Let’s Light Up the Season: Christmas Lights 101 and Safety Tips

Posted by: on November 16th, 2010 | 15 Comments
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There’s just something about Christmas lights that really bring a smile and a sparkle to the eyes for children of all ages.  When I was a kid, my family would drive around all of the different neighborhoods just to look at all of the Christmas lights.  I have to say that lighting up the house for Christmas brings back so many great memories! 

For those of you just starting out with outdoor Christmas lights, there are many great options.  Now you can choose from LED lights or solar lights and many more. The lights that you start with will last for years to come.  You don’t have to buy all of your Christmas lights all at once, that can really add up!  Since I have started decorating the house with Christmas lights every year, I learned quickly that the easiest way to afford to light up the house is to add to your Christmas lights each year.   As you can see from the picture, I have collected quite a few lights and decorations over the years!

We started with some garlands and string lights and by adding to our decorations every year; we now have quite a Christmas light display to put on!  For those of you just starting out in your home, decorating for the first time or just simply wondering about some of the newer options in Christmas lights, here are the basic lighting options for you to consider:

LED Lights
LED lights are great for Christmas because they offer a brighter and more vivid light.  LED lights are becoming more and more popular because they offer a great deal of energy savings when having them on throughout the Christmas season.  LED lights can be string lights, icicle lights, net lights and lights with specialty light like lighted garlands and more.

Solar Lights
Solar lights are great because they cost nothing to run.  The solar sets come with a panel similar to solar landscape lighting and will light up as the sun sets.  Most of the solar sets burn for 6-8 hours after sunset and are a great money (and energy) saving option.

String Lights
The Christmas classic. String lights or twinkle lights as some folks call them, are a staple of most residential Christmas displays.  You can string some lights just about anywhere you can plug them in!  They are great for enhancing garlands, pillars, bannisters and more. They come in larger sizes too such as the medium C7 bulbs and the larger, traditional C9 sizes.  These larger bulb sizes are also used in inflatables and other styled decorations.

Net Lights
Oh net lights, how I love thee.  Net lights save so much time when you want to light up your trees, shrubs and other difficult areas.  Net lights offer you evenly spaced lights that make you shrubs look like they were professionally decorated.  I use net lights quite a bit here at the house because of the time saved and the result just looks so much better than if I used string lights.

Icicle Lights
Icicle lights are great because they add more light than the standard string lights.  Icicle lights can be LED or incandescent and either make a beautiful impact on your outdoor Christmas decorations.  You can use them to outline your roofline, eaves, fences and more. 

Christmas Lights Accessories
Of course you will need some accessories to hang your lights.  Gutter clips make for easy decorating with just about any type of lights.  You can use shingle slips too, but they are for C9 and C7 lights.  And of course, I couldn’t hang my lights around my eaves and other high spots without some assistance from my trusty light hanging kit.  This tool is great because it telescopes up to 11’.

Christmas Lighting Safety
Check out this great video to find out more about safety while decorating with Christmas lights:


Leave a Comment

  1. Allan says:

    Where can I get snowfall type icicle lights? Somebody said some Home Depot’s might have them.

  2. Joan says:

    I have one string (that matches others) and exactly half the string has gone out. I know this means that one bulb is out, but these are unusual bulbs and I don’t want to go along and try to find which one–not to mention that I could never match the bulbs. Someone told me HD has a device that will make the remaining lights work and only leave off the one single bulb that’s burned out. This sounds too good to be true–is it?

    • Darren Ryan says:


      Try the Lightkeeper Pro. Here is a link to the product that you are looking for although we are currently sold out online, we do have them in some of our stores. Thisntool should do the trick for you!

      Thanks for stopping by,

  3. Manny says:

    Hi Darren , thanks for all the tips, just finished putting up led’s on my roofline and wanted to find out if it is necessary to cover the junctions with any kind of outdoor electric tape to waterproof it ?

    • Darren Ryan says:

      Hey Manny thanks for visiting and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog! As long as the junctions are all rated for outdoor use, you should be just fine. Two things to look for on your extention cords and lighted decorations: That they are labeled for “Outdoor Use” and that they are all “UL listed”. This ensures that you are using the correct electrical cords and Christmas lights for your outdoor decor! Will you share some pics of your decorations? I would love to see them!

  4. Mary says:

    How do I get open the battery pack of my string of Home Accents Holiday
    LED C3 lights? Home Depot #581 274

  5. Tony Duncan says:

    Would you recommend string lights or net lights for decorating 20ft Blue Spruce trees?

