Your Outdoor Holiday Lighting Guide – Part 1

October 17, 2021
Holidays, Uncategorized

It’s never too early to start planning your outdoor holiday lighting. The most wonderful time of year is only months away. Decorating early for the holidays can elevate your mood and happiness, as reported by Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown. He even says that homeowners who add festive lighting to the outside of their homes are deemed more friendly compared to their neighbors. Don’t let common mistakes deflate your mood or minimize your home’s holiday appeal. Here are our tips to inspire your Yuletide cheer while creating a dazzling holiday lighting display.

Ladder Safety

Performing your own installation? One of the most dangerous things about installing outdoor holiday lighting is using a ladder. Begin by inspecting your ladder for any weak points or faulty areas. Avoid using a ladder that is too short and not tall enough for you to easily reach where you are hanging your lights. Always place your ladder on level ground to prevent it from tipping over or sliding. If possible, have someone brace the ladder while in use. Keep the ladder at a 75-degree climbing angle and avoid using it on extra-windy days. Keep an eye out for any overhead power lines. Remember to never stand on the very top of a ladder or lean excessively off the ladder which could result in injury.

Extension Cords

It’s important to always use UL-approved extension cords designed specifically for outdoor use. Not all extension cords are the same and choosing the wrong specifications can be hazardous to your home. Outdoor extension cords are designed with stronger outer jackets that help them withstand rougher and wetter conditions. An ideal choice for extended outdoor use is a cord with an “E” label, this means the jacket is made from thermoplastic elastomer rubber (TPE), which is resistant to sunlight, UV, and extreme weather conditions.

Plan Your Outdoor Holiday Lighting Display

It’s a good idea to simply step outside and take a look at your home. Determine what areas you would like to place lights on such as across your porch rails, along the edges of your roof and garage, or wrapped around columns or trees. Additional spots for outdoor Christmas lights include window and door frames, atop bushes, hedges and trees, inside window boxes and planters, and along pathways and driveways. Another good tip is to decide what you’re going to work on first and take notes. It’s beneficial to start with hedges and bushes, then trees, next railings, any windows and doors, and finish with the roofline.

Not sure how many lights to use?

A general guideline is 100 lights for every 1-1/2-ft of tree or shrub you want to cover.

Prepare Measurements

The freedom to create your own personal outdoor holiday lighting design is a great feeling. If you do not have expert installers and designers assisting you during the process, you’ll need to do the preparations yourself. To avoid a roofline that is only half illuminated, you must measure the areas you plan to decorate before you purchase your holiday lights. When measuring, make note of the extra length it takes to safely plug in the lights. Always plug your outdoor holiday lights into a weatherproof outdoor socket that is safely away from areas where family and visitors can trip over them.

Check Your Lights

Testing is important, especially if you’re using stored Christmas lights from previous years. It’s worth checking newly purchased lights, as they can be faulty too. Frayed or damaged cords are safety hazards and could ruin your entire design. Sometimes getting caught up in the excitement of hanging Christmas lights, people forget to plug them in before installing them, only to realize they are defective. Plug in the strands individually and then start installing.

Buy Extra Bulbs and Light Strings

The truth is light strings don’t last forever. When you find a favorite color and style of lights, it’s a good idea to purchase an extra one (or two) of that same color as a backup. This is a good rule of practice when you purchase LED lights. Even identical LED lights that come from the same manufacturer may slightly vary from year to year, making them less interchangeable. It’s recommended that you purchase some LED reserve strings when shopping, to maintain future color consistency.

Keep Your Extra Bulbs and Fuses

Extra bulbs and fuses will come in handy. Imagine next year when bulb #25 decides to burn out, you will need a replacement. Also, a 50-light string you purchased a few years ago may draw different amperage than the 100-light string you bought yesterday. You cannot use just any spare bulb or fuse. Using a bulb or fuse with the wrong milliamp rating could cause an overload of power, popping the fuses and blowing out the string completely.

Don’t Forget the Light Clips

An awesome outdoor holiday lighting design needs a lot of support! You certainly don’t want to find yourself halfway up the ladder realizing you’ve forgotten to purchase clips to attach the lights. Do your research and choose the right clips for your design. There are a range of options, such as tab light clips for your shingled roof, adhesive clips, hooked clips for challenging gutters, brick wall clips, C7/C9 magnetic socket clips to mount bulbs quickly, and all-in-one clips for a variety of applications. Be sure to read the package for proper application.

Purchase a Bulb Tester

A Christmas bulb tester is a seasonal necessity! It detects and fixes your defective lights. Whether it’s a single light or an entire dark set, simply use your bulb tester to quickly extract the bulb and replace it with a new one. Bulb testers search for the point in the string where the voltage changes between a good bulb with electrical current and a problem spot with minimal current. They typically detect voltage in a string by displaying indicator lights or by using audible beeping sounds.

Never Use Indoor Holiday Lights Outdoors

This may sound obvious, but people sometimes think they’re interchangeable, but they are not. Lights designed for outdoor use are made to withstand cold and wet conditions. Indoor lights are not made to handle the outdoor elements. Unless the manufacturer states otherwise, using indoor lights outside can be dangerous and should be avoided. Make sure the Christmas lights you purchase specify that they are for outdoor use.

Part II

Once you’ve covered the basics and your preparations are in place, you can move on to the fun part – decorating the outside of your home with lights! Look for Part 2 of our outdoor lighting guide where we’ll discuss more details about your holiday landscape lighting.

Mobile Illumination is Southern California’s premiere Christmas lighting company. Check out our YouTube video and see some of our award-winning holiday lighting installations. We’ve been helping families and businesses transform their properties during the holidays for over 20 years.

Want to see more Christmas lighting designs? Check out our photo gallery!

Have Any More Questions?

We’re here to help! Give us a call and we’ll answer any questions you have about your string lighting.