4 years ago we didn’t own a single strand of Christmas lights. Then we moved to a new house. We thought nothing of not owning Christmas lights until the first weekend of December came around. After the first weekend, 5 houses before ours going up the steep street were lit up like Christmas trees. The house on the other side of was also lit up. Ours was the dark, party-pooper house on the street.
We didn’t get the memo that our street goes nuts at Christmas.
We simply could not be the house that rained on the Christmas light parade. I jumped in the car and went out Christmas light shopping for the first time in my life. $500 later and a full day of work, our house was part of the light brigade. It was a good start.
By the next Christmas, I had done more research and discovered better lights. This was the year we really cranked it up a few notches to be on par with our street. I bought about 300 more feet of lights on spools and went to town.
Each year we buy more. We’re now at the point where we’re running out of space to put the lights. I don’t want to put lights up just for the sake of putting them up. I want it to be tasteful as well.
Fortunately, our house sits at the top of a hilly street and our house is on the upside which means it stands as a beacon. Our street is well known for it’s light display so we have many cars driving by all of December checking it out. It’s an impressive scene. While we’ve spent well over $1,000 on lights, I was happy to do so because it’s fun putting a big effort into something that really shows.
After 4 years I’m a Christmas light expert having bought all kinds, colors and sizes. I have my preferences.
Update: In 2020 I decided to hang up my staple and hire a Christmas light hanging service that we’ve now used two years in a row. Here’s what I learned about hiring a Christmas light hanging service.
My Exterior Christmas Light Preferences:
Color coordination: At first I focused on white lights, but after putting up red and blue lights strategically throughout the yard, I must admit I love those two colors. They’re very dramatic. On the flip side, I do not like multi-colored strings. I prefer each string to be one color and coordinate those strings around the property. The one exception is multi-color or two-color strings look okay on the house.
Spools: Don’t mess around with short strings. Buy the spools. You can never have too many lights. Spools are also much easier to roll out and roll up at the end of the season.
Icicles and other novelty lights: Use these strategically to add visual interest. However, don’t go too nuts with them.
Projector lights: Not my thing.
Size: I like smaller bulbs by far. The LED lights are bright and so having more smaller bulbs looks much, much better. We mix mini bulbs with regular C3 bulbs around the yard. The bulbs on the house are a bit bigger.
Extension cords: Make sure you have a lot of them. The most time-consuming part of putting up our light display is coordinating, concealing and ensuring proper safety measures with the extension cords. My biggest concern is that there is absolutely no tripping hazard anywhere.
Light timer: This is a must-have accessory. The first year we had to go out in the cold at night to turn them off and remember to turn on around dinner time. Now we have timers at both outlets which is a really great luxury.
Clips: I do not use clips on trees and bushes. It’s a nightmare to take down and it’s not necessary. I only use clips for the ones that go on the house (clip to the gutter).
That’s my 2 cents’ on putting up Christmas lights.
Here my in-depth guide setting out all the different types of Christmas lights you can buy for your house exterior.
I use only plug-in lights. We have a few battery-powered strings for the interior, but outside, it’s plug-in only.
2. Battery Powered
You can get battery powered lights which may be necessary if you don’t have access to an outside outlet or aren’t putting up much lights, but if you’re serious about a light display, you should get the plug-in powered lights.
There are also solar powered lights, which I’ve not used. We don’t get enough sun and I don’t want them shutting off or dimming.
Source: Home Depot
We use a mix of LED and incandescent. LED is brighter and they last longer.
Source: Home Depot
This is old school. We use incandescent on the tree. I think Incandescent is the better looking bulb.
TIP: It’s fine using both types, but ensure you don’t mix the two on the same bush or tree. This takes some coordination. You will notice the differences between the two and it will look bad.
The projector is the easiest and fastest way to get an explosion of light on your house. This is a Clark Griswald dream.
I don’t like it because it’s too much. However, one exception is it can be a good way to illuminate a part of your house – such as the side or a large solid part of the wall to add a cool element. I don’t plan on getting one, but if used strategically, it can look good.
White was always my favorite light color until we added red and blue strings to the mix. I had to admit, the dramatic red and blue peppered thorughout the yard looks fabulous. Now we have an equal mix of red, blue and white peppered throughout the yard. We have multi-colored lights on the house.
A dark red light is spectacular. I recommend incorporating it into the mix.
Blue is surprisingly impressive. I never would have bought blue lights until I saw them on a neighbor’s house which looked amazing.
I don’t use green lights, but they are definitely a Christmas color. Check out the house with lights below to see an example of green lights on the front yard posts.
I’m not a fan of multi-colored strings despite that’s what we have on the house. It’s okay on the house, but for the yard, I think uni-colored strings look best on various bushes etc.
I love these mini lights inside and outside. We put an insane number of these outside and inside our house. We really do all out. These are super easy to put up and take down.
The following are regular light sizes ranging from C3 (smaller) to C9 (bigger). I prefer smaller, except a bit bigger for the house lights. Also check out our light bulb guide here.
All examples C3 through C9 below courtesy of Home Depot.
I love the icicle lights. I’m going to buy a lot of them this year for the top of the garage doors. Here’s what I’m talking about.
Source: Home Depot
I love the nets. We only have one, but I want more. They’re super easy to put on bushes and look amazing. I strongly recommend a few nets if you have bushes in your hard.
Source: Home Depot
Nothing unusual here. Most lights are on a string. Fortunately, they come in very long strings spooled up. Don’t mess around with anyting other than spools. I made that mistake before.
There are all kinds of novelty lights and lighted objects you can get for your house. Here’s just one example of many.
Source: Home Depot
I don’t have any rope lights because I prefer the mini strings and webs. I think the rope lights work great on walkway railings, but our walkway is a series of stairs so it’s not that easy to put on (no railing either).
These are my favorite lights for both inside and outside. They look fabulous on trees. Yes, we have plenty of the C3 lights on very long strands, but the mini lights are great for small bushes and trees.
You can buy wreaths that are essentially a big ball of lights. Here’s an example.
26. Pathway Christmas Lights
27. Twigs and Branches
We have one set of these and they look great. We place it at the top of the stairs leading to the front door. They’re a little finicky, but have lasted 3 years so far.
You can also get all kinds of large scenes for your yard that light up. The above is just one of many examples. This isn’t my thing – I prefer sticking with lights only but I imagine our young kids may talk us into some crazy big scene because kids love these things.
29. Tree Trunk Web
If you have a large tree in your yard, get a trunk web. I think it looks fabulous. We don’t have such a tree so this is not necessary.
21 Outdoor Christmas Decorations and Light Examples (Photos)
There’s nothing like real-life examples of spectacular outdoor Christmas decorations and lighting displays to get inspiration for your own house. Here’s an extensive gallery of ideas.
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