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The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Christmas Lights

It’s that time of year again! Christmas displays have started to pop up in big box stores and soon we’ll be thinking of dragging out the decorations and hanging the Christmas lights. There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to holiday lights so we’ve decided to compile it all in one convenient location. Here is our ultimate guide to Christmas lights!

Plan ahead
While the holidays are a season of cheer, it’s easy to get frustrated when thinking about hanging the decorations, especially when you discover that in your rush to put everything away last year, your strings of Christmas lights are tangled in a mess and most of the strands don’t seem to work. Before rushing off to the store to purchase more strands, give a little bit of thought to where you’d like to hang the lights.

On a nice fall day, wander to the edge of your yard, along the street and decide what elements of your home you’d like to enhance with Christmas lights, whether it’s columns, a large front window, roofline, etc. Take note of any garden elements as well – trees, bushes, etc. or any walkways that could use a bit of extra light.

Balance is Key
Remember, balance is key. If you’re planning on hanging lights on the roof, ensure there are lights down below, closer to the ground, even if it’s just some path lighting. Lighting the entire scene will be more aesthetically pleasing than having sporadic groupings of lights. It’s also a good idea to be considerate of your neighbours and to make sure there aren’t any glaring lights shining in their bedroom windows.

Once you’ve decided what elements of your home and garden you’d like to enhance with Christmas lights, get out the measuring tape to figure out how many lights you’ll need. To figure out the square footage of trees or bushes, measure the height and width, multiply those numbers and then double the total to give an approximate number of square feet.

Locate Your Sockets
Make sure you know where your outdoor electrical sockets are located and decide if you’ll need any extension cords. If you do, a heavy-duty option is best (make sure it’s made for outdoor use!) and experts recommend a 14 gauge cord for every 25 feet of stringed lights.

Check Your Lights
Before you drive to the store to get more lights, check what you already have and make sure there aren’t any broken bulbs, damaged cords and that everything works, then take a measurement to make sure you have enough. If you don’t, you’ll need to decide what type of lights to purchase. Also, make sure they are rated for outdoor use.

Check Your Clips and Hooks
If you’ve hung lights outside in previous years, there will likely be clips and hooks used before. Give them a once-over before you start to put up any lights, in case you find some that are missing or damaged and need to purchase more.

LEDs or Incandescent?
If you still have those incandescent mini-lights and only need a few strands to bring your design to life, it may be recommended to just purchase a few more incandescent strands instead of upgrading to LEDs. Because there is such a difference is the appearance, consistency is important and it’s better not to mix the two types of bulbs.

Incandescent lights have a shorter life-span and use more electricity than LEDs, but the up-front cost is substantially less. LED lights will last upwards of 60 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use about 80% less energy but it costs about 3 times as much, or more to purchase a strand of LED Christmas lights, and with LED lights, it seems that you get what you pay for.

LEDs can be tricky to mix strands from different years or manufacturers because the technology changes and the colours may not be the same and brightness levels could vary.

But unlike glass incandescent bulbs, LEDs are made from an extremely durable plastic, and don’t contain a filament, making them safer around small children and pets.

Note that manufacturers recommend that a maximum of 5 strands of incandescent lights be plugged together versus upwards of 40 strings of LEDs.

Christmas Lighting Options
No longer are strings of lights the only option and they come in any colour imaginable. Just remember that “white” LED lights could be varying shades of white from cool to warm. Here are a few common types:

Icicle lights have been around for a few years and are popular to give your home a “North Pole” kind of look, by hanging them from the roof line. They can just hang on strings, or be more realistic, plastic icicle-shaped lights.

Net lights are great for laying on top of bushes or wrapping trees since they are all connected and allow for covering a larger space with little effort. When using net lights, it’s important to stretch the lights out so it doesn’t look like a grid. 

Linear or rope lights are lights contained within a plastic “rope” and keep your lights in a straight line. They are great to use around a window or along a path as they are easily bendable, but will stay in place for a clean, straight look.

Safety Tips
When hanging Christmas lights, there can be some dangers, especially if you’re needing to use a ladder.

  1. Don’t hang lights alone, especially when a ladder is involved
  2. Don’t decorate trees that touch power lines
  3. Don’t connect different types of lights on the same circuit as this could cause a short
  4. Plug lights directly into electrical sockets (as opposed to extension cords) where possible
  5. Make sure extension cords aren’t a tripping hazard
  6. Ensure the lights are securely fastened to a stable surface to avoid them falling down in the wind

A Big Task

Designing and hanging your Christmas lights can be a big task. If you’d rather just relax and enjoy the festivities with family and friends, let the professionals at Christmas Décor Oakville do the work for you! Contact them for a no obligation quote.

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