Outdoor holiday lighting displays are an essential part of the season for many people, bringing a little extra brightness to the long winter nights. Stringing together multiple strands of lights is often the best way to achieve the look you’re going for, but connections made outdoors are open to the elements, allowing moisture from rain, melting ice, and snow to make its way inside the connectors. This can cause breakers to pop and ruin your display, not to mention instigating havoc with your indoor electrics. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to protect the connectors on your outdoor light displays, and keep everything dry and functioning.
Keep plugs dry by keeping them off the ground
The best way to keep plugs dry is to keep them up off the ground. If there’s a way to attach them to a fence post, porch, or other structure, that’s the best way to keep them from getting too wet. Plan ahead and measure the distance you need for the length of your cord to make this part easier when you start setting up your display. If it’s not possible to keep them off the ground, make sure to check your connectors every few days to make sure they’re dry and don’t show signs of wear.
Protect connectors with a plastic container
To make a dry box from a plastic food storage container, you’ll need a drill and a bit the same size as your cord, as well as a utility knife and a container with a lid. Using your drill, make a hole at each end of the container an inch or two from the top. Then, use your utility knife to cut a slit from the top edge of the container to the hole. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to twist the plastic and open it up wide enough to slide the cord into the hole, leaving the plug ends in the middle. Then, put the lids back on the top to hold it all together. This type of dry box isn’t meant to be completely submerged, but it can keep water out from rain and snow.
Use an old inner tube
To make a dry box from an old bicycle inner tube, you’ll just need the tube and some scissors. Cut a six- to eight-inch section off the tube, and place it on one end of the cord. Plug the other end in and stretch the tube over the connection. If the fit isn’t tight, you can use a zip tie to snug the ends of the inner tube up to the cord on each side of the plug.The benefit to this method is that it will hold up a little better to getting moved around it you’ve got a plug-through somewhere that’s harder to reach.
Use a ziplock bag
If you don’t have any extra containers or tubing lying around, you can also use a plastic bag to keep your plugs dry. Using a well-made ziplock bag and wrapping the connection well using zip ties or rubber bands can work well in a pinch. Make sure your bag doesn’t get dragged or stepped on, though, because that can wear holes in the bag, allowing moisture inside. If that happens, your dry bag becomes a wet bag, tapping moisture in close to the connector where it can cause damage.
Use electrical tape or shrink-wrap
For a low-tech, dry plug connection, you can wrap the plugs with electrical tape, making sure that the connection is snug before wrapping—if the tape slides in between the two sides of the plug, it can heat up over time and cause a fire or a short. You can also use shrink wrap for this method, while taking the same precautions. The downside of this method is that you’ll have to destroy your layer of protection to unplug your lights, so it’s not a functional way to go if you need to periodically plug and unplug lights. Additionally, it’s a one-use system, rather than one you can reuse each year.