Outdoor Christmas Lights
Twinkling and bright, outdoor decorative lighting brings holiday cheer to your home and yard. Here’s everything you need to know to light up your world in a quick, safe and inexpensive manner this holiday season.
Step 1: Pick your projects before you purchase.
The holiday decorating itch may strike suddenly and without warning. Plan before you purchase — it will save you money.
Some popular spots for outdoor Christmas lights include:
- Along your rooflines or eaves
- Atop bushes, hedges and trees
- Around pillars and posts
- Around windows, door frames and other architectural features
- Near driveways and pathways
- Inside window boxes and planters
- Around focal points in your yard or garden (or as focal points themselves)
Measure everything you want to adorn with lights, including the distance from the decorating site to your outdoor power sources.
The number of lights you’ll need to decorate trees and shrubs is a matter of personal preference. A good rule of thumb is 100 lights for every 1-1/2 feet of tree or shrub you want to cover. So a 6-foot-tall evergreen needs at least 400 lights for a basic level of lighting. Of course, if you love lights, you may want to double or even triple that amount.
Step 2: Buy lights.
After you calculate how many lights you need for your project, decide on the type of bulbs you’ll use:
- Incandescent mini lights have been around for years. They’re inexpensive to purchase and produce a warm glow. They’re sold in various lengths that hold from 50 to 300 or more lights. Look for them in numerous colors and combinations of colors.
- LED (light-emitting diode) lights are the newer option for outdoor decorating. They give off brilliant white light and remain cool to the touch, even after hours of use. Thanks to unbreakable, plastic bulb covers in various shapes and colors, you’re sure to find a light that suits your style and needs. LEDs are more expensive, but they’ll save you money in the long run. They’re 90% more energy-efficient and last thousands of hours longer than similar incandescent bulbs.
Whatever type of lights you choose, remember:
- All light strands should be UL-listed (Underwriters Laboratories) and rated for outdoor use. If the box doesn’t mention outdoor use, don’t risk it.
- All bulbs should feature nontwist sockets for fast and easy replacement.
- Choosing the same brand and type of lights ensures consistent results and ease in connecting one string to the next.
- In case you decide to add more lights, buy an extra set or two of lights.
While you’re shopping in the Lowe’s Seasonal Area, check out specialty lights for various situations:
- If you have a spot that’s located a long distance from a power source (or you just want to save money on your electricity bill), look for LED sets that are powered by small solar panels.
- Icicle lights are usually hung along rooflines and feature many short segments of lights dangling from a central strand.
- Net and blanket lights make it quick and easy to cover shrubs and bushes with sparkle. Kits come in various sizes from 100 to over 300 lights.
- Stand-alone shapes (holiday-themed images, spirals, mini trees and inflatables) can be great additions to open spots in garden beds, lawns and porches.
Step 3: Gather everything else you’ll need.
You’ll need a few special supplies to hang outdoor Christmas lights, including:
- Outdoor Extension Cords: Bring power to the site of your display and avoid having lights trailing through your yard and garden.
- Timer: Turn on your lights only when it’s dark and set them to go off automatically two, four, six or eight hours later or at dawn. You’ll save money in the process.
- Power Stakes: These portable devices bring power closer to where you need it so you don’t have to run cords all over your yard. For extra convenience, look for stakes with timers and remote controls.
- Ladder: Consider purchasing a lightweight step ladder or an extension ladder sized to match the decorating projects you’ll be undertaking.
- Hardware: Look for specialty hooks and clamps that make it easy to attach lights to gutters, window trim and door frames. Double-check that adhesive-backed hardware is appropriate for outdoor use. You’ll also want to have a few sizes of nails, some traditional cup hooks and thin wire on hand.
- Basic Hand Tools: Gather screwdrivers, a hammer and pliers (to bend wire and pinch hooks tight).
- Work Gloves: Get a pair of thin, flexible gloves to keep your hands warm so you can easily use tools and work with hardware.
Decorate Safely and Quickly
Before you hang outdoor Christmas lights, decide what you’re going to work on first as well as what hardware and tools you’ll need.
Although each project is different, the following tips will help ensure that your lights go up smoothly and look great:
- If possible, hang lights during the day. Avoid installing electrical items while it’s raining or snowing.
- Unwrap all lights and untangle cords before you start decorating. Test each light strand. Replace burned-out or missing bulbs. Throw out strands with broken or fraying cords.
- Work with a helper. The job will go faster with someone to hand you tools and keep cords tangle-free.
- In general, start high and work your way down. As necessary, use extension cords to get power to your starting point. To eliminate a tripping hazard, avoid running lights on the ground or pavement.
- Never connect more than three strands, or 300 lights, end to end. After you finish hanging your third strand, start back at the power source for your next set.
- Use clips to attach lights whenever possible. Avoid driving nails into cords or attaching cords with staples, which can damage the lighting strands.