going to go right over my Dad's place.... they are staying put! Be Well!

    1. Go VERTICAL on exterior of house/room for placement of 3-sided box attached by velcro or velcro & hinge system up the vertical side of wall. This could be included as a fireplace on interior with the 3-sided box being the brick/stone/stucco vertical exterior chimney. Or use a built in interior bump in box that is built into the wall inside and have a removable panel of the house/room exterior if you don't want a seen box or chimney.

  4. The electrical systems must use power transformers or distribution transformers to reduce the high voltage electricity into lower voltage systems that can be used by the end-users: consumers. These converters or distribution transformers and power transformers step down high voltage to lower voltage systems.


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