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Built and decorated dolls house

Home » How-to Guides » Dolls House Lighting Guide

Dolls House Lighting Guide

Dolls House Lights, Wiring Components and Installation Techniques

Introduction to Wiring and Lighting a Dolls House
If you've never installed dolls house lighting before it may seem like a daunting task, but it's probably easier than you think and hobbyists can generally complete the task relatively easily and safely without any specialist knowledge. Dolls house lights make a very attractive addition to any dolls house, creating lighter rooms and a warm  'lived in' glow so it's well worth doing.  The main exception is young children's dolls houses where some more delicate types light fittings could become damaged through play although lights can always be added later.

It's a good idea to plan your dolls house lighting in advance and do the necessary preparation work before you start to build and decorate the dolls house, so you can ensure the dolls house wiring is completely hidden from view when the it is finished.

Dolls House Battery Lights vs Wired 12V Lights
A recent development in dolls house lighting is the introduction of LED battery dolls house lights.  These lights need no wiring as they have their own replaceable 3V battery so they can simply be positioned wherever required in the dolls house and switched on and off when required. Ceiling lights are generally attached using disc magnets so they can easily be removed and replaced. This offers obvious advantages over wired lights, but there are also disadvantages.  For example, each LED battery light will need to be switched on and off individually which can be fiddly and inconvenient in a large dolls house with many lights whereas wired lights are generally controlled by a single master switch or optional individual switches.  Also the batteries will require replacement from time to time although with low power LED bulbs the batteries can last for many hours.  LED lights are a popular choice in smaller dolls houses or in places where wiring access is difficult.  Whatever your preference it's worth giving this option careful consideration at the start of a project.

Dolls House Wiring Methods
For wired lights there are two main wiring methods to consider from when planning your dolls house electrics -  twin round wire or flat copper tape (or a combination of the two). We find that the twin round wire method is more popular as it is simpler and offers a great deal of flexibility, so this guide will mainly concentrate on this method.   We sell dolls house wiring components for both systems and will provide an overview of the basic methods used for each, however, every project is different so you will need to work out the best way to tackle your particular dolls house lighting installation depending on the position of the lights and personal preference.

Planning Your Dolls House Lighting and Wiring Installation
Generally it is best to start by deciding on which lights you intend to install in your dolls house and the position of the lights.  Then you need to decide which wiring method you intend to use and which wiring components you will need to use to connect everything together.  Once this is decided you need to work out the best way to route the wires around the dolls house to power the lights.  A common method is to cut shallow grooves in the floors so wires can be run from the supply to ceiling lights in rooms below ..the wires can then simply be taped over and hidden under floorboards or carpet.  It is easier to cut the wiring grooves before assembling the dolls house if possible.

Dolls house wiring diagram
This diagram shows the back wall of a dolls house with wires running to the lights in each room from a connector strip.
Dolls house copper tape wiring diagram
This diagram shows a similar wiring diagram using copper tape.

 

Dolls House Wiring Using the Twin Wire Method
This is the simplest and our preferred method for dolls house wiring. You will need a 12v power supply, a fused socket connector strip and the individual dolls house light fittings. These can be purchased individually or as a dolls house lighting kit. Several types of socket connector strip are available with optional single master switch or individual switches so each dolls house light switches on and off independently.   When choosing a power supply you must ensure that its capacity is sufficient for the maximum number of bulbs you are likely to fit in the dolls house - this information is shown on the website page for each power supply.

When installing the lights in the dolls house the first step is to decide on their position in each room. Lights for dolls houses come in many types from miniature chandeliers to wall lamps to table lamps to glowing fires. Dolls house light fittings are usually supplied complete with a wire measuring about 450mm and two pin plug attached. When fitting the dollhouse lights the plug can be removed from the wire by removing the pins with pliers, this will allow the wires to be passed through small holes as necessary and the plug can then easily be reattached. Dolls house chandeliers and other ceiling lights are usually fitted in the Centre of each room. To do this you should first mark the exact position of the light and drill a small hole through the ceiling to the floor above so the wire from the light can be passed through. You then need to cut a small groove along the floor from the hole to the back of the house using a router or other suitable cutting tool. Finally drill another hole so the wire can be passed through the back of the dolls house. Wall lights, table lamps etc can be installed similarly, finding the most suitable path to route the wires to the back of the dolls house.  It is usually easier to cut the necessary channels for the dolls house wiring before the dolls house is assembled.

The socket strip is usually located on the back of the house. When all the dolls house lights are fitted and the wires routed and hidden the two pin plugs can be reattached and plugged into the socket strip. Finally the transformer should be connected and the lights tested. You should do the preparation work for the dolls house lighting before building and decorating the house if possible, but it's probably best not to install the actual dollhouse lights until later on in the building and decorating process as some are quite delicate.  It is worth bearing in mind that you may need to access the dolls house lighting wires in future after building and decorating so if possible wires should be accessible with the minimum or disruption to the dolls house.