    • Darren Ryan says:

      Hey Tony!

      You can use either, however there are a few things to consider. Net lights will make it easier to cover a tree that size, however, you will have to think through how each panel will be placed on the tree so that you have full coverage. You can use string lights but keep in mind for a tree that size, you will need quite a bit. The rule of thumb is normally 100 lights per foot. Depending on the thickness of the tree you may need more.

      To get the biggest impact, you may want to consider using C7 or C9 lights (the larger bulbs). You would have to use less strings and the lights wouldn’t get lost on a tree that size. One last thought, if you really like the look of the small string light bulb, you can use icicle lights. If you go that route, you have to tuck the “icicles” in here and there to it doesn’t look like you just threw some icicle lights on the tree.

      Hope this helps!

  6. Pia says:

    Now that I have 8 brand new boxes of net lights all stretched out over my bushes, I’m wondering…what’s the best way to store them after Christmas so they’re not a giant tangled mess next year?

    • Darren Ryan says:

      Great question Pia!

      It’s not easy to get them back into their original boxes. The safest way to store them is wrapped in a storage bin. When you take them off of your shrubs, stretch them out on the ground and fold them in half long ways and then fold them long ways again. Once they are folded you can take some newspaper or bubllewrap and roll them from end to end until you have something like a swiss roll. Um…you can tell my mind is on holiday baking!

      Once they are rolled, you can wrap them in newspaper or bubblewrap and place them into a plastic sorage bin. If you have enough net lights to fill the storage bin, great, put the lid on and be sure to label it for next year. If you don’t have enough to fill a storage box, you can add other decorations, etc. into the box, but be sure to load the heaviest items in first and the lightest items and any breakables in last. (And don’t forget to label the box with everything that you’ve placed inside, it will help you a great deal next year when you are ready to decorate again!)

      Share a photo of your decorated bushes! I would love to see them!

  7. Brooke Starling says:

    Hi there,

    We are trying to get our tree decorated today, and there are a few strands of lights on our tree that are not working. This had led us to try all kinds of solutions…replacing the fuses, checking along the strand for missing or broken lights, and replacing them with other light bulbs that we had in our box. What is the difference between the lights with the red tips and the all red light bulbs? Do you have any suggestions to help us? Are we doomed to buying a new tree this year, or would it look ok to put in our own strand of lights to fill in the hole?


    • Darren Ryan says:

      Hey Brooke!

      I don’t know that you are doomed to buying a new tree…unless you really want to. ;)

      The answer to your first question is that the bulbs that are clear with just the red tip usually create an action when they are added to the strand. That means they will make the strand twinkle or chase, depending on what kind of lights they are. You can also stop by your Home Depot and pick up some replacement bulbs and they are not expensive at all. That way you don’t have to replace with the twinkle light!

      You can certainly put your own strand of lights into your tree to fill the hole. I have an artificial pre-lit tree that has clear lights. When I put it up I always add more strands of clear lights to make it brighter. However, when you do put that extra strand or two on, there are a couple of things to remember:

      1. Make sure that you are plugging them in correctly. Please don’t overload your socket or add more to exisitng strands of lights then the package says is proper. You don’t want to short out the good lights or start a fire in the process!

      2. When you are stringing the extra strand or strands in, make sure you are following the pattern that the tree has been pre-lit already. So if the lights are strung along each bough, be sure to follow that same pattern so your new lights don’t create a bright patch instead of a hole. You want to be sure that you don’t notice your patchwork. And BTW, chances are even if you do notice that you put a different strand in there, anyone else probably won’t notice the difference at all!

      Another option is to not light the tree as it is intended and to string all new lights. This depends on how many light strands you have on hand and if you want to invest in more if you need them.

      I hope this helps, Brooke, let me know how it goes and if you have any more questions!


  8. Dave says:

    Just curious; how does your lighting display hold up to rain?
    Some time ago, we installed GFI’s for exterior outlets, which tend to trip with a fairly light rain. I’ve tried pretty much everything available to keep water out of any junctions, but I have been driven to accepting the show is over when it rains.

    • Darren Ryan says:

      Dave, thanks for visiting! My Christmas ligths display holds up very well in the rain, although in heavy rains and winds, we don’t light up. Let me ask you a few questions…Are your boxes covered and are the GFI’s approved for outdoors? Let me know and I will see if I can find you some solutions. Don’t accept that the show is over just yet! We may be able to figure this out for you!