Do’s and Don’ts for DIY Holiday Lighting Outdoors

Please Note: The Parke Company is not offering installation services this season. 

At the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service organization, we know our way around decorating outdoor trees. In fact, this year it was the Parke Company that cut and helped decorate the 35-year-old, 35-foot Norway spruce used for the State of Tennessee’s Christmas tree at the state capitol in Nashville.

When done right, outdoor Christmas lighting can be awe inspiring, creating the perfect backdrop for the season’s spirit. It can spread that spirit to the entire neighborhood. But all it takes is one home to drag that seasonal joy down.

You know which one we mean. It’s the house with the fuse-busting display of 10,000 multicolored lights that blink in time to Christmas carols, and has the giant, inflatable Santa Claus on the front lawn. It’s the homeowner who strongly believes that “more is better,” and who measures the success of his display by how fast his electricity meter spins rather than the actual appearance.

With a little common sense, and a few tips from Nashville’s tree trimmers, you can avoid becoming your neighborhood’s Clark Griswold from “Christmas Vacation.”

LED Versus Conventional Christmas Lights

Technologically, LED lights have come a long way. Originally, LED bulbs gave off a blue tint, a “cool light” that most people didn’t care for. Today, if you select LED lights marked “warm” you will receive bright, full colored light that rivals any form of incandescent lighting.

Of course, they are environmentally friendly, using next to nothing in electrical power. They are also more reliable than conventional lights and last significantly longer.

The downside to LED lights is their cost. The initial outlay will be significantly higher than conventional lights. Over time, however, LEDs may prove to be the better investment.

The big advantage of traditional lights is cost. Prices have dropped significantly over the past decade. Because you are not terribly concerned if a string of conventional lights is damaged, taking them off trees becomes easier. If you use a professional to decorate and take down decorations, cutting the traditional string of lights rather than trying to unwrap it from a branch will save you a significant amount of labor costs.

Do’s and Don’ts for Holiday Outdoor Lighting

There are some basic “rules of the road” to consider when decorating outdoors. Follow these and the odds of a successful decorating project increase substantially.

  • Do: Have a plan before you begin. Check your inventory and the location of your power sources to ensure have enough of both to carry out the plan. Also consider how you are going to take down the display after the holidays.
  • Don’t: Mix LED and conventional lights. They don’t give off the same hue and will stand out like a sore thumb. If you do use both, use them on different sections, i.e. house and trees.
  • Do: Use more lighting if your house sits back from the road to enhance curb appeal. You don’t have to go “Griswold” but if you want people to see it, you need to go a little heavier with the lighting. If you use LED lights you won’t need as many. Their extra bright light will help you keep down your tree trimming cost.
  • Do: Leave at least a foot of space between the edges of your driveway and any staked lighting you are using to outline it. This will avoid problems if a car goes off the edge while trying to back out in the dark.
  • Do: Outline the architectural features of your home. Roof lines, peaks, gables, and porches can help give depth to the display. Electric candles in windows add a classic touch and a little variety to just string lights.
  • Do: Use pre-lit garland and wreaths on doors.
  • Do: And this should have been number two on the list, get your spouse’s agreement on the plan before you begin.
  • Don’t: Use all green or red lights. This is your home, not a commercial enterprise.
  • Don’t: Use as many lights if you are decorating with LED bulbs. LED lights are significantly brighter than conventional.

With a little planning you can make this year’s tree trimming project the best ever.