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Before buying outdoor Christmas lights and decorations for your house, you need a plan – especially if you’ve never done it before.

So, make a rough sketch of the outside of your home and the surrounding yard. If you’re not much of an artist, use your phone to shoot a photo of areas you want to decorate.

Then use the photo or sketch to mark the key areas that you want to decorate, like the windows, stairs, railing, porch, garage, veranda and plants. You want to use a tape measure as well to estimate the size of the areas you want to work on.

Once you rough out your plans, estimate how many lights or projectors or other decorations you need. Christmas lights usually have labels that say “outdoors,” “indoors” or “suitable for outdoor and indoor.” Read those labels and any instructions before buying equipment. Be sure to buy necessary brackets, clips and screws for all decorations.

You’ll probably find lots of new ideas online, but as the clock ticks closer to Christmas, you may have to visit local hobby, craft or hardware stores to find what you’re looking for. Here are just a few of the newer lighting possibilities:

Laser light projectors create a new landscape

You’ve probably seen a lot of commercials on TV for these projectors. These devices may end the whole tradition of climbing up a tall and scary ladder to hang strings of lights from the eaves of the house.

To do the front of your house, you may need to buy two or more laser light projectors to flash festive Christmas trees or “flurries” of snow or starry visions onto the walls. Dozens of colors and theme variations are available. Using devices with energy-efficient LED lights won’t cost as much as stringing lights on fences and walls.

The projectors are mounted on stakes that you stick in the ground or mount on a wall or tree. They have timers that will turn the lights on and off at night and often you can buy a remote when you buy the projectors. Sometimes you can even control the lighting display via an app from your smart phone or tablet.

Depending on what features you want, you can pay from $30 up to $100 per projector.

Artificial trees can be covered with lights

If stringing lights on your mesquite seems like too much work, you can buy endless varieties of artificial trees covered with LED lights powered by batteries. One example: a 4½ foot willow tree dripping with multi-colored lights for $40. Or another decorating possibility: 5-foot-tall Victorian lampposts covered with white LED mini-lights and silver sequined mesh for $60 each.

Look for new innovations in strings of lights

You’ve probably hung strings of icicles on your house or fence before. But now the innovations are endless. There can be incandescent lights or LEDs. A 20-foot string of lights can cost $15 and on up. Some lights look like old-fashioned creations by Thomas Edison; some look like tiny stars; some look like a glimmering rope. Then there are fairy lights – tiny LEDs on a thin, flexible metal wire. You can bend and shape the wire around decorations. You can even buy shades and covers to dress up larger bulbs.

Are those real candles or not?

Today’s electric candles, powered by batteries, have LED lights that resemble real flames. They’re safer to use outdoors near plants and bushes and there’s less risk of a child or pet getting hurt. Some make-believe candles have wicks that flicker; they can even provide a Christmas-season scent of evergreen or spices. Some have flames glowing in different colors. They make great window and tabletops displays. Buy a pack of 50 or 60 votives for $12 or six flameless pillar candles for $40.

LED strip and rope lights

Strips of tiny LEDs come on reels sold in assorted lengths – 16 feet, 32 feet, or more, selling for $20 to $30 a reel. You may already have installed them in the kitchen under cabinets. For the holidays, you can cut up the strips to run along stair railings or the roof of a house. Often there is a sticky backing on the strip. Wrap the strips around wreaths or other outdoor decorations as well. Some strip lights come with a music controller that will change the color or intensity of lights as music plays. But watch out, that might drive the neighbors crazy.

Some ropes and strips are battery-powered; some are solar-powered. Do solar-powered Christmas lights really work? The amount of light produced may vary based on how much sunlight falls on the sensors, but manufacturers say lights can stay on up to eight hours in some locations.


We spoke with a Rosie on the House Certified Electrician, Jon Bolenbaugh of the Mighty Electricians in Phoenix. Jon informed us of a few best practices when it comes to hanging lights:

  • The best way to string lights on your house is by installing special screws, nails or hanger clips on the eaves, roof or gutters first. Then hang strings of lights from them. Don’t fasten light strings with a staple gun or you might drive a staple through an electrical wire.
  • Don’t leave those lights up on your house or yard more than 90 days or they could deteriorate.
  • Don’t overload electrical circuits by stringing together long daisy chains of extension cords when you hang lights. Most cord manufacturers say you can only string together two or three lines. It’s best to always follow manufacturer’s directions for products.
  • Using LEDs is safer than using incandescent bulbs because LEDs require less power and aren’t likely to overload circuits.
  • To make decorating safer and easier, have an electrician install special outlets on your eaves or walls where you can more easily plug in cords for your decorations. That way you avoid using multiple extension cords.
  • Use weather-resistant lights only for outdoor decorating; throw away light strings that have tattered wiring or worn-out cords or plugs.

When speaking with Rosie on the House Certified arborist John Eisenhower of Integrity Tree Service in Phoenix he stated that:

  • If you hang lights and ornaments on trees, don’t use nails or staples that can damage the trees. Making a hole in a tree makes it possible for diseases or bugs to invade the tree.
  • Don’t wrap holiday lights on the trees and leave them there for a long time. The tree will grow and the string lights will become embedded in the tree. Instead of wrapping light strings around branches, use green plastic garden tape to attach them to the branches.


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