How to Hang Christmas Lights (Safely and Easily)

October 13, 2011

Like many things in life, the ease with which you’re able to install holiday lights on your home, boils down to two things: 1) Thinking the project through before you dive in, and 2) Having the right tools for the job. Neither task is hard, but it can make a world of difference once you start. So here are five tips, in each of those categories, that will make installation go much smoother:

Right Tools for the Job:

1. A ladder, and/or a bucket truck
Being able to reach, and easily access the areas you are trying to light, will make your install go much quicker, smoother, and easier.
2. Extension cords
Having the right length and quality of extension cords will make plugging everything in much easier, will avoid connections laying on the ground (which can cause issues), and will allow you to to start and stop the lights where you want.
3. A long (30 foot) measuring tape
A nice long measuring tape (or measuring wheel), will allow you to easily and accurately measure longer distances, like rooflines and large trees.
4. LED lights
Using LED lights, instead of Incandescent, will make the install process much easier. No more calculating watts, or not having enough power to light everything you wanted to. LEDs use less energy, allow you to connect more sets end-to-end, and most importantly are safer (stay cool to the touch).
5. Installation Accessories
Whether it is the right Christmas Light Clip for your installation surface and bulb type, a Timer to control the lights, or having enough Triple Taps so you can plug everything in, having the correct installation accessory, and enough of them, can be the difference in the final appearance of your install.

Thinking Things Through:

1. Locate your power sources
You need to make sure you have power, or can get power, to the items/areas you want to light. You may want to look into getting a domestic electrician to sort out any problem you may have. Common places for outlets is by the front or back door, under eaves, in the garage, or you might have one out in a landscape bed. Try to avoid running extension cords over sidewalks and driveways, as they can be a tripping hazard, and driving over them can damage the cord. If you cannot get power to something you want to light, you might want to consider having an electrician put in an outlet where you need it, or make the decision not to light it. If you do decide to bring in an electrician, you might also want to consider having an electrical inspection survey and review, if you’re in the Spitalfields area.
2. Measure
Having accurate measurements is key to knowing how many lights you will need. Not measuring ahead of time, or inaccurate measurements, will result in you not having the correct amount of product to finish the job. This is also very important for rooflines, as the product you select, may be somewhat based on the length you need.
3. 3. Check product specs or tags, to determine how many strings you can safely connect end-to-end
Always follow UL Guidelines on what you can plug together, and how many sets you can plug end-to-end. Current UL Guidelines say you can plug 216 watts end-to-end, but make sure to check your specific product, as some specialty products are rated differently. This is not only the safe thing to do, as going over this limit can cause fire hazards, but they can also cause breakers inside your home to trip and a troubleshooting nightmare.
4. Choose the best lights for the job
Some bulb styles or products work better than others for particular applications, and generally the bulb size will correlate with the size of the item you are putting the bulbs on (smaller tree/bush = smaller bulb shape – larger tree/bush = larger bulb shape). 5MM and G12 work well for wrapping trees,C6 look like little pinecones when you put them on medium size pine trees, and M5 work well on bushes or anywhere you used to use your incandescent mini lights. C7 or C9 are generally reserved for rooflines, but also work well on large pine trees. Length of set might also be a factor – 100 feet of roofline to light – option of 25′ long sets or 23′ long sets – 25′ sets would be the better option as 4 would cover the area you want to light, without have extra lights or running short on length.

5. Use clips to achieve a professional look

The first step is to decide which areas of your home you’d like to decorate: rooflines, gutters, railings, porch eaves, stairways. Many people prefer to hang their lights from their guttering so that they have a better chance to be seen. You may even decide to contact someone similar to Clean Pro Gutter Cleaning Asheville to give your guttering a clean before the holiday season continues, as you don’t want to have any water damage to your home at this time of year. Your holiday lights may look nicer as a result. Then you will need to choose a ladder that will allow you to safely reach the highest part (following these ladder safety tips), and don’t forget a bucket to hang off the side so you can have all the supplies at hand. Then check and see where your power sources are. Newer homes often have more convenient outdoor outlets, while in older homes you may have to run an extension cord through a window or other opening.

Yes, choosing where to hang these decorations is important. Another important aspect to consider is the stability and the acknowledgement that your home provides quality roofing to be able to hold heavy and large decorations for a lengthy period, just like Christmas.

The most important step to a stress-free installation is measuring. Measuring from the power source to the start of the roofline or other area where you want to hang the lights will tell you how long your extension cord(s) need to be. Measuring the length of the roofline, windows, railings, etc. will help you determine how many feet of light strings you’ll need. A long measuring tape (30 feet or longer) will help with this job.

Few people may run up against this limit, but it’s important not to overload your power source by connecting too many strings end-to-end. All our products indicate in the product details how many strings can be safely connected together (in many cases, for instance, it’s 45.)

The fun part is choosing the best lights for the job. There are so many candidates for holiday lighting: standard C7 or C9 lights, holiday mini lights, icicle lights, railing lights. Your choices will largely be based on your own preferences, and which lights are most practical for the areas you’re trying to decorate.

The key to straight and evenly spaced light displays on your roofline (as opposed to the saggy, haphazard ones) are Christmas light clips. They’re available in a wide variety of configurations and easily attach to gutters, siding and shingles. If you’re not certain which will work best on the material you’re trying to decorate, a universal clip is the most flexible choice. To achieve the most professional look, have a clip for each light and pull the string taut between clips.

If you’ve thought through these steps ahead of time, flipping the switch (ideally connected to an outdoor timer) should yield few surprises and an impressive display.