Over the last several years, I have been dedicated to improving the wiring of dollhouses and displays through new components and better methods. The advent of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and remote controls have spawned new product lines for electrical miniature lighting. Many miniature collectors have expressed their desire to add electrical miniature lighting to their projects. I am here to tell you that it is simple, and that you can do it yourself. Questions or suggestions? Contact Carl Sahlberg, Creative Reproductions 2 Scale, at email@example.com.
SAFETY IN WORKING WITH 12 VOLTS
To immediately put your mind at ease, devices using between 3 and 30 volts are universally considered to be safe. The 12 volts that is utilized in electrical miniature lighting is far below the 30 volts minimum limit that may cause any discomfort or injury. When using direct current (DC), this minimum limit is increased to 60 volts. All sources at 12 volts are too weak to produce a shock to dry skin, but as with any electrical work, please follow these basic safety rules:
1. Keep power off while wiring your miniature dollhouse, only turn power on when testing a completed area.
2. Always have a fuse in line with the power supply to protect both your miniature dollhouse and the power supply.
CHOOSE A NEW POWER SUPPLY
First, let me clarify the difference between a transformer and a power supply. A transformer has two windings of wire around an iron core. A power supply is an electronic circuit and does not have any windings of wire. If a voltage varies with the input like a surge of electrical power, the output will vary in a transformer, but not in a power supply. With a power supply, the output is a constant 12 volts.
Here’s why I strongly recommend replacing your 12-volts AC transformers with a new 12-volts DC regulated power supply, especially if you are starting a new wiring project or rewiring an old project:
1. All dollhouse miniature incandescent lights and LED lights work well and last longer.
2. You no longer have to worry about the number of miniature lights in your project; it electrifies one light as effectively as the maximum number.
3. Consistently outputs 12 volts.
ADD A FUSE TO ALL YOUR PROJECTS
Why add a fuse? Because it is a good indicator of how many lights your power source can handle. If you attach too many lights, the fuse will blow. I strongly recommend adding a fuse in line with the power supply before your miniature dollhouse or display. If your fuse blows, you have a couple of options:
1. Lower the number of lights in your miniature dollhouse or display.
2. Purchase a larger power supply.
If you purchase a 1 amp (12 watt) power supply, you should add a 1-amp fuse, and if you purchase a 2-amp (24 watt) power supply, you should add a 2-amp fuse. For added protection especially if you do not have a power connector, look for a power supply that is also circuit protected. Circuit protected simply means that should your power supply short out or overload, a relay or circuit breaker will shut down the power supply. To reset the device, simply unplug and replug the power supply. If you have a power connector with a fuse, you do not need a circuit protected power supply.
REPLACE THAT JUNCTION SPLICE
In my experience, the one item I replace the most is the junction splice. To replace the junction splice, I have designed the following three devices, which include a fuse and a jack to receive the plug from the power supply:
1. A basic power connector with a connection block for attaching hardwires directly or soldering two short wire leads.
2. A junction strip is a single terminal point with one toggle switch and a set of 12 connection blocks to wire individual miniature lights or rooms.
3. A six toggle switching junction with the ability to electrify six different miniature lights or rooms with individual toggle switches; also has a small terminal block next to the jack for attaching hardwires.
THINK ABOUT ADDING A REMOTE CONTROL
Another reason to switch to DC is the ability to add a remote control. Remote controls only work with DC, and will allow you to control up to 12 different circuits or lights. Interestingly, it is just as easy to install a remote control as it is to install the six toggle switch or junction strip. The biggest advantage of having a remote control is that it is way more fun to use.
In summary, DC is friendlier to work with than AC not only in regards to safety, but also because of the new features and components available in the marketplace. My next article, “All About the Wire,” will include:
- Different wiring techniques
- Selecting the correct wire gauge
- Flat tape wire versus round wire
- How to test for shorts or broken circuits
101S is a LEARN Section series of articles teaching you everything you need to know about a mini subject.