Like most who read this site, I absolutely love DIY projects — when somehow I can find the time. With three (going on four) kids and a full-time job, I have much less of that than I used to. So, when a quick and easy project emerges I jump at the chance.
This is even more true when I can get my children involved. I’m happy to say that connecting string lights up to a switch fits the bill completely. At the very least they can help Dad test the switches!
Wiring lighting to a switch is relatively simple, which is important because this is one of the most common DIY projects amateurs will take on. It’s even one of the few electrical projects that are relatively safe for non-professionals to do at home.
That said, it’s still incredibly important to make sure you’re doing everything right and that the connections inside the light switch are safe. The process is similar for string lights and a light fixture, so once you learn to do one you can probably do the other.
Also called hardwiring, this process helps eliminate unnecessary plugs and keeps your outlets free for other uses. However, depending on the situation you may be working with a light switch, junction box, and some of the existing wiring of your home.
Here’s what you need to know, whether you’re working with string lights, LED lights, or a light fixture.
First things first — safety should always be your primary consideration when you’re working with electrical wiring. You don’t ever want to try to hardwire lighting or any other fixtures while the wires are hot.
Before you start, do the following:
- Ensure you’ve turned the power off at the junction box.
- Wear gloves and eye protection, even if the cables are powerless.
- If you see non-standard wiring or ever get uncomfortable, contact an expert.
Electricity is dangerous and you should use your best discretion when working with it.
Determine Your Power Source
This process is important for safety reasons, though it’s not always foolproof. The light switch you want to wire to is going to be connected to a specific power source in your home, a set of wiring that powers certain sections of your home.
But there may be junction boxes or a switch box between the original power source and your light switch. You want to make sure you know what all of those are, and that all the power connections are off before you get started.
Usually, you can find the power source by turning off a circuit in your home one at a time until the power at the switch turns off. It’s easier to test this while the old fixture is still attached, but you can also use a multimeter to measure the current in the wires if you don’t already have a fixture installed.
Does A Wall Switch Control The Outlet?
This is an important question because if you already have a wall switch controlling the outlet then you’ve got one way of making sure the wires are powered down.
However, if you want to install a fixture into the same switch you may want to add a switch, or change the wiring so that the switch only controls one thing at a time.
Two Options to Connect String Lights to a Switch
There are primarily two ways to hard-wire string lights or LED lights to a switch. Both are equally viable, but one is definitely easier than the other.
Use A Plug-In Adapter
Generally, a plug-in adapter will be the easiest way to connect string lights to a switch. Mount these standalone power cords on a wall and you have an instant switch with no rewiring necessary. Simply connect the adapter to an outlet and your string lights to an adapter and enjoy your lights.
I’ve used this extension cord with a switch before on a separate project — it works well and can be mounted to a wall using a sufficient amount of clear tape.
Rewiring The String Lights
Naturally, rewiring is the more complicated, permanent option. Depending on the type of string lights you have, you may need to remove and re-do the connection point to replace a batter connection or an outlet plug. However, in some cases, the wire is already designed to be connected directly to a switch or a conduit.
This is often a good option if you’re wanting to connect to a switch box, want to make the lights a permanent addition to your home, and want a more secure connection similar to the other light fixtures in your home.
First, open the switch you want to connect to.
Black wires can be connected to the terminals on the switch, but the white wire needs to be wire nutted through. You’ll also have a ground wire. In most cases this process is simple, match wire color, create a connection, and use electrical tape or vinyl covering to protect the connection.
However, if you have non-standard connections, consider contacting a professional instead of doing it yourself.
Here are some common questions, and their answers, about wiring lights.
How Can I Power My String Lights Without An Outlet?
To power your string lights without an outlet, you can get LED lights that have a battery power source built-in, or you can use an extension cord to reach further than the outlet can. Additionally, you can convert your existing string lights to battery power, or use a mobile battery pack with an outlet connection.
How Do You Hardwire A Rope Light?
Hardwiring a rope light is tricky and shouldn’t be undertaken by electrical novices. With this in mind, the best approach is to contact an electrician and have them do it.
If you know the risks and are comfortable around electricity, eHow has additional instructions in their guide to hardwiring rope lights.
How To Make Battery Powered Lights
To make your string lights battery-powered, you can purchase a standalone portable power station and hook your string lights up to it. Depending on the size of the battery, these can run outdoor string lights for many dozens of hours and can easily be recharged.
Can You Add String Lights to a Switch Without Wiring?
You can easily add string lights to a switch without wiring by purchasing an extension cord with a switch and hooking your string lights up to it. This is a cheap and easy option that allows you to turn your outdoor string lights off on a whim.
You can find a relatively cheap cord here on Amazon.
How Can I Connect Multiple String Lights to One Switch?
As long as you are fine having a single connection to an outlet, you can connect multiple string lights to one switch by daisy-chaining the string lights together. Beware — multiple connections can draw too much power and cause shorts (or even an electrical fire).