Before we get started, it's important that we share a disclaimer. Our products are designed for seasonal use, and as such, are not designed to be used for permanent installations. However, we know that many of our customers love to use our lights for permanent installations, or longer than what we consider to be a "season" (120 consecutive days). Our products are not protected by their warranties if they have been left up for longer than 120 days. If you're curious about the full terms of our warranty, you can read them here.
Given that so many of our customers want to use our lights for permanent installations, we thought it would be helpful to put all of our tips in one place to ensure you're installing your lights with safety in mind.
1. Don't overload your installation
First and foremost, it's best to stick to our recommended length limits for our different types of product. We break this down in more detail in our blog post about Power, Lengths, and Circuits, but here are some quick guidelines to follow:
- E17 socket wire (paired with our C9s or G30s): 250 ft max
- E12 socket wire (paired with our C7s or G20s): 250 ft max
- E26 socket wire paired with our E26 patio light bulbs (50 ft SPT-2 wire): 250 ft max
- E26 socket wire paired with our E26 patio light bulbs (330 ft HD 14AWG wire): 330 ft max
- 5mm mini-lights and C6 string lights: 45 strings per adapter (for whites and cool colours), 90 strings per adapter (for warm colours)
- Microlights: 5 strings per adapter
Please note that if you are using another brand of bulbs, this could further limit your length. If you are using incandescent bulbs or LEDs with a higher wattage, the limit will be shorter. When in doubt, use a clamp meter to measure the draw of your lights. As wire ages, it will draw more power than when it was new, so it's important to account for this as well when setting your length limit.
2. Dielectric grease is your best friend!
The addition of dielectric grease to your plugs will help to protect the electrical components in your plugs, like the copper and vampire prongs, from moisture buildup. This means there is less risk of corrosion or a spark caused by moisture. If you ever notice a melted plug on a permanent installation, it was more than likely caused by moisture!
3. Inspect your installation regularly and maintain as needed
We recommend checking over your installation at least once at the beginning of each season, with extra care in summer and winter. You can check for burnt out bulbs, signs of corrosion, or any connections that may have come loose.
If you have mini-lights installed on a live tree or shrub, you'll want to check on them regularly to ensure that the string is not strangling it! Young trees are a good one to keep an eye on, as they will grow much more dramatically in circumference than mature ones.
4. Invest in a solid anchoring or attachment solution
A solid anchor will last a lot longer than glue, zip-ties, or a plastic clip! Depending on the surface you're installing on, you'll want to invest in the best when it comes to permanent installations. Cable ties and clips work wonders in a pinch, but will require more maintenance as the plastic will degrade from UV exposure. If you're installing on a solid surface, we recommend anchor eye bolts. Do your research on what's best for the surface you're installing on, as there are different drilling techniques and attachments required for masonry and concrete.
Trounce Alley in Victoria, BC features Big Star Lights G30s supported by steel aircraft cable. This installation has been up for 9 years and counting! Photo from Tourism Victoria.
If your installation will be spanning across a large expanse, it's helpful to twin your line with sturdy and supportive guy wire. We recommend using steel aircraft cable and clutchers for a reliable, durable, and weatherproof support system.
5. Opt for SPT-2 wire
As a Canadian supplier, we don't actually sell thinner SPT-1 wire. Why? Mostly because it won't stand up as well in Canadian winters. An added bonus? Due to it's extra insulation providing better UV protection, SPT-2 wire also has better longevity in hot weather. This makes it a great choice for permanent installations!
And there you have it - those are our top 5 safety tips for installing our products permanently. As a reminder, our products are not designed to be used for permanent installation, but we know that the crowd of crafty DIYers and professional installers who use our lights will do what they want once they've set their mind to it!