THE ULTIMATE OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS LIGHT GUIDE
Ahhh untangling Christmas lights! So much fun right? Not really, but once you get the lights untangled, Christmas lights are an essential part to your postcard-perfect holiday home! We’ve got some tips and tricks up our sleeves for this year’s outdoor Christmas light installation!
Before we get into the fun part, we have to talk about safety. Anytime you’re dealing with electricity, safety is huge!
Make sure you’re plugging your lights into a GFCI outlet, a ground fault circuit interrupter. This type of outlet will shut your lights off instead of overpower it! No sparks here!
Next make sure your extension cords are labeled for “outdoor use.” These cords hold up against the elements unlike the indoor extension cords. Still, place connections to your extension cords above water or snow! Ever seen the holey bucket trick? What a great DIY way to keep your connections out of the elements! Another thing to think of when it comes to extension cords are the length! Buying the correct length extension cord can help prevent walking hazards! Try to avoid running extension cords across walkways, but if you have to, tape them down to prevent a falling hazard! You can find outdoor extension cords with power blocks to help limit the number of cords you have running through your yard for your holiday display. Check out this power block extension cord from Home Depot here!
Photo by: Photo by Farm Journal:
Buying the right lights can be tricky! There’s so many to choose from! Before selecting your favorites, think of safety. You should only purchase waterproof with the tag marked underwriters lab (UL). This means the lights meet national industry standards with the American National Standards Institute. Same as the extension cords, only purchase lights labeled for “outdoor use.”
Power Line Safety:
Do a quick check: do any of your trees touch power lines? You should NEVER hang lights on trees that touch power lines. Call your local professional tree trimming company to ensure all branches touching power lines are removed safely. When looking around for a tree trimmer, it’s important to find a certified arborist! Our local favorite is ArborCareHouston.com. Arbor Care has earned an A+ Rating with the Better Business Bureau, where it has been listed since 1995. Arbor Care has many devoted customers on Angie’s List and holds a Gold Standard Rating with the Consumer Business Review and is named a Premier Company with a Five Star Rating by the Home Services Review. It is a member and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture and a member of the Tree Care Industry Association, the voice of tree care. Don’t know how to properly hang lights on your trees? Check out this informative article by Christmas Lights Etc. that goes over How to Wrap a Tree With Lights.
Plug Them In:
We’ve covered outdoor light safety, so now let’s dive into the decorating. First things first: Plug all of your lights in. Yes before untangling them. Nothing’s worse than spending the time to untangle your lights to realize it was all for nothing! So step one in the installation process is to test all of your strands! If they don’t work it’s sad to have to throw them out but at least you figured this out before you spent the time hanging them.
Types of Lights:
C7 and C9 Light Strands:
So many lights- how to choose? If you’re going for a traditional look, the c7 and c9 bulbs will be your pick. These are the old cone shaped bulbs featured on the puppy on The Berry that were traditionally all you could buy before mini lights came around. What’s the difference between c7 and c9 bulbs? C9 bulbs are a little bigger and can be seen from a distance. These traditional lights used to be glass but now you can buy them in plastic too. Plastic is a little sturdier and harder to break if you drop them on tile floor. But plastic tends to lose its color faster than glass. You can find these cone shaped bulbs in frosted or plain- your choice. You can purchase these in strands of 25 bulbs or 100 bulbs. Three strands of 25 can be plugged into each other to create a daisy chain, but no more than 3. The strands of 100 need to be plugged in separately. Nowadays, the lights are set so that if one light fails, the rest of the strand will stay lit, just that one bulb will be out. Bulbs are easy to replace on c7 and c9 strands, just screw in a new bulb. If you’re a FixerUpper fan, you probably remember the episode where they renovate the bed and breakfast in the “Home Away from Home for the Holidays” episode! The outside of the home was lined with these traditional C7 and C9 bulbs.
Photo by: The Berry
Miniature Light Strands:
Another option for strand style lights, is to use miniature bulbs! These are a lot cheaper to purchase and consume less electricity. You can usually purchase them in strings of 50 to 300 bulbs and can daisy-chain up to three strands together. Most miniature bulbs have a shunt inside each bulb so if one bulb fails, the others will stay lit. Like many products these miniature lights have the rule, “you get what you pay for” so it’s worth spending a little more to get a quality string of lights. Miniature lights come in all types of colors: there’s classic white, blue, green, red, and multicolored strands. The cording can usually be found in green to match your trees or white to blend in with your gutters or windows. Another option when purchasing miniature lights is to buy the pack with settings. They’re called “chasing lights.” The bulbs light up and chase each other in sequence. We’re sure you’ve seen this animated look on a neighbor’s home to where the lights look like they’re moving. There’s generally multiple settings you can choose from such as dimming, flashing, and different chasing speeds!
