The best time (and safest time) for hanging outdoor holiday lights is before weather turns wet and cold. If you’ve been buying, rebuying, and hanging traditional incandescent lights, it’s time to upgrade to brighter, more energy efficient LED’s.
Here are tips and products to help you make the “switch.”
Before you break out the lights and ladder, first plan your decorations.
To find the amount of power cord you’ll need, measure from your outdoor or indoor power outlets to the beginning of your design.
You’ll need to use heavy-duty extension cords running to a 120-volt electrical outlet, protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
This type of outlet will shut down the circuit if there is too much current. If you don't have a GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can install one outdoors, or you can use a portable outdoor unit.
When stringing around shrubs or trees, you'll need about 100 lights for every 1.5 feet of vertical height.
Ex. 6 ft. tree = 400 feet of lights
You can also use evenly-spaced LED Net Lights for easy landscape decoration.
Use your total measured distance to calculate the number of light strings and extension cords you’ll need.
Here are the most common types of holiday lights, and why we recommend LED’s.
Feature your wreaths, trees, or other non-light decor using less energy and setup time.
A popular choice, because they are inexpensive and use only 1.5-2.5 volts. They come in strings, ropes, icicles, and nets (for decorating trees and shrubs).
The downside: strings run in series, so if one bulb or socket fails, you can lose a whole string.
These old-school, screw in, 2.5-inch tall, 5-watt bulbs (C-7) and three-inch tall, 10-watt lights (C-9) are larger and more robust than mini-lights.
Because of those extra watts, they also burn hotter and consume twice the energy as minis. But they remain lit even when individual bulbs fail.
LED holiday lights come in various styles and colors. They may be more expensive, but they are also brighter, don’t heat up while lit, and use less energy.
LED’s are also tougher and last up to 25 times longer than other bulbs.
Aside from using up to 75% less energy, there are many reasons why LED lights are the go-to for holiday decorators (57% now prefer LEDs). Here’s just a few.
|MINIS||C-7 / C-9 INCANDESCENTS||LED LIGHTS|
|Power consumption (per bulb)||0.5 to 1 Watt||5 to 10 Watts||~0.1 Watt|
|# of sets you can connect together||3-5 sets||3-5 sets||40-50+ sets, depending on string size|
|Bulb temperature (during use)||Warm to hot||Very hot||Cool|
|Bulb burnout effect on string||If one Mini burns out, a whole string goes dark||Will remain lit even when individual bulbs fail||Bulbs don’t burn out, just get dimmer over time|
|String life (avg. hrs. rated life)||1-2 seasons (2,500 hours)||1-2 seasons (3,000 hours)||10,000 to 100,000 hours|
Look for broken or missing bulbs or worn wiring, and replace them. Test each string before you start hanging.
If you’re using a ladder or stepladder to hang your lights, place on flat, secure ground and lean at a safe angle for climbing. If you must lean against gutters, put a short piece of 2x4 inside the gutter to reinforce it.
Use plastic clips to hold lights along gutters, trim, and roof. Don’t use nails, tacks or staples — they can pierce cords and create an electrical hazard. Wrap strings around columns and plants. Plug into a switch-controlled outlet and/or automatic timer, and make sure the circuit is rated to handle the combined amperes of all your lights.
Once all lights are plugged in, turn ‘em on! Stand back and admire your festive handiwork.
Even if you don’t live where it snows, take these steps to ready your van, truck, or fleet for winter.
Products and tips to help you prep for cold, rainy weather, no matter your U.S. region.