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It’s that happy time of the year again. We love Christmas and everything joyous about it. The only thing that can be a bit unnerving is the idea of hanging the holiday lights. When you have to put up the decorations, untangling the holiday lights and climbing high ladders doesn’t seem like a task that brings a lot of holiday cheer.

But we have some great holiday lighting tips from experts that will make hanging holiday lights a lot easier and stunning. After all, beautiful holiday lights can make your home the talk of the entire neighborhood. We understand that you want your Christmas light display to be spectacular — without giving you too much stress. 

If you are thinking beyond stringing some icicle lights above the garage this year, here are a few things for you to think about. Peruse through our lighting tips and tricks to have your house looking merry and bright. 

1. Always keep safety as priority

led christmas lightsChristmas lights – right side, by Rick Kimpel on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

When it comes to putting up Christmas lighting, opt only for UL-approved extension cords that are specific for outdoor lighting. Look for lights that are rated based on whether they are to be used for indoors or outdoors. If in doubt, check the Christmas lights package you buy. it has all the information. Apart from this, you will also get an idea about the lighted length and how many strands to connect.

If you’re using holiday lights from the previous year, you MUST check the wires before hanging them. Keep in mind that frayed or damaged cords are a big no-no. Faulty strands and exposed copper or broken sockets can cause serious safety hazards. 

2. Plan your lighting design

outside christmas lightsPhoto by Wonderlane on Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Recreating the vision that you have in your head often takes more work than you imagined. It’s best to develop an overall game plan. Think about the things you like and decorate accordingly. 

According to Jamie Coyle, a lighting designer, and estimator with Greenforce Outdoor Light in San Francisco, much like the process of planning a home renovation, it can be helpful to have your ideas collected in one place before starting the actual work. 

Put together pictures of displays that you like and use them as a starting point, regardless of you’re going the DIY way or hiring a professional. For Coyle, wrapped trees are his favorite lighting display pieces, “because they’re just so cool looking.” 

He also notes that popular requests from clients include gutter lines, rooflines that face the street, wrapping trees on sidewalks, and displays featuring reindeer families.

If you’re hanging the lights from the roofline, you must check your gutter thickness and shingle flexibility to determine the best way to hang these holiday lights.

3. Pick a focal point 

Beautiful lightingPhoto by Pxhere CC0

Instead of including multiple items in your lawn display, Coyle recommends creating one focal point. Without a focal point, your house lighting will look very haphazard — like someone shot lights out of a cannon all over your lawn. It’s best to add lights according to the space you have and the architectural design.

Although the number of lights you’ll need to decorate trees and shrubs is a matter of personal preference. If you want your shrubbery to be the center of your decoration, a good rule of thumb is to provide 100 lights for every 1-1/2-ft of tree or shrub that you want to cover. A 6-ft greenery will need at least 400 lights for basic lighting.

If you have columns framing your entryway, you might want to start your Christmas decorations here by hanging incandescent mini lights

Here are a few popular spots for your outdoor Christmas lighting:

  • Along your rooflines or eaves
  • Around entryway pillars or deck railings
  • On top of bushes, hedges, and Christmas tree
  • Around windows and door frames
  • On garden pathways

4. Always measure your lighting requirements

Measure any straight line you want to adorn with lights. It will help you to decide the number and size of strands you need. Also, measure the distance to your power source. Do not use more lengths of wires than required. You don’t want your light display to be an eye-sore because of all the unnecessary wiring.

Once you have all your measurements right, opt for lights that are spaced closer together. Denser lights mean brighter lights.

The best option is to have battery-operated light bulbs or rope lights to add to the holiday decor; no wires at all!

5. Choose your light colors well

Lighting colorsChristmas Lights at Wakefield Winter Wonderland, by Jeff Turner on flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Contrary to what most people think, not all white lights are the same. While white LED bulbs have a bluish tint, incandescent bulbs typically are slightly orange. Do not mix different shades or they will look mismatched. Just make sure you group the same light-type together. Keep in mind that lights can even vary based on the manufacturer and how old they are.

You can’t go wrong with classic led string lights, but if you’re good at planning lighting displays, you can mix it up — but strategically. For instance, you could use warm white lights on your bushes and colored lights on your entryway or the front door. And, have cool white icicle lights along the roofline. 

6. Opt for the energy-efficient LEDs

Coyle says that there has definitely been a trend toward consumers seeking LED lights. These lights are more energy efficient and require less wattage than incandescent bulbs. Keep in mind that they cost more up front. 

Creating a holiday light display in LED lights may come with a material cost double that of regular lights. However, you will end up reducing your energy bills effectively. 

7. Use light clips instead of staples

Christmas lightsChristmas lights 2009… by davef3138 on Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

When it comes to mounting lights to your house, light clips are really helpful. According to Coyle, one of the biggest obstacles in his seven years of experience with lighting design comes with homeowners not thinking about how the lights are hung. There are several options for hanging lights, from specially designed clips to special adhesives and screws. 

While some of these are meant to cause minimal damage, there really is no solution that’s completely damage-free. When envisioning your perfect holiday display, give some thought to how it will be created. 

8. Choose chic vs kitsch

chic vs kitschPhoto by Juliancolton, from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Holiday light displays don’t have to be the grandiose versions seen on television shows, feature dancing Santa, or a light projector. If you’re looking for something stunning yet subdued, you can opt for chic lighting. “I recommend keeping it simple,” Coyle advises. “I like mostly white. It’s hard to go wrong. Similarly, if you make it all color, it’s also difficult to go wrong.” 

Coyle also notes that a display can start to feel less cohesive when colors that don’t go together are paired, and that too many lawn decorations can derail an otherwise simple design.

9. When in doubt, hire a professional

If you’re hiring a professional to create your dream holiday light display, Coyle recommends making sure the company is reputable. Checking with the Better Business Bureau and reading online reviews can help you make the right decision when it comes time to hang your holiday lights.

Last words 

Decorating the exterior of your home for the holiday season is always a creative challenge. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just use your holiday lights sensibly and accent the key features of your house as well as yard for maximum curb appeal

You can wrap them around your porches and patios, wind them up on your stair rails, or beautifully cover your trees and bushes with net lights. The idea is to dress up just about everything for the most cheerful-looking house in town. 

Whatever your holiday light display is, be sure to create something that you will love to see. Once you’re done with this chore, you can sit back, relax, and marvel at your home’s festive exterior. 
Read more: Christmas Mantel Decorations

Make Christmas Holiday Lights Stand out with 9 Expert Tips was last modified: February 26th, 2020 by Sheree Whiteley
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