Everyone has been there... The tangles, the strands that are too short, the burned out bulbs. Hanging holiday lights can be a difficult process without the right perspective. It's recommended, if possible, that you get someone to give you a hand when hanging your lights. Not only will this make the job more safe but it will also make the project more efficient. But, whether you have someone to help you or you're flying solo, with the simple ideas presented here, you ought to be hanging and displaying your lights and decorations in less time and with more efficiency than ever before.
Preparing Your Lights
Preparation is key when it comes to hanging holiday lights like a pro. First, check the lights you already own to ensure that they are in good working order. Plug them in and check for burn outs. Keep your replacements bulbs where you can find them and make sure you have plenty in case you have a strand that goes dark. If you do need to buy new lights, then make sure you get the right lights for the job.
When it comes to strings of lights, it's often (but not always) a good idea to go for shorter strings of lights rather than longer. The shorter lights are more manageable and it's easier to find and replace burned out bulbs. But net-style or mesh-style lights are better for trees and shrubs. And, depending on where you're hanging them, icicle lights can add a beautiful touch over conventional strands. And the type of light matters as well. C-7 and C-9 lights tend to be stronger and less prone to burn outs than mini-lights but they burn hotter and use more energy.
Before beginning to hang, get an idea of what kind of display you're going for and where you want the lights to go. Determine which style of lights will hang from the eaves, which colours will go best with the shutters, which size bulbs will get the effect you're imagining, and so on. Using a tape measure, estimate the total length for the light strands that you'll need. You want to map out the display in your head so that when it comes time to hang them there are no surprises.
Make sure to hang your lights sooner rather than later. The sooner you do it in the holiday season, the warmer it will be. This makes it both safer and easier to to install the displays. Or if you're unable to hang the lights earlier in the season, then you can at least prepare the hooks, nails, extension cords, and other devices that will be used to aid the display.
Hanging Your Lights
1. The Power Source.
You want to use a 120-volt electrical outlet that is protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to ensure that you don't overload your system. Use heavy duty extension cords rather than low grade or damaged cords. If you have a switch control or a timer, this would add a unique element to your display while also increasing the safety (as it can be set to be turned off automatically in case you forget). Just be sure to check that the circuit and/or timer can handle the amount of lights that you are plugging into it.
2. Map Out Your Display
As mentioned earlier, you should measure the area that you will be lighting up. You should know the length of lights that you will need so that there are no surprises. Measure the height and length of your home, the heights and width of the windows (if you're lighting them), measure the size of lighted shrubs and trees, the length of walkways and handrails, etc. And be sure to take into account the portion of light strands that don't have lights on them (toward each end) and adjust accordingly.
3. Test Your Lights
A visual inspection BEFORE plugging them in is recommended in order to avoid a potential fire hazard. Inspect the light strands and look for fraying wires, cracked or missing bulbs, melted plastic along the cord, and anything else that looks hazardous.
Next you want to plug it in and do another visual inspection, checking primarily for burn outs. Some things can be fixed while others may require the strand to be discarded. Faulty wires and melted cords should not be repaired, but rather thrown away. Cracked bulbs can usually be fixed quite easily, though make sure to unplug the strand before making any changes. And don't fret if the whole strand doesn't work, just follow the manufacturer’s instructions to see if the fuse needs to be replaced (most strands come with replacement fuses as well as replacement bulbs). Though if a fuse blows twice on the same strand, discard it.
4. Equipment Set-Up
Depending on the size of your home, you may have to use a large extension ladder, a smaller stepladder, or even just a step-stool. Just make sure the ground is level or you have someone to help stabilize the equipment. You don't want to have to extend and reach as that can put you off balance and risk falling. So make sure the ladder is tall enough that it brings you to a safe and comfortable vantage point. Avoid leaning the ladder against fragile features of the house, like the gutters, or use a piece of wood to keep it from denting or caving in.
5. The Right Kind of Hooks
There are many reasons you may not want to use nails, screws, or hooks that you have to attach to your home. Maybe you change your display every year, maybe you don't want to damage your exterior, or maybe you don't have the time to fool with it. Plastic hooks and clips that fit on gutters or under your shingles are great alternatives that are strong enough to hold extension cords and lights. There are also tube light clips and nail-on clips that are great for vertical surfaces or around windows.
6. Attaching the Lights
In order to keep your lights from sagging, space your hooks about 12 inches apart. This ensures that you have a nice even strand of lights with no dips or bulges. Any closer and it's a waste of time and hooks. Resist the urge to supplement your hooks with nails or staples, as you may accidentally pierce the strand, which can result in burn outs or a fire hazard.
Storing Your Lights
In order to save yourself the headache and hassle next year, make sure to store you lights properly this year. By taking a little extra time and care now, you can ensure that next holiday season will go even more smoothly because you won't be wasting time untangling a ball of light strands or searching for all the replacement bulbs.
- After taking your lights down at the end of the holiday season, go through them and check for broken or missing bulbs. If the light is still good when you move it, then go ahead and leave it. But be sure to change out any burned out bulbs now, so you won't have to try and find them again in a year.
- Strands that have large patches that are out (or the entire thing) may need to have the fuse replaced. There's no sense in storing a broken strand of lights for a year so check now and if a replacement fuse doesn't fix it, then discard the entire string.
- Wind your lights rather than stuffing them back into the container from which you got them. The best thing to use is a winder made for holiday lights or a spool. You can even make an inexpensive winder out of cardboard. This storage method keeps pressure off the delicate bulbs, extending their lives.
- Keep a box with your lights that has extra hooks, clips, strings, and other small equipment that you use to hang the strands. This will make it easier to assess what you have and what you need to buy when you hang your lights next year.