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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Make Your Outdoor Christmas Lights Shine Bright

Outdoor Christmas lights can transform your home into an enchanting place. New choices in lighting allow you to create a memorably beautiful display while also saving money. Here’s how.

The revolution in holiday lighting

Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights are the latest trend in residential holiday lighting. These new lights cost more upfront than incandescents, but they last 30 times longer and use less than 20 percent of the electricity. If all your outdoor Christmas lights are LED, you’ll barely notice the increase in your December electric bill.

This difference in power usage means you can plug multiple LED light strings into a single outlet without tripping a breaker. By comparison, using multiple strands of incandescent lights requires you to plug into multiple outlets on different house circuits.

To avoid tripping a circuit with outdoor Christmas lights, make sure their total wattage doesn’t exceed 80 percent of the circuit’s capacity. First, check the manufacturer’s UL tag for the wattage of the individual light strings. Add the total wattage of all the strings plugged into a single circuit to make sure you are within capacity. (Home electrical circuits typically are either 15 amperages or 20 amperage capacity, which can safely support 1,400 and 1,900 watts, respectively.) Don’t forget that other household appliances may be plugged into the same circuit.

Outdoor laser projection lights

Projection-style laser lights that cast stylized images onto your house are increasingly popular. A projection light refracts a single laser beam into hundreds of points of green, red or blue light. Positioned correctly, these devices can make your home look like it is covered in Christmas lights. Images of falling snowflakes, Santa, Frosty and many other motifs also are available.

Because laser light projected into the sky could unintentionally distract an aircraft pilot, experts on laser safety urge users not to shine the lasers into trees unless the branches form a near-solid canopy.

Hanging outdoor Christmas lights

Plastic clips for the gutters or shingle edges are inexpensive and keep outdoor Christmas lights neatly placed and spaced. Because of the risk of falls, strongly consider hiring a professional to hang lights on high rooflines and windows. If you’re a committed DIYer, have someone hold your ladder when you are on it, and never climb a ladder that is unsteady or stands crookedly.

To choose the best size bulb, consider where the light strings will be used. C7 and C9 bulbs, which are larger, work best for roof lines and surrounding windows. Mini lights work well in hedges, and any size will work in trees. With shrubs, you can custom-place individual strings or go for the convenient and uniform look of net lights.

Christmas tree lights

Mini incandescent lights and 5 millimeters LED lights provide the best look for your indoor tree, especially if you want high light density. LED lights have a concave lens that produces more light than incandescents. For medium-density lighting, use 100 lights per foot of tree height. For high density, double that.

Plugging in

Plugging both indoor and outdoor lights into power strips means you can turn them on with the flip of a switch. For outdoor Christmas lighting, consider having a qualified electrician install an outdoor outlet that can be turned on and off the same way. Using a timer to control when the lights shine will helps control your electricity costs by turning the lights off when you don’t want them to shine.

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