Buyer's guide to outdoor Christmas lighting
Find tips and trends on the latest outdoor lighting artifacts and decorations.
With Christmas just around the corner, you may be wondering what to give those on your shopping list. But have you thought about what to get your yard? A happy courtyard with a cool Christmas light screen smiles at everyone passing by.
Ready to shoot the fantastic lights? Here's what you need to know:
The essence of any Christmas lighting scheme is the chains of lights that adhere to eaves, tiles and gutters. The lighting strings come with only 25 bulbs and up to 200. Lighting clamps make installation easy and designed to work without making holes in the ceiling or molding.
Special clips are designed to add lights around windows and to grip brick surfaces.
Choose lighting clips based on the size of the bulbs on your lighting cords and where in the building you will connect the strings. Clips hold the light sockets, so you can position the bulbs upright, hanging down or horizontally. A pack of 50 all-purpose clips costs approximately $6.
Keys to success in choosing Christmas lights
- Map your schematic carefully before installation.
- Use only light strings and approved extensions for outdoor use.
- The lights are designed to connect to each other to create long runs, but never use more than three chains in one.
- Connect the light strings on strings of the same length. Do not mix and combine strings of different lengths: the cables are classified for different amperage.
- Measure the distance carefully and write everything down so you just have to take a trip to the store.
- If you need a measurement to spiral a pole or tree trunk, wrap it around a rope, then place the flat rope to measure the length you'll need.
The big debate: incandescent vs. Led
Actually, the debate is over. LEDs win on all sizes except the initial price: a series of LEDs costs about twice as much as incandescent bulbs of the same size. But because LEDs are so durable, the price differential is erased after two or three years of use.
- Energy efficiency. LEDs use about 10 percent of the electricity consumed by incandescent bulbs. An incandescent bulb must heat its filament to produce light, and about 90 percent of the energy it uses is used to produce heat. LED technology consumes energy and produces very little heat, which in turn reduces the risk of fire.
Many types of LED Christmas lights meet Energy Star guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Longevity. LEDs last two to three times longer than incandescent bulbs. In addition, LED bulbs are typically made of lightweight plastic and are less likely to break than glass incandescent bulbs.
- Brightness. Incandescents hold the edge, but LED light chains generally feature more bulbs per chain. Call this one even.
Illuminating the outside
Chain your tree at night, with the light chains plugged in so you can see the effect as you build your light scheme.
Evergreen trees look good with larger bulb sizes, such as the C7 and C9. If you're lucky enough to have a nice evergreen tree in your garden that you'd like to light up, the industry's golden rule is 100 lights for every vertical tree foot; Large trees may need more.
Larger C7 and C9 bulbs are usually separated by 12 inches, a good scale when viewed from the street.
Evergreen shrubs are candidates for lighting nets: crisscrossed wire nets and grid-shaped mini lights. Throw a pair of 100 lights on your bushes, plug them in and you'll have giant shiny embellishments along your base.
Trees and deciduous poles are tempting targets for the light spirals of candy canes. Get lights that are very unspaced, such as mini lights or string lights. In trees, bark is usually rough enough to hold strings of light in place. It can give a little support to light strings with strategically placed pins, but do not drive a lot of screws or nails as it could damage the tree.
Messages require a little help. Depending on your tolerance for a variety of fasteners that protrude from your outer molding at any time of the year, you can add hooks for small cups or screws. Adhesive-backed lighting clips are another option.