We share pictures of some of our outdoor holiday light ideas here to suggest some possibilities for your next Christmas decorating project with lights, to illustrate some of the numerous types of LED lights available, and provide general decorating and safety tips and advice for all decorating with Xmas lights, that we’ve found most helpful.
LED Christmas lights offer perhaps the most vivid hues you can buy in a highly efficient, low heat holiday light set as the pictures of our outdoor Christmas light display below show. Much more vibrant than incandescent Christmas lights, and cheaper to operate too. Since blue is our favorite color, we’ve decorated the house with that color outdoor light decorations for nearly a decade, and this house appeared in the local newspaper back in 2010.
Use Lots of Outdoor Lights
For the most eye-striking yard displays, use as many LED light strings as you can afford and safely power. Decorate everything on your lawn and home that will hold lights. Adorn all bushes, trees, banisters, railings, plants, fences, windows, and posts, with many little lights. Large, high power lamps aren’t really necessary for achieving an awe-inspiring effect. Many smaller lamps creates a more impressive display than fewer but larger units. You can never have too many LED lights. Based on neighbor comments, the more we placed, the more compliments we got.
Of course, with lots of lights often comes lots of extension cords. Follow our tips for using extension cords safely, to get ideas for best extension cord selection and proper usage.
With the extremely low power consumption of LED strings (roughly five to ten watts per string), it’s much harder to overload extension cords, even when connecting many strings into the same cord. Nonetheless, know the power rating of each string, and assure that the sum total of all strings in a particular branch does not exceed the maximum power rating of any extension cords and cables feeding that branch. Also, keep in mind the maximum power rating of the branch circuit itself.
Preferably, outdoor Christmas decorations should have their own separate ground fault interrupter circuit (GFIC). Do not operate any Xmas lights outside unless they’re plugged into a GFIC outlet, or a GFIC adapter.
Use Certified Safe Outdoor Christmas Lights Only
All LED light strings in these pictures were tested by Underwriters Laboratories for safety compliance. Indeed, whether you’re decorating indoors or out, always assure that your Christmas lights have been adequately designed to protect against electric shock. Keep the light strings themselves in plain sight during the day to minimize tripping hazards. As shown next, we used outdoor strands of C9 LED lights around the picket fence, C3 Xmas lights around the tree trunks, and miniature LEDs on the bushes, porches, railings, and plants.
For outdoor applications, be sure to use only lights that clearly state that they may be used safely outdoors. This not only reduces the possibility of electric shock, but the bulbs themselves tend to hold up better; they do not rust or corrode in the weather as much as a comparable indoor string of lights might. Also, the light cords have UV stabilized insulation, that will crack less in the cold after long weeks in the sun.
Decorate Low to the Ground if Heights Scare You
If you’re not comfortable on tall ladders or otherwise afraid of heights, do not decorate on roofs or spouting areas; especially if you live in a multi-story home. If fear prevents you from climbing with a calm and steady gait, then avoid adorning those high places. Often, the jitters, more than the height itself, can trigger falls. And besides, in this particular season, the highest above the ground any of these decorations were, was eight feet.
If you must have some lights up high, then use only the safest fiberglass ladders. Avoid metal ladders, not only because at this time of year, they can be too cold to handle, but also because they tend to be heavier and thus, harder to wield than fiberglass. We used a Werner 8-foot fiberglass V ladder to put up the higher lights on the trees, as shown next. With the ladder collapsed, we propped it against each tree, and climbed up one rung for every two or three wrap-arounds of the light strings. The tree bark could be pried out enough to anchor light cords for the most part. But at the top, we either tied the string to a small branch, or tapped in a 2” roofing nail, and wrapped the light cord around that.
Decorate Deep into the Trees and Bushes
To create a shimmering, twinkling effect for passers by as they walk by, put lights deep inside trees and bushes. Don’t just decorate the outer edges. Instead of just wrapping in a circular spiral shape, use a zig-zag layout where the points of the zigs touch the center of the tree. You’ll need more light strings doing it this way, but you’ll create a more stunning and vivid, brighter and glittering, sparkling effect as a result. We did this on the arborvitae bushes and hedges next. The brightness and vividness of those hundreds of blue LEDs was stunning, and drivers on the street reported seeing lots of sparkles as the lights on the far side of the bush from them, filtered through the bush branches as they passed. Wrap lights around protruding leaves and small branches to hold them in place, or strap them down with bag ties.
For Every Straight Edge, Run a String of Outdoor Lights
On our south porch, we ran the blue LEDs along the bottom of the upper lattice work, wrapped them around banisters, stretched them down the sides of the wheelchair ramp, and draped them around the door. We also hung blue and white LED snowflake lights from the lattice.
To protect electrical connections, route the lights such that the plugs at each end are positioned under the roof or banister and out of direct rainfall and sunlight. Where possible, hang plug connections vertically, so that they do not lay on the ground or anywhere rainwater or melting snow might accumulate.
Anchor All Outdoor Christmas lights to Stop Them from Blowing in the Wind
The snowflake lights in the next picture often would swing violently , battering the lattice and beam posts, cracking their cases, and fraying the wires. So we tied thin, nearly invisible fishing line between the upper lattice and the banister, near each flake. Then, we tied the snowflake light to that string. This reduced the swaying in the wind motion to practically zero, even on the windiest of days, protecting the lights, and quieting things down on the porch as well.
Decorate Doors and Windows both Inside and Outside
Since doors are so reachable, decorating them with brilliance should be no problem; not even for the novice home Xmas decorator. As shown next, we trimmed around the outer edge of the exterior door, decorated an artificial wreath with blue LEDs and a blue and white ribbon (Penn State country here), and hung that on the storm door with a brass flat hook.
Also, don’t leave the inside of your windows bare. Though not shown in these pictures, we often place matching blue LED candles in the center of each window (one per window), and then run a light string around the inside edges of each window.
Replace Porch Light Bulbs with Matching Color LED or CFL Bulbs for the Season
At the left center of the next picture, note the blue compact fluorescent bulb glowing in the porch light fixture. LED bulbs are much less affected by cold weather than the CFLs, and though our bulb below was glowing brightly when this picture was taken, the weather was pretty warm. CFL bulbs glow dimly in the cold, and may not brighten fully in extremely cold weather, such as what we experience here in PA.
Blue LED Xmas lights really make your home stand out; especially in our case, as we were the only ones in the area who decorated so obsessively with them. Even today, now that we’ve lived away from that location going on three years, people still say they miss seeing them each holiday season. The vividness of blue LEDs helps cement them as a perpetual novelty and into the memories of those who enjoy them, because people just aren’t yet used to seeing such intense blue hues. So if you’re looking to see cars slow as the drive by your display, go with blue LEDs. Your home will be the talk of the town if you do.
- 2017-03-31: Originally published.