Decorating your home and yard for the holidays is a festive neighborhood tradition that brings out the designer in all of us. In communities all over the country, so many families vie for “Best Holiday Lights Display” that they’re competing in a national competition on television. That’s right – just this week, ABC premiered a new series called The Great Christmas Light Fight, the first Christmas lights competition of its kind where 20 families transform their homes for the holidays and compete for a total of $250,000 in prizes. Holy Clark Griswold! The show airs through December 23, and will probably give you some fantastic ideas for decorating your own extravaganza.
Before you’re ready to flip the switch on your Christmas lights though, here are a few guidelines to help you work smart and stay safe:
- Create a Master Design. Break out the camera, some paper and pencil, and get to work. Taking a photograph of your yard from an appropriate distance can keep you focused on the overall look of the display. Choosing a focal point to anchor your design, whether it’s a unique architectural feature of the home or a winding path or the intricate branch patterns of a tree, and start designing from there. Consider including the backyard in your design this year, which you can also enjoy from inside your home. Use a tape measure to determine how many light strands you need, as well as, the distance to the power source. Experts recommend 100 lights for every 1-1/2 feet of tree or shrub you want to cover. The denser the lights, the brighter they shine, so look for light kits where the bulbs are spaced close together, or place two sets of lights side-by-side for the same effect. Choreograph your design using different colored lights to highlight different areas and have fun with the many types of lights available, such as icicles, blinking, LED, light nets and more.
- Safety First. This is a big one. Check the roof, shingles, gutters and other surfaces you’ll hang lights on for strength and flexibility. Decorate trees that do not touch power lines. Work with another person, and secure supplies to the ladder safely. Use UL approved extension cords and light kits for outdoor use, and follow manufacturer recommendations on the number of lights you can string together safely. Do not use lights that have frayed or damages cords, and test all lights before you hang them. Choose plastic light clips to easily secure lighting to gutters and other surfaces.
- Set a Timer. To save on energy bills, use an outdoor timer to turn lights off later in the evening. These days, timers also come with sensors that automatically turn on at dusk –especially nice when you’re away from home.
- Plan the Power Source. In addition to creating a master lighting design, planning the best way to access power for your display is key for safety. Experts suggest that outdoor lights be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault interrupters (GFCIs) that protect against shock. Power stakes are portable and bring the power to where you need it, instead of running too many extension cords all over the place.
If you rent a generator, be sure to follow all manufacturer safety instructions, such as operating it outside, because carbon monoxide exhaust fumes can be fatal. Protect it from rain, snow and wind with a cover made from plywood and 2x4s. Follow state, local and national fire and electric codes and do not connect the generator directly into your home’s main fuse box or circuit panel because it might feed into the electric system and endanger any utility workers in the area. Check County noise ordinances if the generator is noisy, or choose one that’s quiet. Turn off the generator when away from home and while you sleep.
About the Author
Tempe Thompson is a sales and inventory expert at Runyon Equipment Rental. She has over 35 years of experience and has accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise. She could talk for hours about how to use all of Runyon’s tools and equipment, in addition to suggesting which type corresponds to a certain application.