Outdoor Christmas Lighting Tips

DIY Network's licensed electrician James Young shares tips and tricks for installing outdoor Christmas lighting properly so your joy lasts the whole season.
Stunning Christmas Light Display

Stunning Christmas Light Display

A well-planned and beautifully executed Christmas light display on a residence highlighting the property, house and landscaping.

Holiday Lighting Tips 04:01

Carol Duvall's tips & tricks for lighting up a brilliant outdoor tree.

Be Cautious When Installing Exterior Lighting

Use a good ladder when installing your lights. Secure them with insulated holders (never use tacks or nails). Don't install your lights on trees that come in contact with power lines. Before installing your Christmas lights, plug them in to make sure all of your bulbs are working. Make sure to turn your lights off when you leave or go to bed at night.

Play it Safe Hanging Lights

Play it Safe Hanging Lights

Use a good ladder when installing your lights. Secure them with insulated holders (never use tacks or nails). Don't install your lights on trees that come in contact with power lines. Before installing your Christmas lights, plug them in to make sure all of your bulbs are working. Make sure to turn your lights off when you leave or go to bed at night.

Christmas Light Displays

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See 15 outrageously themed outdoor Christmas light displays.

Gingerbread House

Nothing is more scrumptious than a candy-adorned home with icing all around the edges. This life-size gingerbread-style home has extra-large candy pieces and lollipops above and beside every window, and peppermints even line the roof.

Candy Land

This family turned their home and yard into Princess Lolly's Lollipop Woods. "Gumdrops" hang from wintry bare-boned trees as the rainbow-inspired colors of Candy Land line the fence, home and cover the landscaping for a whimsical and playful effect.

Photo By: NATALIE IERKHOVA

Tropical Christmas

The weather may be hot, but you can still bring the wintry and festive feel of Christmas to you. This lakeside home was turned into a tropical Christmas retreat. The homeowners added lights to palm trees, blue reindeer to the dock and neon lights to cover every part of the home that's visible from the water.

Secret Garden

Rather than turn their garden into a traditional Christmas light display, these homeowners outlined plants and blooming flowers in a variety of lights for a stunning and colorful Secret Garden look.

The North Pole

It's Christmas at the North Pole all year long, so Santa Claus' home must be decorated to the nines with vibrant lighting, garland, red bows, wreaths and candles in the windows. This festive, snow-covered home looks like it could be occupied by Saint Nick himself.

Busy Christmas Village

Christmas is the busiest season of the year; there are toys to build and gifts to deliver. This home was turned into a festive and bustling Christmas village. With warm and cozy homes, a rolling train nearby and elves busy at work, this is certainly the most spirited place to be during the Christmas season.

Toyland

These homeowners turned their festive front yard into every child's dream. Giant teddy bears, toy soldiers and other classic Christmas toys bring a child-like spin to the typical Christmas light display.

Noel, Noel

This home may be small, but the Christmas display is nothing less than extravagant and over-the-top. With no theme in mind, the entire house, yard and roof are covered in the brightest and most holiday-inspired pieces.

Eye-Catching Neon

Nontraditional Christmas colors are oftentimes the most eye-catching displays. These neon-purple lights intermingle with classic reindeer figures, an inflatable Santa and candy canes, causing the bold hues to stand out even more.

Classic Holidays

This home went all out but kept it classic. The home, windows and yard were outlined in classic white lights and topped with an extra-large star. The yard was adorned with peppermints, snowmen, reindeer, jingle bells and Christmas trees to tie in everyone's holiday favorites.

Polar Express

Covered in colored lights and garland, this fenced-in yard makes a bold and festive statement with a giant inflatable Santa Claus, miniature Polar Express and decorative yard accessories.

Roof Display

Rather than focusing on inflatables and decorative accessories, these homeowners wanted to emphasize the power of pure lighting. The entire roof was covered in a layer of colored lights with matching icicles dripping from the edges all the way around. The concept may be simple, but the look is extravagant and unbelievably vibrant.

Caribbean Color

These Caribbean homeowners wanted to add some unexpected Christmas brightness to the islands by decorating their yard for all to see. Just outside the front door, bright neon lights were added to the landscaping, and Christmas puppets, inflatables and giant ornaments were scattered throughout.

Photo By: Flavio Vallenari

Lakeside Festivities

Any boat that drives by will immediately be taken back by the lights and character projections on this lakeside home. And not only did the homeowners decorate the house, but they covered the boat in a slew of colorful lights, too.

Inviting Entryway

This home's light display may not be completely outrageous, but the homeowners certainly went through a lot of trouble to create an enchanting winter wonderland-inspired entryway with white icicle lights and blue lights strung to each and every window.

Use the Proper Outlet

For starters, safety first! Your source of power should come from a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. This type of outlet will shut the circuit down if there is overcurrent. We want your lights to shine, not sparks to fly! If you don't have a GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can permanently install one outdoors for holiday seasons to come. Or, you can buy a portable outdoor unit from your local home store for less than $20.

