How many lights can I use on my Light-O-Rama high voltage AC light controller?

We get this question a lot and really wish there was a simple answer. It depends on:

  1. the types of lights
  2. the type of Light-O-Rama controller
  3. how the lights are distributed across the control channels
  4. how many lights are on at the same time

In the world of electricity it’s all about the load measured at a specific point in time.  When the show is controlled with your computer, chances are not all the lights will be on at the same time.  For planning purposes, best practice is to assume the worst case and there will be a point in your show when you turn everything on at once like for the grand finale.

We rate a Light-O-Rama controller based on the total load or number of amps it can handle at any point in time.

To further complicate things, most lights only state how many watts they consume when turned on at 100%.  Watts are different than amps so you might have to break out the calculator.

Electricians use this formula:  P = V x I.  In English it means watts (P) equals volts (V) multiplied by current (I).  You can also remember it as watts = voltage times amps

For discussion, we’ll assume a 120 volt environment and state loads in amps and (watts).  If you are in a 240VAC location, redo the math below using the P = V x I formula above.

How many lights can you really control?

If you have a thousands of lights to control, you might need to do a little bit of math. There are two key numbers to remember. Each control channel can handle up to 8 amps (960 watts) and each channel bank can handle up to 15 amps (1800 watts) of load at any point in time.

Power cords and channel banks

A typical Light-O-Rama high voltage AC light controller has one or two power input cords.

If there is just one power input cord, it powers all the available control channels (4, 8 or 16).  This means it’s a one channel bank controller.  The power cord is typically rated at 15 amps (1800 watts) meaning that’s the maximum power available for the controller to use at any point in time.

If there are two power input cords, each powers half the channels in the controller.  Many of our 16 channel controllers have two power input cords meaning each powers a channel bank.  Channel bank one includes channels 1-8 and channel bank two includes channels 9-16.  Each power input cord is typically rated at 15 amps (1800 watts) meaning that’s the maximum power available to use for a channel bank of 8 channels at any point in time.  A controller with two power input cords means you can control up to 30 amps (3600 watts) of power or 15 amps (1800 watts) for channel bank one and 15 amps (1800 watts) for channel bank two at any point in time.

Balancing your power load

Now it gets a bit more confusing.

The maximum power that can be controlled on any single channel of a light controller is 8 amps (960 watts). Don’t forget the maximum power for all channels in a channel bank is 15 amps (1800 watts).

If you have a controller with just one channel bank or power input cord it means you have a total capacity of 15 amps (1800 watts) to divide up your lights on the 16 channels so you don’t exceed the two limits above at any point in time. You could put 1 amp (120 watts) on 14 channels (1680 watts total) and 0.5 amps (60 watts) on 2 channels (120 watts total) and that would be 15 amps (1800 watts). Or, you could put 0.5 amps (60 watts) on 14 channels (840 watts total), 8 amps (960 watts) on  another channel and 0 amps (0 watts) on the last channel and that would be 15 amps (1800 watts).  Remember, this is the maximum power load and you can certainly use less.

If you have a controller with two channel banks or two power input cords you have a total capacity 30 amps (3600 watts). The left power input cord powers channels 1-8. The right power input cord powers channels 9-16.  If you plug both power input cords into one electrical circuit of your venue, then the controller will have at most 20 amps available, but more likely, the circuit is a rated at only 15 amps, so that’s all you’ll have available to share across the controller channels. If you can plug the two power input cords into different electrical circuits of your venue, then the full 30 amp capacity of the controller will be available.  Remember, this is the maximum power load and you can certainly use less.

Let’s talk about just channel bank one (channels 1-8) for now.  The maximum current on a single channel is 8 amps. The maximum current for all of bank one channels is 15 amps (1800 watts).  You have to divide up your lights on the 8 channels so each doesn’t exceed these two limits. You could put 1 amp (120 watts) on 7 channels (840 watts total) and 8 amps (960 watts) on the last channel and that would be 15 amps (1800 watts). Or, you could put 2 amps (240 watts) on 6 channels (1440 watts total), 1 amp (120 watts) on another channel and 2 amps (240 watts) on the last channel and that would be 15 amps (1800 watts).

The same applies for channel bank two (channels 9-16).  The maximum current on a single channel is 8 amps. The maximum current for all of bank two channels is 15 amps (1800 watts). . Remember, if the controller is plugged into only one circuit in your house, then both the left and right banks total current must not exceed what that circuit can supply.

You can't cheat with electricity.

A wall outlet might have two places to plug in power cords but remember there's typically a maximum of 15-20 amps (1800-2400 watts) being shared with those two plugs and any other outlets on that same electrical circuit. Trying to use more power than is available will trip the circuit breaker which is better than starting a fire from overloaded wires.

 

Typical power consumption of Christmas lights and flood Lights

The following table gives the approximate current consumption for various types of Christmas lights.

Light Type
Description
String
Count
Incandescent
Lights*
LED Based
Lights*
Minilights 50 0.17 amps or (20 watts) 0.02 amps (2.4 watts)
Minilights 70 0.03 amps (3.6 watts)
Minilights 100 0.33 amps (40 watts) 0.04 amps (4.8 watts)
C6 25 0.02 amps (2.4 watts)
C7 25 1.04 amps (125 watts) 0.02 amps (2.4 watts)
C9 25 1.50 amps (175 watts) 0.03 amps (3.6 watts)
1790 lumen flood
incandescent
1 0.75 amps (90 watts)
1200 lumen flood
LED
1 0.13 amps (15 watts)

*typical power usage.  Check your lights for actual power used.

Use the chart above to figure out how many lights you can use on any Light-O-Rama light control channel.  Remember each channel is limited to 8 amps (960 watts) and each channel bank is limited to 15 amps (1800 watts) at any point in time.

Special hint

You should be able to tell from the chart above that LED based lights draw a small fraction of the power of their incandescent cousins. Spend a little extra on LEDs and control a lot more with the same amount of power.