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Decorating with Light

Decorating with Light

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It’s that time of year again—out come the holiday decorations and, of course, the lights. Holiday lighting can begin to be spotted around town in early November, and can still be seen well into the new year. There are several things to consider when decorating with light.

Exterior lighting

The first step in exterior lighting is to decide on the type of display you would like to create. Inspiration can come from an internet search, magazines, or simply a stroll around the neighborhood. The design of the house, be it ranch-style, two-story, or Victorian, should also be considered to choose the most attractive lighting design.

Next, prepare the area for lighting. It is important to check the integrity of the string of lights before you get started. If you find that there is any fraying of the wire, it is best to discard the entire string rather than try to repair it and risk a fire. Also, check strings for burned out bulbs. If not replaced promptly, as little as two burned out bulbs on a string can decrease the longevity of the entire string by 39 percent.

Next, find your power source. Some houses have an outlet near the roofline, but if not use an exterior outlet that is closest to a roofline. Choose an extension cord that is compatible to the lights, is designed for outside use and keep it close to the building. When installing, it is best to have a helper.

As exterior lighting often requires the use of a sturdy ladder, a helper can minimize time spent moving the ladder, thereby reducing the trips up and down the ladder. Never lean on a ladder to reach the next position. Take the time to get off the ladder and move it— injuries from a fall off a ladder can be life-threatening. Finally, consider installing fasteners prior to hanging the lights. The extension cord and the lights can be easily attached to the home that way, without damaging the home. Ideally, look for fasteners with peel-and-stick backs that can manage up to 10 pounds of weight.

At last, it’s time to hang the lights. It is best to choose longer strands of lights. It is not recommended that more than three strands be connected together, as this will risk overload and fire. In addition, do not plug together different brands of lights or strings with different numbers of bulbs. Be sure that the lights are well-attached to the structure so that small animals, the wind or birds do not knock them off. After the roofline has been decorated, you can move on to decorating columns, porches, windows, fence lines or trees. Exterior trees can be decorated in the same fashion as the interior tree, or a net of lights can also be used to drape over the tree. Each branch of the tree could also be traced with lights, using plastic twist ties to secure the lights to the limb.

Interior lighting

The tree is often the centerpiece of holiday decorating in the interior of the home. Although artificial trees are often pre-lit, all others require careful stringing of the lights. As a general rule, the number of light bulbs best suited for the tree is 100 bulbs per foot of height. Begin by dividing the tree into three vertical parts, stringing the lights on each of these sections individually. It is best to string the lights while they are on so as to easily see dark areas that may otherwise get missed. Plugging the lights in first will also allow you to find any defective strands. Working from the bottom of the tree up, string each strand of lights in and out of the branches. The act of going up and down in each of the three sections instead of around the tree also helps tremendously when the lights are removed at the season’s end.

Battery-powered holiday lights are often perfect for places such as mantels and table displays where hiding a cord may be very difficult. These cordless lights allow for much more freedom to decorate areas far from a power source. Choosing strings with LED bulbs will allow for 16 times the battery life when compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.

Upgrading all of your holiday lights from incandescent bulbs to LEDs will reduce your energy costs, produce brighter light, and exert less heat. LED holiday bulbs typically last 100,000 hours compared to 2,500 hours for incandescent bulbs. Placing holiday lights on a timer will also save energy costs and therefore money.

Be safe and happy decorating!


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