Christmas Lights: A Complete Buying & Installation Guide
Christmas lights brighten the holiday season and make celebrations feel complete with the sparkle and dazzle they showcase. The Christmas enthusiasts among us often go all the way, essentially putting on a light show for this most magical of holidays. But if you’re feeling less confident in your decorating abilities, well, you’re in good company. We can help you determine the right type and amount of Christmas lights to buy and install. This guide will help you identify the best lights for your needs – and more.
Types of Christmas Lights & Bulbs
Christmas bulbs and lights come in different styles and designs and are categorized into two main classes:
Indoors or Outdoors Lights
Indoor and outdoor Christmas lights look alike, but they are built differently. Outdoor Christmas lights are designed to withstand both the cold and wet conditions of the season. Snow and moisture can cause electrical issues; hence outdoor lights are designed to be water-resistant or waterproof. When purchasing lights to be used outdoors, look for products with a tag marked underwriters lab (UL). This means the lights meet national industry standards with the American National Standards Institute.
On the other hand, when selecting indoor lights, be sure to consider:
- the overall length of the strand
- how many strings can be connected to one outlet
- and whether all the lights will go out if a bulb burns out
These all-important factors will help you find the best product to decorate your home. Before stringing up the lights, consider how and where you will power your indoor Christmas lights. Typically, string lights need to be plugged into an outlet, so think about whether you’ll need an extension cord to make the light reach it.
Manufacturers label whether their holiday lights are designed for indoor or outdoor use on the box. You can use outdoor Christmas lights indoors, but it is not advisable to use the latter outdoors.
LED or Incandescent
Christmas lights also come in two main designs: incandescent and light-emitting diodes (LED). LED Christmas lights are relatively new and have nearly phased out incandescent bulbs because of their sturdy design and many benefits.
Incandescent lights feature a glass bulb with a metallic filament and heating gas. Electricity heats the filament, making it light the gas. On the other hand, LED lights feature light-emitting diodes that light up when charged. Their simplistic design comes with many benefits, including:
- Energy efficiency – LED lights use about a tenth of the energy consumed by incandescent lights.
- Durability – Incandescent lights break easily because of the fragile glass and filaments, but LED lights can withstand high current, low temperatures, and other extreme conditions.
- Safety – Incandescent lights are vulnerable to power surges and extreme weather elements, but LED lights generate minimal heat and don't pose a fire hazard.
- Aesthetics – LED lights shine brighter and can emit more colors than incandescent lights, while the latter shine with a yellowish glow that makes them appear faded.
It is recommendable to choose LED lights over incandescent ones. They are cheaper, safer, and better looking.
Factors to Consider When Buying Christmas Lights
Besides the type and design of the lights, there are several other factors to consider when shopping, including:
Christmas lights come in varying colors. Red and white Christmas lights are some of the most popular, but you can also opt for multi-colored bulbs and single shades in greens, blues, and other colors that suit your preference and complement your holiday decor. Multi-colored lights cover a broad spectrum of colors, eliminating the need for single shades.
Size & Amount
Estimating the length of Christmas lights required for varying purposes (the tree and indoor and outdoor décor) requires a keen eye. Ideally, you should allocate 100 lights per 1.5 feet of tree. You can also use up to three times this amount if you are going for a more dense lighting scene.
Bulb spacing is essential to prevent cramming or empty spaces. For example, strands with a 4-inch bulb spacing will light more area at a lower cost, while strands with a 6- to 8-inch bulb spacing are best for tightly wrapping branches. It is also prudent to buy more lights than you think you need to avoid unwanted surprises when decorating your home.
Christmas lights come in dozens of styles and designs. Some of the most common and popular ones are:
This is the traditional and most common style, whereby multiple bulbs are embedded at regular intervals on one long wire. This design is ideal for wrapping lights around trees, poles, and other objects.
This design features LED bulbs inserted in a clear tube. The design is flexible and ideal for decorating outlines on doors, windows, and walkways.
As the name implies, these lights feature several string lights woven into a net style. They are ideal for using outdoors on roofs, bushes, and other broad surfaces.
These pendant drops feature both long and short strands of lights spaced at regular intervals. They look like icicles and are ideal for use outdoors to decorate windows and gutters.
Laser projectors aren't Christmas lights per se, as there aren't physical bulbs, strings, or other traditional components. Instead, the lights come from a laser projection programmed to display light on the side of a home, roof, or another large surface.
Christmas lights bring joy. However, they can also pose a range of risks, including a fire hazard. As such, it is advisable to take necessary safety precautions when installing and setting up your lights. The following tips will help:
- Don't mix indoor and outdoor lights (don't use indoor lights outside).
- Test and inspect the lights before installation.
- Avoid using metals such as nails and tacks to affix your lights, as metal conducts electricity.
- Use the right extension cords to avoid overloading the electrical outlets – it is recommendable to use a GFCI outlet to prevent surges.
- Avoid climbing the roof if it is wet or covered in snow – take all the necessary safety precautions (including using a harness) if you must put up the lights.
- Ensure that all wires are covered before installation, as exposed wires can ignite fires and cause electrocution.
Due to their increased fire risk, it is advisable to take extra safety precautions when working with incandescent Christmas. It is also prudent to seek help, especially when climbing the roof and other elevated places. Last but not least, consider hiring a professional if the risk of danger is significant, especially when implementing a detailed lighting design or a light show.
Indeed, Christmas without lights feels incomplete. Fortunately, we stock a range of lights, including your favorite styles and designs. So call us or visit us online to learn more and explore our collection of Christmas lights.