Another option, and one of our personal favorites is net lighting! If you have shrubs and bushes net lighting is the way to go. It’s exactly as it sounds- a net of lights that you can throw over your bushes and shrubs like you’d throw a blanket. No more zigzagging and tying those mini strands. The net lights give your plants consistent coverage. They are all miniature lights and have the same shunt inside each bulb so when one goes out, your entire net doesn’t go out. Like the others, you can find these net lights in multiple colors. You can use white to look like a blanket of fallen snow or use grab colored-lights to add warmth to your yard like this photo captured by the Colorado Guy. Or get creative and use red or multi-colored lights to fulfill a gingerbread-home look.
Photo by: Colorado Guy.
Rope lights are great for lining your sidewalk and driveway. A rope light consists of small light bulbs linked together and encased in a flexible PVC jacket. Rope lights are bendable and can be bent to wrap around posts or trees and are also flexible enough to be shaped into letter. If you are writing in cursive, you can use your rope light strand to write out a word like Noel or Merry. One of our favorite bloggers, Pretty Handy Girl has her full tutorial on rope light word wall art here! Rope lights come in many colors and can also be found in the multifunction packs where you can choose the “chasing lights” mode, dimming mode, and flashing mode for some extra effects.
Photo by: Pretty Handy Girl.
Have a roof or porch line in reach? You must check out icicle-style lights! Icicle lights are another classic and beautiful choice for the holiday season. They look great placed straight across or up roof peaks at angles. They hang naturally and catch breezes to turn and twinkle like real icicles catching light. Icicle lights can also be placed along flat surfaces like a fence for a festive look like this photo by Yard Envy. Like our other light strand options, icicle lights come in a variety of colors and can be found animated too. The animated icicle lights look like a dripping icicle where the lights chase each other on each icicle. The chasing icicle lights have to be another personal favorite of ours.
Shimmer spheres are gorgeous to hang from trees or porches. They are circular shaped spheres covered in miniature lights that look like a snowball lighting up the sky. They come in a variety of sizes and look great staggered at different height in the trees. We use fishing line to hang our shimmer spheres so they truly look suspended in the air. We like to buy all different colors and circumferences and hang the. randomly from branches. They even have shimmer spheres with chasing lights to add even more twinkle to your yard. Love DIY? One of our favorite bloggers, All Things Heart and Home first of all created a DIY shimmer sphere and then used them to create an outdoor chandelier. Her full DIY tutorial can be found here!
Photo by: Pretty Handy Girl
If you’re looking for something easy, this one is for you. Wired animated lights put on an incredible show and it looks like you did a ton of work. You can buy animated designs such as flying reindeer, dancing snowmen, and Santa’s sleigh. The list goes on! The wired design is already set up for you with lights. All you have to do is plug it in and stick it in the ground. Some animated designs use rope lights and some use the miniature lights. They come in a variety of sizes to fit your yard too.
Inflatable Yard Décor:
A more recent holiday décor trend (and a super easy option) is inflatable yard art! You can find inflatable yard art in so many designs. There’s traditional trees and candy canes etc. But there’s so many characters to choose from. Are you into Star Wars? You can get an R2D2 Christmas inflatable. Love the Grinch? You can find him too! Want a rubber ducky with a Santa hat? Yep, that exists too! Inflatable yard art is simple to set up. Stick the 4 legs in the ground, clip the four labeled clips to the legs, plug it into your extension cord and watch it inflate. Most inflatable yard art is filled with tiny LED lights so it can be seen from the streets. Some less expensive versions have no lighting and you may want to set up a spot light to illuminate it. Either way they’re a great way to add character to your yard during the holidays.
A timeless tradition is to decorate with wreaths! Place them on your door, your windows, and your garage. Hang them from light fixtures, or even your mail box! A wreath adds instant festivity to your home any time of year but especially when it is lit up during the holidays. You can buy battery powered strands of lights at any hobby store, wrap them around your wreath, and flip the switch. There’s even battery-powered light strands with timers so you don’t have to worry about flipping the switch each night. We suggest getting suction cup hooks for hanging from your windows, and a wreath hanger for your door.
A recent and oh-so-simple trend for holiday decorating is projector lights! Projector lights are simple to set up and give light and color to your entire home. They even have projector lights that can be controlled from your smartphone. Most projector lights put on a show of stars that can be projected across the front of your home. Some projectors have settings to make the stars animated and move. Other projectors are more sophisticated and can display words and graphics up to 50 feet like this one. As with Christmas lights, you get what you pay for. But even a $29 projector can add festivity and light to your yard for little to no work.
Photo by: Target
There are so many ways to get the front of your home “Pinterest worthy” for the holidays! Take it easy or go all-out to make this Christmas unforgettable. We hope you enjoyed reading our tips and tricks for your outdoor Christmas décor!