Trimming one’s home in decorative Christmas lights is one way to get into the holiday spirit. It’s also a great excuse for some friendly competition between neighbors over who can have the most eye-popping holiday display on the block.
Most people are casual participants when it comes to decking out their homes for the holidays. Unless you’re Christmas guru David Richards, whose impressive home light display last year included 75 miles of bulbs and landed him a spot in the Guinness World Records, hanging Christmas lights can be a thorny endeavor. One misplaced strand and its public humiliation in the most dazzling way possible. Here are some tips for how to hang Christmas lights the right way:
Choose the right kind of lights for your home. Stores carry several different kinds of Christmas lights, so know what to look for before shopping. Do you want clear lights, colored lights, large bulbs or small bulbs? Ones that stay lit, or ones that flicker? The right kind of lights for your home depends on the look you want to create as much as it does your budget, according to Home Tips.
The least expensive lights on the market are the so-called mini-lights. These are by far the most popular because of their low cost and low energy consumption; each bulb uses just 1.5 to 2.5 volts. One downside to using mini-lights is that if one bulb in the string goes out, all the ones after it do, too.
That’s not the case with traditional, larger Christmas bulbs. Larger lights are designated C-7 and C-9 and have 5- to 10-watt bulbs, similar to what you might find in a nightlight.
Most lights are sold as 50-, 100-, 150- or 200-light strings. Home Tips recommends getting shorter strings when using mini-lights as they’re easier to replace if a bulb goes out. And always test your lights before hanging.
Measure. Before buying lights, measure all the surfaces you wish to cover. Door and window frames, rooflines, around pillars or posts, along the driveway -- take note of whatever straight line or curved surface will get lights, that way you’ll know exactly how many strands you’ll need to buy. Most importantly, include the distance to the nearest outlet. There’s nothing worse than reaching the end of a strand only to find out you’re three-feet short of a power source.
Have the right tools for installing Christmas lights. You’ll need a strong ladder, all-purpose light clips, a timer and, for those putting lights in trees, a light-hanging pole, according to Christmas Lights Etc. Do away with staple guns and nails, which put unsightly holes in surfaces and can be a pain to remove, by investing in light clips. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be used for fastening lights to eaves, shingles, railings and gutters. Timers are great for avoiding leaving lights on in the middle of the night. Lowe’s offers several kinds of light timers from about $10 to $20.
Find the outlet. A switch-controlled outlet is ideal. Also, only use an outlet with a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, as these are safer and can quickly shut off electrical power in the event of a dangerous ground-fault, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This type of outlet has two vertical slots -- the left one slightly larger than the right -- with a hole below them. Here’s a video explaining how GFCIs prevent shock.
Pick a focal point for your light display. Lowe’s suggests identifying a focal point for your lights -- a post, a high-point in the roof line, or a particular tree or cluster of bushes. Bulb spacing is a major consideration when hanging Christmas lights. Bulbs should be spaced between 12 and 18 inches apart on bigger homes, bulbs on smaller homes should be spaced 6 to 12 inches, according to Christmas Lights Etc. The same applies for walkways -- longer walkers, larger spacing; shorter walkways, smaller spacing.