How to Create a Halloween Village: Chapter 6
Lighting Your Village
Powering up your village is a challenging prospect with so many cords and bulky transformer plugs. There are three things to remember:
1. Electricity is not forgiving and requires utmost safety.
2. You need easy access to a grounded electrical outlet in good condition that’s not shared by any major appliances.
3. You need to practice common sense in arranging the electrics or seek help from a professional electrician.
The goal is hide all the electrical wires for your village by routing them through the foam foundation, hills, and platforms. Route wires through and under foam, creating channels with a carving tool. Then neatly gather wires in a hidden location and plug them into a surge-protected power strip. A single surge would permanently wipe out your village. Plugs that include boxy transformers should not be covered and space should be allowed for air to circulate. Here are some power strategies.
Conventional Power Strips
Although the LED-lit buildings don't draw much electricity, pieces with movement do, so you need to be sure to have power strips with ample amperage to assure safety, avoid fires, and burning out your lamps. I always opt for surge protection which comes at a premium, but one jolt could darken your entire expensive village permanently. I like the Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot Plug Surge Protector. It has 8 pivoting outlets that allows you to easily connect up to 8 power bricks, plus space for 4 regular plugs but is quite pricey at $30. The Accell Power Squid gives you 5 outlets on flexible arms to accommodate the bulky plugs.
Department 56 Lighting System
Several years ago, Department 56 released a Building and Accessory Lighting System that allows a combination of 12 supplied bulb or accessory cords to be used with one specialized power strip. Since most of the Halloween pieces have special adapters the bulbs aren't very handy. Also these bulbs are much dimmer than the regular bulbs, and burn out quickly. But the system is good for lighting the many available LED lights, accessories, and figures. Be cautious however with animated accessories or lights that blink. They tend to cause strange electricity fluctuations that affect all the connected accessories. The cords are white so they are more difficult to hide, but a quick coat of black acrylic paint will help (but do not paint the plugs!). At one point they sold replacement accessory cords separately that are longer than the ones in the set.
Heavy Duty Garage Power Strips
My preferred method of lighting my village is the SnugPlug Power Strip which features 12 wide-spaced outlets, heavy duty metal casing with mounting holes, and a lighted on/off switch which makes it easy to find. It doesn't have surge protection, but does have a 15AMP circuit breaker. I use a wall-mounted surge protector instead. The SnugPlug model really grips the plugs and can be mounted on its side, or you can lay it flat. I suspend my power strip under my display table and keep all cords away from the floor, which is especially important if you have house gremlins who like to wander behind your display.
I approach each village with careful consideration of the power needs vs availability. I've made a list of each piece and what kind of power it uses (adapter or standard bulb). I can connect 12 plugs to my power strip, so I dedicate one to the Lighting System, one for background lighting, and then 10 for bulky adapters or other multi-socket cords. Department 56 sells 3-Socket and 6-Socket Light Sets so depending on your buildings and layout they may come in handy. They also have a Black 3-plug Adapter for accessories. When positioning pieces, I always check that the cord will reach the power strip easily and without any strain. I have dedicated a heavy-duty, plastic folding table for my village, and I have drilled a series of holes through the top to allow cords to pass through to the power strip underneath. I also wrangle cords and secure them with zip ties to keep things tidy and secure.