The holidays this year may mean smaller get-togethers or remote gatherings, but whether it’s a celebration of two or ten, we’ll still find comfort in time-honored traditions. This year, many are reaching for a simple, nostalgic season to lift our collective spirits. In lighting, that means a look that’s clean and bright. There are always new innovations in lighting to help us accomplish that task, and this year is no exception.
Solar Vs. Traditional Strings
Solar technology continues to evolve and using solar-powered string lights to decorate for the holidays has some great perks. Planning on placing lights far away from an outlet? No problem. Want lights that turn on automatically when it gets dark? Check. Need lights that are weatherproof and waterproof? Solar has them, and in varieties like never before.
Solar lights now come in ball-style fairy lights for hanging along a fence, in industrial-looking Edison strings for draping the eaves, and in rope lights for wrapping the trucks of trees or pillars, lining rooftops or walkways. Use solar icicle lights to outline a gazebo or patio roof in teardrops of radiant ice-blue light.
The appeal is there. Solar Christmas lights are easy to set up – merely stake their tiny panels in the ground or attach them to something sturdy and they’re ready to go. Also, they’re surprisingly comparable in cost to traditional string lights.
The downside? There are limitations in power. Solar string lights may never be as bright and may not stay on as long after dark as you would like. Their ability to work is based on the panel receiving several hours of exposure to direct sunlight and given the time of year and shorter days, sometimes that exposure is lacking.
Solar strings are also more fragile than their traditional counterparts. Solar strings have thin wiring that demands more careful handling.
If you choose traditional electric string lights, the kind that are packed away in most of our garages and attics, consider adding strategically placed outlets.
Flush mounted or an inset outlet in the top of a fireplace mantle will disappear and can be used for the holidays and then afterwards for a lamp or a clock.
Wish the tree could be the centerpiece of the room, or wish you could center it in front of the window without having to use an extension cord? A thoughtfully placed floor outlet can help.
Decorating the front entry is trending this year. Lighting fresh garland wraps to brightly outline your front door may make an exterior outlet near your front entry handy. Exterior outlets near the eaves will allow you to light up the entire roofline of your home without bright orange extension cords traversing sidewalks and driveways, posing as tripping hazards.
Inspect holiday lights and extension cords before you use them, especially if they’ve been sitting in storage since last year. It is not unheard-of for wildlife to gnaw cords while they are stored, causing nicks and cuts in the cables. Also check for damaged bulbs and faulty sockets. These simple precautions can prevent unexpected sparks.
Also, always plug outdoor holiday lights and extension cords into grounded GFCI outlets – those outlets with test and reset buttons.
Here’s to adding a bit of holiday cheer to the end of 2020. Because after this, 2020, we will bid you adieu!
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