How To Add An Electric Line For Your Christmas Tree

If you're afraid of tripping a circuit breaker every time you turn on the lights to your Christmas tree, you can add an additional circuit, as long as there's an available slot in your circuit box. 

What you will need:

  • A 15 amp circuit breaker. You must buy a breaker that fits into your breaker box, so check the manufacturer of the box and buy the same brand or an aftermarket equivalent.
  • An outlet, outlet box, and cover plate for the outlet. Buy an outlet box for additions to existing construction, with finished walls and floors. The appropriate box will have an upper and lower attachment screw, to which plastic flaps are attached that secure the box inside your wall. Don't purchase an outlet for new construction, which has two nails for attachment, and is designed to be nailed from the side into wall studs in unfinished walls.
  • Electric wire. You will need a three wire sheath of 14 gauge wire for this project. Measure the distance from the breaker box to the proposed location of the outlet, then add several feet to the measurement to determine the length needed.
  • Wire cutter/stripper tool
  • Utility knife and keyhole saw
  • Drill with 12'" long and 3/8" diameter bit
  • 3/4" plastic electrical cable staples
  • You'll need a hammer for the staples. 

Running the wire to the breaker box

Basement breaker box.

  1. Begin by tracing the outline of the opening of the outlet box on the wall, then cut out the resulting rectangle with the utility knife or keyhole saw. Assuming that your new outlet will be placed near floor level to power your Christmas tree lights, you will then place the drill bit inside the hole in the wall as vertically as possible. 
  2. You will then drill through the floor and the basement ceiling until you feel no more resistance. Move the bit in small circles as it rotates to enlarge the holes slightly.
  3. Begin to feed the wire sheath slowly into the hole in the floor and then the second hole in the basement ceiling. It may take a few attempts, because the holes are drilled at a slight angle. When the wire is through the lower ceiling, go to the basement and begin to pull it toward the breaker box.

Ground floor breaker box.

  1. If your breaker box is on the same floor as the new outlet, you will need to remove the floor molding from the wall and run the wire behind it. You only need to remove the molding from the area below the breaker box to the location of the new outlet.
  2. When the molding is removed (don't be shocked at the accumulated dirt behind it), you will cut out a small horizontal slot of drywall at floor level below the breaker box. Cut another small hole beside the breaker box, and begin to feed the wire into the upper hole until it reaches the floor slot.
  3. Pull the wire sheath through the floor slot and along the walls from which the molding has been removed. When the wire sheath reaches the location of your new outlet, pull several inches of wire through the pre-cut outlet hole.
  4. You will then begin to replace the molding as you push the wire under the gap in the bottom of the drywall. you may need to make small notches in the wall studs with the keyhole saw or your drill, so the wire is not pinched between the studs and the molding.
  5. When all the molding is restored, cut the wire at the breaker box, leaving at least twelve inches extra for connection inside the breaker box.

Connecting the wires

  1. At the breaker box, strip one inch of insulation from each of the three wires in the plastic sheath with the wire stripper, then pull the sheath back several inches to separate the wires.
  2. You will then turn off the main breaker to the home (you may need a flashlight after turning off the main breaker). Knock out one of the punch out holes in the side of the breaker box and insert the three stripped wires into the hole.
  3. Attach the white and green or copper colored wires to the screw mounts on the grounding bars inside the breaker box ( just look at the existing wires if you don't know which part is a grounding bar). Next, you will attach the black wire to the screw terminal on the end of your new breaker. Punch out an available slot in the box and snap the breaker into place. Keep the breaker in the off position and turn on the main breaker.
  4. Begin to use the plastic staples to secure the electrical wire along the edges of the ceiling until you reach the point that the wire enters the ceiling, then go back to the location of the new outlet.
  5. Using the wire cutter tool, cut the wire sheath, allowing twelve inches of wire to remain outside the wall. Knock out a punch out hole in the bottom section of your outlet box, then push the wire through the opening from the back of the box.
  6. Place the outlet box inside the wall, then tighten the two connection screws until the side flaps pull the outlet box snug against the wall. Strip the ends of the individual wires and connect the black wire to the top gold terminal of the electrical outlet, connect the white wire to the silver terminal and connect the green or copper colored wire to the green grounding terminal, then stuff the outlet into the outlet box.
  7. Attach the outlet to the box by tightening the upper and lower outlet screws, than attach the cover plate by tightening the supplied center screw. Turn on your new breaker and start stringing the lights on your tree.

If you have any questions, contact a local electrician.