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Outdoor Christmas Light Ideas
And Tips From the Experts

Our outdoor Christmas light ideas will definitely help you create a magnificent display. Mary and I had the fortunate pleasure of interviewing Bob Lyons Sr., Partner with Outdoor Lighting Perspectives located in Nashville, TN. Bob shares his "secrets" to creating wonderful holiday light displays and installing outdoor Christmas lights safely.

He also provides answers to many questions people have regarding how to attach Christmas lights and how many strings of lights can be added without causing an issue.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives also shares a few of their amazing photos to give you many Christmas light decorating ideas.

collage of Christmas light displays by Outdoor Lighting Perspectives and shared on Front Porch Ideas and More

Who doesn't love a few good tips to make the holiday season go smoother? Especially when it comes to putting up your Christmas lights. That's what we have in store for you today.

Beautiful home lit with holiday lights
Beautiful home with sophisticated holiday lighting

Lighting Expert Bob Lyons Christmas Lighting Tips

The following discussion is an excerpt from our interview with Bob Lyons Sr. from Outdoor Lighting Perspectives. Mary and I are very appreciative of the information Bob shared with us and we really enjoyed our discussion with him.

All About the Lights

What you first have to decide is what color you want to use or whether you want to use all white or clear. And then you have to decide whether you want to augment it with different features like starbursts, wreaths, garland, or other holiday decorations.

Then you have to decide if it's better to concentrate on one area of your yard or porch (and do it really well) or broaden out (and possibly not do as good a job overall).

Why LED Lights

festive christmas lights on tree and shrubs
Festive LED holiday lights

Initially, LEDs got a bad name because they had a bluish cast and people were a little afraid to use them, even indoors. LEDs got a bad name.

Well, they are bluish, but now LEDs can be made in any color. Almost 100% of the lights we use are what we call warm white. If you had an incandescent system and a LED system side by side, you couldn't tell the difference.

Multiple colored LED lights from Amazon
Photo from
When you use colors in LED lights, whether it be multi, blue, yellow, green, etc., LED color is what they call saturated. Saturated means that reds are true reds. So anybody can tell an LED light over incandescent lights because with incandescent you are changing the color with the coloring on the outside of the bulb. Outdoor LED Christmas lights have true color from the light that is emitted.

An LED is putting out only blue light or only red light or only green light (as depicted at right) so you don't have any softness; it is a really vibrant color. And if you use that in design it makes it really look good. But you have to understand that you are going to get a little different color than from a comparable incandescent light.

[The multiple colored lights shown here are from Amazon.]

Light Spacing Matters

The wire is the most expensive part of a light set. So they put lights every 2 inches or every 2-1/2 inches. If you are trying to light a tree you should use lights with 6-inch spacing.

home outlined in beautiful christmas lights
Note the light spacing on this beautifully lit home

You end up putting too many strings sets on the tree and they are too close together. It's still better to use four or six-inch spacing on large evergreens because you can do more with them. One might be 16 feet long for 100 lights whereas the other larger spaced light set is 33 feet long for 100 lights.

So you have the opportunity to do a lot more. You can always bunch them closer, but you can't extend them out.

You can buy lights with different spacing. When you go to the store look for commercial light sets and if they have commercial, look at the spacing. Very few are 6 inch spacing. Most are 4 inch and then 2-1/2 inch. You can go online and buy commercial 6 inch spacing light sets.

Be Savvy About Power Requirements

First and foremost, outside Christmas lights need to be plugged into a GFCI protected circuit.

SAFETY FIRST: Running extension cords through a window to plug them into any receptacle that is not GFCI protected to power your outdoor Christmas lights is extremely hazardous. A GFCI is the only device that is designed to protect you from an electrical short circuit or other failure. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI protected by building codes. If you are not sure if you have GFCI protection, contact a licensed electrical contractor.

If you put more than about six or seven hundred watts of lights on a GFCI receptacle, the first time it rains there is a good chance that ground fault is going to kick out. So you are having a party Saturday night, it's raining, and all of a sudden your lights are not working. You have to walk out behind the bushes and reset the ground fault. Sometimes they'll hold, sometimes they do not.

However, it is normally not an issue with LED lights because if you use 300 watts of incandescence you are going to only use 30 watts of LED. You can add a whole bunch more lights on LEDs without getting into a wattage issue or where the ground fault starts to kick off.

Stringing Lights Together? Mary asked: "When you get the packages of lights from the store sometimes it will say you can only string like three of these strands together. So what if you have porch columns and the three strands aren't long enough. What can you do about that?"

LEDs have solved that problem. It's the wire size that determines how many string sets you can put together along with the wattage used on those wire sets. So if you think about it, if you are using 33 watts which is a typical hundred light incandescent light section a 22-gauge wire then you can run three. If it is a 20 gauge wire or an 18-gauge wire you could run six. But you go to LEDs, you can run probably up to 25.

multiple strings of christmas lights on shrubs
Combine strings of lights for a cohesive effect

So you don't have to worry too much about that. But still be conservative and don't run a lot of string sets on there. Break them up. You can run extension cords or these new multi-plug power units. Drive in the ground and they have six different plugs in them and you can use a timer.

outdoor timer from The timer shown here is from Hayneedle. We found a variety of similar timers on Amazon.