Dolls house lighting components
This photo shows a typical dolls house lighting setup prior to installation in the dolls house. Components include a 12V power supply, a 12 socket connector strip and a dolls house light.  Generally the connector strip is fixed in position behind the back wall of the dolls house where the wires from multiple lights in the various rooms can be connected.
Dolls house light and removeable plugDolls house lights generally include a length of wire (around 450mm) and a 2 pin plug.  If necessary the plug can be removed during installation by pulling out the brass pins using a pair of pliers.  This allows the wires to be passed through small holes during installation.  After installation the plug can be re-fitted.
Dolls house lighting connector
This photo shows an alternative setup using a digital power supply and a screw terminal connector strip with individual switches.  These are superior components providing easier and more secure connection and allow the lights to be switched on and off individually.
Dolls house wiring grooves
For ceiling lights a shallow groove routed in the floor above can be used to run the wire from the light to the connector strip which is usually positioned on the back wall of the house.  After installation this can be covered with tape before fitting floorboards or carpet so the wiring is completely hidden.
Dolls house lighting connector
This photo shows the back wall of a dolls house with 12 socket connector strip and wiring from the dolls house lights which has been taped over.
Decorated dolls house with lights installed
 A completed dolls house with working ceiling lights.

 

Separate Dolls House Wiring and Removeable Lights
Dolls house lights are generally supplied with a length of wire and plug attached.  This makes them very simple to install and is very convenient for simple applications, but from time to time it may be necessary to replace bulbs or to replace a damaged or faulty light fitting and this can be difficult to do and may cause damage to the dolls house decor.  For this reason we recommend installing wiring in the dolls house as a standalone fixture with sockets allowing light fittings to be connected directly where required.  Sockets and back plates allow easy installation and removal of dolls house lights without damaging the decor.

Mix brick compound ready for application
Maintenance and repair of dolls house lighting systems can be difficult and may cause damage to the dolls house decor.  To avoid this problem the wiring can be installed separately so the lights can be easily removed or replaced if required.
Apply stone stencil over mortar layer
This photo shows the twin wire in a grooved floor leading to a ceiling light below.  The wires are connected to grip contact sockets inserted in the holes in the ceiling.
Apply buff colour compound over stencil
This photo shows two grip contact sockets in the ceiling and a chandelier light with a back plate fitted.  To fit the back plate remove the sticky pad and excess wire and plug from the light and fix  the back plate in position using superglue.  Around 25mm of wire from the light is passed through the centre of the back plate and twisted around the two brass pins to form a connection. 
Apply buff colour compound over stencil
The light can now be plugged in and removed as necessary without affecting the dolls house wiring or decor.

 

Flat Copper Tape Wiring Method
Flat copper tape can be used in a variety of different ways to create dolls house wiring circuits. The flat copper tape has a self-adhesive backing so can be fitted inside the dolls house behind decor or under floors.  Most commonly it is applied to the outside of the back wall of the dolls house to distribute power from the power supply  connection point to each floor of the house.  Separate lengths of copper tape can be connected easily by driving a brass eyelet through overlapping tapes where an electrical connection is required.  Electrical continuity can be tested using a test probe.  The wires from the lights can be connected to the tape at the back of the house, usually using solder joints.  This method results in a neater finish at the back of the house compared to the twin wire method as there are no trailing wires.

Troubleshooting
Dolls house lights should always be tested before installing in the dolls house to make sure they are working so any problems can be resolved. 
 ...Things  to check if your dolls house lights don't work:
Everything connected and switched on - It may sound a obvious, but it's worth checking that the dolls house lighting transformer is plugged in and switched on, the transformer is connected to the socket strip correctly and the socket strip is switched on and that the dolls house light fittings are plugged into the socket strip.
Dolls house lighting fuse
- Check the fuse on the dolls house lighting socket connector strip. THE DE074 and similar cocket strips have a fault indicator light which is designed to illuminate only when lights and power are connected and the fuse has blown.
Bulbs securely fitted - Check that the dolls house light bulbs are screwed in or pushed in firmly.  The dolls house light bulbs often work loose during transit and installation so this is a common problem resulting in the dolls house lights not working.  With many dolls house light fittings it may appear difficult to access the bulbs, but in most cases the lampshades can be removed by carefully unscrewing or unclipping to gain easy access.
2 Pin plug securely connected - Check that the twin wire is connected properly to the 2 pin plug and that the plug is connected to the socket strip properly.
Other Faults - Other dolls house wiring faults will need to be resolved by testing each component and connection in turn until the problem is located.   Loose connections can usually be located by gently moving the wires, connections and light fittings until the fault occurs.  If one particular dolls house light doesn't work you can usually swap the bulb with another light to establish whether the bulb or the dolls house light fitting is faulty.  Dolls house light fittings and wires are very delicate so it is important to handle them carefully.  If a dolls house light fitting becomes damaged it may not be possible to repair, in which case a replacement may be the only option.  
Tip - It is very easy to damage a bulb or blow a fuse when installing and setting up dolls house lights so it is a good idea to order some spares in case they are needed.

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