Guide to holiday lighting

Do you aspire to have the most beautiful looking Christmas lights in the neighborhood this year? The holiday season is still a fair way off, but don’t let that make you complacent. So far as holiday lighting is concerned, there’s A LOT you need to organize, and the earlier you start the better! Preparation is key! Read our comprehensive guide to holiday lighting to find out more.

1. Prepare and plan ahead

holiday lighting

Preparing your holiday lighting in advance will make all the difference in the world when it comes to the quality of your holiday lighting experience. Decide NOW just HOW you are going to decorate your house/what effect you are looking for, the kind of lights you will need, how many, and then go out and get all the materials you will need as well. Don’t leave your decorating until the last moment, or you will end up with a hastily done, slapdash job that the neighbors will hold against you for years to come!

2. Study and research

Related to the first point: in order to determine what type of holiday lights you will need, and how many for your house, you will need to do some research. Before you get up on that ladder, read up on what types of lights are out there (for example string lights, lanterns, stake lights), how bright they are, the colors they are available in, the lighting effect (twinkling, etc), relative prices etc. Do you have hedges? You might want to get yourself some net lights that simply lie over the top. Rope lights are a good option for winding around any columns or banisters you have. Whatever sort of lighting you want, be sure to study, study, study and become aware of what’s out there. That way, you will get the right lights for your specific situation.

3. Get creative!

Don’t be scared to try something new this holiday season. Going for conventional string lighting, year after year gets old really quickly. Try out some subtle accent lighting on the bushes and shrubs leading to your front door, using the right clips or stakes of course. Give your trees the look of a giant Christmas tree or a fairy castle with icicles hanging from it. Trunk lights, new on the market, are another good option here. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by convention and tradition – experiment and go for what YOU think will look good. Go for variety as well. Drape strings in random patterns through the branches of your trees etc. Variety is the spice of life and it will make your holiday lighting look far more interesting.

4. Avoid incandescents

Tired of half the lights in your yard going out every holiday season? Ditch the incandescents and opt for LEDs instead. They use FAR less energy, whilst at the same time lasting a lot longer, than incandescents – if you use LEDs you will save a huge amount of money on your holiday lights over the long run. Moreover, they are cool to the touch, AND they don’t give out suddenly like incandescents. They’re better for the environment as well! It’s a no-brainer: the rest of the world is ditching incandescents in favor of LEDs; you should join them.

5. Check they are safe for outdoor use:

Before you start decorating, be sure your lights of choice are approved for outdoors usage. Check the UL rating of your lights. If it’s ‘Indoor/Outdoor’ you’ve been given the green light, whereas the ‘Indoor Use Only’ label indicates they are a no-no. Using the latter outdoors could leave you with electrical short-circuiting, burnouts, or even start a fire.

6. Test them!

Ok, you’ve got all your lights and accessories and are keen to start decorating. Not so fast! Try out your lights BEFORE you start decorating with them: that way you can identify any burnt out or missing bulbs before you begin, and either replace them or create a lighting pattern that still ensures an even distribution of light.

7. Get started

If you are decorating shrubs and bushes, this is generally done just like you would your indoor Christmas tree. Wrap or drape the strings in such a way that you end up with an even distribution of light: use an S shape for best results. As mentioned, net lights are another good option – you just throw them over your bush or shrub like a net. To hang lights (from the roof, for example), use the proper clips.

8. Some more safety tips:

Here are some more tips to avoid burnouts, short-circuiting, and fires:

  • Don’t overload extension cords: a standard 9-foot extension cord that has three receptacles, will bear 3 lights of the exact same length at each receptacle, and no more. Don’t overload your extension cord. Also, use the right extension cord, and ensure it is always plugged into an outlet protected with a ground-fault circuit breaker.
  • When your lights do trip a break, do not just switch them back on; first, reduce the load by plugging a few of your lights into another outlet.
  • Don’t connect cords that have different numbers of lights on them: that way, the set with fewer lights will prematurely burn out.
  • Again don’t connect different types of lighting sets (eg novelty lights to normal string lights). Again, one of them will prematurely burn out. For different kinds of lights, use a separate extension cord and power outlet.
  • Plug your lights into a surge protector, in order to avoid overloads and voltage spike.
  • Use the right placement bulbs: make sure when replacing burnt out or missing bulbs, that you use a light-bulb of the correct type, correct voltage etc. In fact, it’s good to have replacement bulbs of the right kind always on hand, in case of burnouts to your holiday lights.


Blogger, editor, developer who loves green living. Interested in photovoltaics and solar lighting. Reviewing solar products since 2013.

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