Install Dollhouse Lighting

Installing Dolls House Lighting

There are many ways to wire a dolls house for lighting. These include:

  • Round Wire - a direct wiring system where each lighting fixture is wired back to a controller or lighting strip. Easier to locate faults. Wires will need to be hidden under mouldings or flooring, or in channels in walls and floors. Each light wire will emerge from the bottom or back of the house, wherever the wiring board is located. Wiring boards can be set up for switchable systems to operate or dim lights individual, or a remote control system can be set up.
  • Tape Wire - uses very thin copper tape with adhesive backing to carry the electricity around the house in a ring. The tape can be double and plastic coated, or single and uncoated (must be coated with shellac or varnish to protect it from corroding in contact with wallpaper pastes or paints). Individual lights connect to the wiring ring. Reliable joins between tapes can prove to be a problem. Plastic coatings can sometimes interfere with connections. All lights on a ring will function as one circuit and finding faults is more complicated than with round wire systems. Remote control of individual lights is not possible.
  • Hybrid Systems - use tape wire circuits inside the dolls house connected to channels on an exterior power distribution unit . Each set of tapes is connected to round wire which brings in power from the power supply on the back of the house. Remote or switched controls are possible, and a number of lighting effects (dimming, flickering) are easily achieved by wiring in special units.
  • Using LED lighting - Battery-operated wireless lamps, which can be moved as needed- no fixed wiring required, and can be individually controlled thanks to switches on each light. Batteries can be replaced individually. Considered to be much safer, as no mains power is required. Lights can give off a slight blue tinge, and can sometimes be rather dim.

 Points to consider...

  • Who is going to use the dolls house? A childs doll house may not require lights at first, but future installation may be desirable. Copper tape wiring for a hybrid system could be installed now and put to use later. An adult collector may appreciate more complex systems, and be able to control individual lights in each room.
  • Where will the dolls house be located? If the dolls house is a central display, lighting may make it fit into its surroundings more easily, or enable better displays. You will need to decide if you want any lighting controls other than on and off. Do you have a mains plug nearby? If not, consider LED wireless lamps.
  • How will the various walls and floors be finished? Plastic coated tapewire can be bulky and will show through some wallpapers. Round wires can be run in channels along the base of walls and covered over with filler, or they can run under carpets or flooring if not fixed permanently in place.
  • All or Nothing Lighting Will you be satisfied if all the lights in a circuit come on at once and stay on, or will you want to have controlled lighting at some point, either through wall switches which control lights for a single room, or timers or remote controls, which can be set to control the entire lighting system. Remote controls will require the isolation of individual lamps, which means you will need to use a round wire or a hybrid roundwire/tapewire system.
  • Will you want flickering effects? Flickering effects for candles or fires can affect the regular light bulbs on a circuit. Several electronic/fire units are available but will require their own circuit.
  • Do you have a master plan for your dollhouse completion or are you making it up as you go along? If you don't know what rooms may be used for and don't currently have a list of lighting fixtures for each room, you may want to install tape wire or a hybrid system so that you can electrify your dollhouse as you go.
  • What material is your house made of? Houses made of thin luan plywood may not have walls thick enough to hide round wire channels in, tape wire may need to be joined with thin brass brads (nails) rather than eyelets which means there may be less surface area for contact. Mdf houses require pilot holes to be drilled before eyelets or brads are inserted through tape.

 Before decorating...

 Even if you aren't ready for lights yet, decide on the type of system you think you will use, and plan for its eventual use. If you will be using round wire, make sure you have a means to take the wires to the power point entry point. This might mean leaving flooring loose, or using carpet which can be lifted to run wires under. If you will be using tape wire or a hybrid system, invest in tape wire, draw up a room plan, and install the tape wire so that it is in place for future use. If you know you will have several houses or a street of shops eventually, plan on using a system that will allow you to wire them as a unit, rather than needing separate transformers for each.

Avoiding Lighting Problems

 Lighting problems generally occur when connections are corroded or not secured or when connections in the electrical tape runs are loose or incorrectly installed, or have been inadvertently damaged or cut.

  • Finding faults -Round wire systems generally involve plugging individual lights into the connections on a small plug in board located on the back of the house or in the cellar or attic. If a light is not working, the fault is easily isolated for identification. In tape wired systems the fault may not be easy to find. Tape wire systems should be installed in several sections or room by room rather than one large ring to make finding problems easier in future.
  • Make proper joins Whenever possible, proper soldered joins should be used in wire or tape runs in dolls houses. These joins will stand up to much more motion than will some of the hammered in joins using brads or eyelets. If brads or eyelets are used with copper tape, drill pilot holes before putting in the brad or eyelet and double nail the join.
  • Use a straight edge to cross corners. If tape does not cleanly adhere to a corner, it may be cut or damaged when interior finishes are applied, press it into the corner with a straight edge.
  • Use a good transformer When the time comes to light the house, use a quality power supply with a good voltage control. Match the power supply to the number and size of bulbs in your system, not the number of light fixtures.
  • Use a well constructed, reliable power board designed for your display.

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