A frequently asked question and I had it myself as well at the start of my miniatures journey, is: ‘ how-the-hell ( pardon my English ) do I fix my dollhouse wiring? ‘.
Updated June 2023
There must be no other question than this one, which is asked over and over again. That is because there is a lot to tell about it. But in the end, nothing is as fun as the lights being ON in your own dollhouse!
After all, we do want to keep our dollhouse safe for kids to use as well, no?
As an Amazon and Etsy associate, I earn from purchases, with no extra costs for you, however.
First of all, let’s get rid of some prejudices about dollhouse wiring
” No I can’t do it, I don’t know anything about electricity, electricity is scary.”
Just some shout-outs that I read everywhere in forums or Facebook groups. Rest assured though that, with some explanation, you can do it!
Dollhouse electrics systems these days have been developed especially for the miniature hobbyist and you don’t need to have knowledge of electricity, believe me!
Yes, you càn burn down your dollhouse, but only if you work in a hasty manner, and if you would link everything together, without any reading about it beforehand, without any preparation whatsoever, or even reading a manual.
But you can prevent this from happening!
Basic knowledge of dolls’ house electrics and dollhouse wiring.
In your normal house, 220 Volts come out of your socket ( 110 Volts in the UK and in the US ). That is, of course, just too much for your dollhouse.
As you can imagine, ordinary lamps are therefore way too big and too hot to use in your dollhouse. This is why the smaller dollhouse lights are 12 Volts or even less.
A transformer converts 220 Volts into 12 Volts so that all the power in your dollhouse is not stronger than 12 Volts.
There are other voltages that some types of dollhouses use.
Lundby supplies a 4.5 Volts transformer for their dollhouses as a standard. All the connections are already built into those houses.
Rail modeling has 6 Volts and 9 Volts and children’s dollhouses use even less (3 to 4 Volts) so that a playing child doesn’t even feel it when it would unintentionally touch anything.
With the introduction of LED lights, more options have been added. These lights give only a little bit of heat but are often too bright and too white for a beautiful ‘mood’- lighting in the dollhouse.
However, a mutual exchange is not possible!
A 12 Volt-light will not get you enough power to put on the lights with a 3.5 Volt transformer.
On the other hand, using a 12 Volt transformer will burn your 3.5 Volt lamp. So, the choice of the transformer will determine which Volt lamps you are going to use.
For children’s dollhouses usually, 3,5 Volt is used. For the miniaturist, however, the 12Volt lights are more suitable ( there is much more choice and they are made for the exact scale ).
The choice of a transformer determines the number of lights that you can use in your dollhouse!
On your transformer, you can see a number with VA ( Volts / Amps) or W ( Watts ), or A ( Amps). That number tells you how many lights you can connect.
An example: a light transformer of 7-8 VA or 10 W can have up to 15 sockets. A 20 W transformer can handle up to 30-33 sockets, and a large transformer up to 60 sockets also exists.
One light can have multiple seeds!
Do not count the number of lights in your house, but the number of seeds in the lights. A chandelier can contain 12 seeds! The total number must always stay below the recommended number for that transformer.
There is 1 exception and that is Christmas lighting, which usually counts as 1 or 2 lights. Read some more about Electricity Safety on Wikipedia.
Now, how do I choose a system– Troubleshooting dollhouse wiring
It all comes down to choosing between perfection and comfort. What is most important for you? Do you want to hide everything behind the wallpaper or do you want the lights to turn on fast and quickly?
There are lots of possibilities, like buying lamps that work with a battery (the LED lamps that I mentioned before), but basically, there are 3 methods:
1. No main cable, but guide each lamp to a transformer.
Each light that is sold, has a piece of wire and a plug attached. The wire itself is very thin and the plug releases easily. This plug goes to a long socket (EM2032 series), which is reconnected to a transformer.
The advantage of this is that it is the cheapest and easiest “system”.
The disadvantage: all wires are visible and you have to drill a hole for each wire to go through a wall or floor etc..