GFCI Plug Outlet

GFCI Plug Outlet

Your source of power should come from a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. This type of outlet will shut the circuit down if there is over-current. We want your lights to shine, not sparks to fly! If you don't have a GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can permanently install one outdoors for holiday seasons to come. Or, you can buy a portable outdoor unit from your local home store for less than $20.

Keep Extension Cords Out of the Way

When using extension cords, make sure they are rated for outdoor use, and keep the connections above ground, snow and water. Try to avoid high-traffic areas. Tape cords across walkways, and use the correct length needed to travel to your lights. You don't want your cords to be too long so they pile up and create walking hazards.

Always Choose Waterproof Lights

There is a variety of lights to choose from. First and foremost, always use waterproof or water-resistant lights with a tag marked underwriters lab (UL). This means the lights meet national industry standards with the American National Standards Institute. Also, when you're buying Christmas lights to use outside, make sure they are rated for outdoor use (just like your extension cords). Never use indoor Christmas lights outdoors.

Waterproof Christmas Lights

Waterproof Christmas Lights

There is a variety of lights to choose from. First and foremost, always use waterproof or water-resistant lights with a tag marked underwriters lab (UL). This means the lights meet national industry standards with the American National Standards Institute. Also, when you're buying Christmas lights to use outside, make sure they are rated for outdoor use.

Using C7 or C9 Bulbs

For a more traditional holiday light, you will want to use a C7 or C9. These are the cone-shape lights you'll find most often in home improvement and convenience stores. The difference in these lights is size and wattage, with C9 being a little bigger and easier to see from a distance. Both come in frosted or clear color bulbs and are great for illuminating both your house and trees.

You can buy these in strands of 25 bulbs or larger strands of 100 bulbs. The 25-bulb strands can be connected together (daisy chained) up to a maximum of three strands; 100-bulb strands should be connected separately. Don't connect them together! The C7 and C9 strands use a standard screw-in candelabra base for easy bulb replacement. The strands are connected so if one bulb fails it only affects itself. Buying light strands with inner fuses is a great idea to prevent excess current on the strands.

Traditional Christmas Lights

Traditional Christmas Lights

For a more traditional holiday light, you will want to use a C7 or C9. These are the cone-shape lights you'll find most often in home improvement and convenience stores. The difference in these lights is size and wattage, with C9 being a little bigger and easier to see from a distance. Both come in frosted or clear color bulbs and are great for illuminating both your house and trees.

Using Miniature Bulbs

Another option for outdoor lighting is the "miniature," which costs less and consumes less power than the classic outdoor light string. It can be used around the perimeter of your home, as well as in trees. In most cases, the miniature comes in strands of 50 or 100. The strings run in series, which means if one bulb or socket fails, you can lose a whole section.

The positive thing is that most miniature bulbs have a shunt inside of them to keep the entire string of lights lit if a bulb filament burns out. The key is to quickly replace the burned-out bulb. The shunt will allow the rest of the lights to remain lit, but it will increase the voltage in the rest of the bulbs, reducing their lifetime. With miniatures, you get what you pay for, so get a quality set of lights, and don't connect more than three sets of strings.

Miniature Christmas Lights

Miniature Christmas Lights

Another option for outdoor lighting is the "miniature," which costs less and consumes less power than the classic outdoor light string. It can be used around the perimeter of your home, as well as in trees. In most cases, the miniature comes in strands of 50 or 100. The strings run in series, which means if one bulb or socket fails, you can lose a whole section.

Using Landscape Net Lighting

To light shrubs and bushes, net lighting is a great way to go. Net lighting is a mesh of interconnected mini LED lights that can drape right over your shrubs like a blanket. No more weaving light strings in and out of branches!

Holiday Net Lighting Display

Holiday Net Lighting Display

To light shrubs and bushes, net lighting is a great way to go. Net lighting is a mesh of interconnected mini LED lights that can drape right over your shrubs like a blanket. No more weaving light strings in and out of branches!

Using Animated Lighting

Animated lights are great for Nativity scenes, as well as reindeer and angel displays. Animated lights are made of wire frames outlining different shapes and scenes, and they are surrounded with mini lights in different color variations and patterns.

Animated Christmas Decor

Animated Christmas Decor

Animated lights are great for Nativity scenes, as well as reindeer and angel displays. Animated lights are made of wire frames outlining different shapes and scenes, and they are surrounded with mini lights in different color variations and patterns.

Using Shimmer Spheres

Shimmer spheres come in shaped and circular formations, like snowballs, or stars and striped formations. They are made up of many lights in different sizes. You can even find some that twinkle. Your house will be shining with holiday cheer for the whole block to enjoy.

Shimmer Sphere Christmas Lighting

Shimmer Sphere Christmas Lighting

Shimmer spheres come in shaped and circular formations, like snowballs, or stars and striped formations. They are made up of many lights in different sizes. You can even find some that twinkle. Your house will be shining with holiday cheer for the whole block to enjoy.

Photo by: NATALIE IERKHOVA

NATALIE IERKHOVA

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