We find that the best timer is the one that you plug in and it has four, six, or eight hours and comes on at dusk and goes off at four, six or eight hours later. Most of them have two receptacles on them so if you use them for two separate places, you might have half your lights come on maybe a minute or two earlier depending on how sensitive the photocell is.

If you are going to string lights like on the movie Christmas Vacation, call your electrical company and say please run another transformer to my house!

You can always go and plug into a receptacle in the garage, plus outside. Be careful plugging lights in the garage. If you have a refrigerator or a freezer out there and a circuit breaker trips - that's a problem so just be careful.

Wrapping Lights on Trees - a Super Tip

You can do about a 25 foot tree from the ground without thinking about it. Go to your home supply store and get a telescopic paint roller pole which can extend up to 18 feet. If you notice, the roller comes up and bends. Bend the roller straight up and remove the roller supports so it has nothing on it.

tree wrapped in christmas lights
Beautifully wrapped tree in holiday lights

So now you have basically a hook. Put the string sets together and one person walks in front of you and just go around the tree and until you reach the top; then bring it back down. Tie it off and go back up and keep on going. One-person can do a tree that is maybe 12 to 13 feet tall and two people to do one much larger.

Installing Outdoor Christmas Lights

It seems outlining your house went out of vogue completely but now it's back in. There are the old-fashioned lights what are called C9s which are the larger-sized lights. But now you can buy them in LED.

We buy them in thousand four foot rolls and the lights are one foot spacing. And we can cut it to exactly what we need. So if you need 14 feet, you can cut it to 14 feet. If you need 100 feet you get a 100 feet. Otherwise, you may have a lot of light string remaining that has to be hidden.

home outlined in holiday lights
C-9 holiday lights outline home

And with LED you can run a hundred lights whereas with incandescence you can't run that many. You are going to see more outlining and you normally want to use a large bulb that has a larger presence rather than what we call midget lights. C9s are the larger lights and C7's are the little ones that are used typically on Christmas trees.

We actually hire roofers to outline homes. We tell the roofers exactly what we want and they are licensed, bonded, and insured.I don't care whether you are Chevy Chase or not, don't go up on the roof because it is too dangerous.

Sad But True: Mary and I know of someone who crawled out of their second story window to take down lights on their roof. Unfortunately, he fell onto the front sidewalk and died. Bob's idea of hiring professional roofers to hang lights just makes good sense.

Christmas lights on lone tree and barn

Untangling and Troubleshooting

How to Prevent a Tangled Mess

Mary asked: " I have two questions that I think just about every homeowner would want to know and that is when you go and get your Christmas lights out on the attic. First for all they are tangled up and usually it is tangled mess. Second of all you plug them in and sometimes they don't come on and it is like you have to check every single bulb. So, are there any secrets about how you wrap your lights"?

Let's first do the wrap and that's the easiest one. If you take your hand and put the female end first, put it across your palm, wrap three or four rounds; take that off and then and then start wrapping and end up with a ball with the male end out. So when you go to test them you can plug it in before you undo them.

A 100 light set is two 50's put together. How many times have you plugged in a set and half of them work and half of them don't work. It means that something pulled loose at joint where those two were joined. And there is no way to fix it. You take that ball and you put it in the garbage can.

Tennessee capital Christmas tree lights by Outside Lighting Perspectives
Tennessee Capital Christmas Tree - lights by Outside Lighting Perspectives

Be sure to listen to our full audio program with Bob Lyons Sr. for more lighting tips.

Outdoor Lighting Perspective's logo Outdoor Lighting Perspectives is recognized as one of the world's largest full-service outdoor lighting company that specializes in outdoor lighting. With more than 100,000 installations completed, this franchise knows what it takes to grace thousands of homes and businesses and has been doing such since 1995.

Nashville christmas lights logo Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Nashville operates in the middle Tennessee area and is a premiere holiday décor company providing all types of outdoor lighting for both residential and commercial entities. They use the latest designs in high quality LED products supported by innovative technology to bring you the very best in holiday décor.

We encourage you to visit them today at Nashville Christmas Lights.

Gift Ideas for Porch Lovers

Advent cabin from Plow and Hearth Beautiful pine cone berry wreath from Plow and Hearth

Sweet advent cabin and pine cone berry wreath from Plow and Hearth.

Lighted holiday sled decoration from Plow and Hearth Christmas cottage bird feeder from Plow and Hearth

This lighted holiday sled decoration would be an adorable decoration on the front porch. And if you feed birds like Dave and I do, we bet you will enjoy this cute cottage bird feeder from Plow and Hearth.

Hand hooked holiday dog pillows from Plow and Hearth Cat hand-pulled pillows from Plow and Hearth

Dog lover? Cat lover? These lovable hand-hooked dog pillows and cat pillows make an absolutely wonderful gift from Plow and Hearth.

Musical Christmas lantern from Plow and Hearth Waterhog door mat with Merry Christmas greeting from Plow and Hearth

Nothing as nostalgic as this musical Christmas lantern and snow globe. Plays eight Christmas carols and changes light colors. So enchanting! And as pretty and cheerful as this Christmas doormat is, did you know it will hold up to 1 gallon of water? Great for snowy boots. Both are from Plow and Hearth.

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