( If the wire is too short, you can extend it with another wire or with an extension cord ).
2. A network of wires.
Just like in a real house, you can also create a whole network of electricity in a dollhouse with wires, light seeds, and switches. Some people even hide the wires in pre-made gutters.
The advantage: cheaper than CirKit and can be controlled lamp after lamp by using switches.
Disadvantage: You need knowledge of + and – poles, thus knowledge of electricity. Plus sometimes knowing how to solder is required.
But it is nice to see all those switches, this makes it very real!
3. Installation of a network with a CirKit system.
Advantage: it is tucked away to almost invisible.
Absolutely no knowledge of electricity is required. And one cable only means that everything can be connected to it, including switches and sockets.
Disadvantage: it is tucked away to almost invisible 🙂
It is the most expensive system and it is a huge point of discussion on the internet between advocates and opponents, having heated discussions about it because most of the time you can’t find the cause of a mistake that you made.
All of this means that using this Cirkit system requires a lot more information, but with the right way of doing it, it can be a pretty nice one.
However, it can be a tragedy when you can’t find malfunctions when used carelessly.
In conclusion on troubleshooting dollhouse wiring.
In short, it is important to remember that electricity has a negative pole and a positive pole.
Each lamp is fitted with two copper wires and each one is plasticized! These two copper wires should NEVER touch each other, that’s very important!
A short circuit happens when those two copper wires, or the negative pole and the positive pole, touch each other. Or when a copper wire makes contact with another piece of conductive material, like a brass lamp.
When you remove a piece of plastic protection, you have to be careful! Two plasticized mini cables go into the plug and two copper wires are placed under the plug’s legs ( minus and plus). Those ‘ legs’ can’t connect with each other, but that should be impossible when they are in their plastic plug holder.
Troubleshooting dollhouse wiring into detail.
So you have read everything I said in this tutorial and your miniature electric lights for your dollhouse are STILL NOT working?
Well, damn! (sorry for my French again)
Then you could need a thorough walkthrough of where exactly things go wrong.
For this, I have found a fantastic website for you, that troubleshoots the whole circuit, from start to end (end=lights ON). Go visit it!
Here is also a list of FAQs when having troubles with your dollhouse wiring:
Why are my light bulbs burning out rapidly?
When your light bulbs burn out rapidly, my first question to you is: are you using a transformer with 12 Volt?
If yes, my second question to you would be: is the manufacturer of these bulbs any good, or is it something "cheap, but not durable"?
My dollhouse electrics used to work, my bulbs are working fine, but still I have no lights on.
So you had your lights ON for a few years now, and all of a sudden they don't work anymore, while the bulbs are fin when you place them elsewhere.
What comes to my mind is: did you make any recent changes to your dollhouse, like removing wallpaper, or using a knife for another project? Then you might have cut a wire!
How do I know if I have a short circuit?
You will clearly notice a short circuit when there is a loud zapping sound, sparks and a bright light and then the electric current will stop working overall.
This can happen if your transformer is too small, while too many light bulbs are attached to it and it will also feel too warm.
How too hide the wires in my dollhouse?
For this, I can refer you to this great video below by MsMiniLover
My Final Conclusion.
Even in a dollhouse, a short circuit can happen and you can even put the place on fire! That is why it is important to work safely and correctly with the often very thin and vulnerable wire.
You don’t necessarily have to understand which wire is minus or plus, as long as you make sure that they do not make contact!
I hope to have informed you enough for now about dolls’ house electrics and I wish that you succeed in turning on the lights in your mini-home! 😉
Do you have any questions or comments on this article, then please leave a comment down below! Or you can now join my latest Facebook group or social media channels.
My name is Lizzy, and I am an amateur miniaturist obsessed with everything in the dollhouse and miniature world, ever since I was a teenager.
I love to write as well about all things happening in the miniature world, hence the reason why I created this blog!
I wish you happy reading and crafting!