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Hanging Outdoor Christmas Lights: Tips, Safety, Energy Saving

Hanging outdoor Christmas Hanging Outdoor Christmas Lights: Tips, Safety, Energy Saving

If you are a new homeowner, decorating your house with Christmas Lights is something of a right of passage. Since the day you moved in, you began designing your lighting layout.

You considered the options: colored or white, as well as the different styles. You even began your collection of lawn reindeer as icing on the cake of your winter oasis.

You’ve done all this leg work, except you have never actually hung lights before.

It may seem fairly straight forward, but there is actually a ton of thinking and planning, outside of the design of the lights, that goes into decorating the outside of your home. What’s more, each year of Christmas light hanging experience will make the process more efficient, safer, and most importantly more unique as you try new and exciting arrangements.

In this article we outline a step by step guide to hanging your lights from planning to plugging and everything in between!

The Vision

While you may think you have your vision clearly mapped out in your head, you likely have not considered all the options for your Christmas lights, as well as the angles at which they will be viewed.


It is important to look at your home as if you were just passing by to ensure maximum curb appeal. Head out to the street and give your home and property a more holistic viewing. This way, you can see the house, yard, and any other elements as one to get a better sense of how lights on different points will interact.

PROTIP: Upon stepping out to the sidewalk or street to view the home, snap a quick picture. A poloroid is ideal if you have access to this type of camera. Then, draw the outline of your light display directly on the photo, taking into account where yard decorations and yard ornaments will be as well.

Tools of the Trade

To hang your lights safely, you are going to need a few things:

  • An extension ladder
  • A smaller, stepladder
  • Plastic light clips
  • Tape measure
  • Outdoor extension cords

If you are ready to go all out, you can up the security a bit and even automate the lighting process by also gathering the following:

  • Extension pole
  • Zip ties
  • Timer
  • Powerstakes

Don’t Eyeball It!

Using your tape measure, get a fairly exact length or height (depending on whether the run is vertical or horizontal) of the area where lights will hang. You can add these as notes to the photograph you took earlier to guide you as you purchase and divvy up light strands.

PROTIP: A quick way to get the measurement of the entire roof line without climbing the ladder twice is to measure the base of the house from end to end. While it won’t be perfect, these two widths are fairly equal within a few inches.

Buying the Lights

It is SUPER important that you are buying the proper lights for your outdoor display. Most brands of Christmas lights will be purposed for indoor or outdoor use. Using indoor lights on the exterior of the home is a recipe for disaster.

This is because outdoor lights are manufactured to withstand weather elements. Indoor lights will likely die out within a few days of severe cold or precipitation.

It is also a good rule of thumb to only consider light products that are certified by Underwriters Laboratories.

Our pick:

outdoor christmas lights

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Testing, 1..2..

We all remember Clark Griswold’s meltdown in Christmas Vacation, asserting he tested every single bulb only to find he wasn’t plugged in at all.

This is no joke.

Sometimes, light packages will feature damaged or missing bulbs. The cord itself can also be damaged or torn in places. To check on this, unravel the lights and lay them out across the yard for easy examination.

testing christmas lights

Then, plug the strang in while it rests on the ground to make sure all the lights light. Most kits come with replacement bulbs so it is a good idea to put these away for safekeeping as soon as you open the box.

It is rare that a strand of Christmas Lights will all stop working in the case that one bulb is damaged. That is a problem exclusive to older, incandescent Christmas lights. Today’s lights are mostly LED and do not have this problem. They also tend to last much longer and use less energy.

Clip ‘em

Dad’s of yesteryear used a good ol’ fashioned hammer and a set of nails to string their lights. These days, plastic light clips are the way to go.

Not only are they easier, but they won’t leave unsightly nail holes all over the face of your house. Plus, who really wants to be swinging a hammer twenty feet off the ground?

The light clip has a set of jaws that bites down on the strand of lights. Once the strand is secure, clip to the gutter, eave, or siding of the house to hang the lights. You can likely even leave clips hanging year after year if they are a neutral color that doesn’t stick out against your house.

Trim the Fat

LED Christmas light strands come with an extra foot or so of chord. You will want to ensure this is not loosely hanging from the home or you run the risk of something or someone accidentally grabbing hold and bringing down the whole display.

Wrap the excess cord and clip the bundle to a light clip at the end of the run. When deciding on how many lights should be suspended in between clips along the run, simply use the number of lights to evenly distribute clips. For instance, if you are looking for a fairly taught run of lights, clip every four lightbulbs or so.

zip ties

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You may also use zip ties to tuck away extra light wire, or even to generally hang the lights if you are looking for added security. Zip ties are inexpensive,  heavy duty, and weather resistant and can be clipped away at the end of the year for a fresh start each season.

Let There Be Light

Plug your light strands into one another, and then the master, low-hanging strand into an extension cord. Certainly, you can keep the extension cord close to an outlet on the outside of the home for easy plugging in and out.

outlet timer

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The other option is to outfit an outlet with a timer so that lights kick on automatically and power is not drained all night should you happen to forget to unplug before bed. If you are really lucky, you have an indoor switch that powers an outdoor outlet. In this case the switch itself can be put on timer so you never have to worry.


Light displays are a Holiday tradition worth maintaining to spread cheer and bolster festivity in your neighborhood. As a first time homeowner, though, you may not know where to start or how to safely manage your light display.

Follow the steps above to ensure your light display is the envy of the neighborhood without sacrificing safety or design.