Are You Sure You're Ready to Install This Year's Christmas Light Display?

Christmas is coming fast. It will soon be time to unpack all your light sets and installation equipment, and go about the happy chore of installing your holiday lighting. It's an exciting time for Christmas enthusiasts, who often anticipate for months the joyful chore of kicking off another Christmas season.

But to make sure that your holiday kick-off goes cleanly, you might want to perform a pre-installation check of your lights, supplies and equipment. It's just a way of making certain that you'll have everything you'll need, and that everything's in good shape. And it will help to assure that your installation project won't get derailed before it's completed.

So just pick a date on the calendar that's several weeks before you plan to install your holiday lighting, and work your way through the list below. That way you'll have plenty of time to order replacements and supplies as needed, without pushing back the beginning of your Christmas season.

Lights: Condition, Quality and Quantity

Most folks are using LED Christmas lights these days, and that makes things significantly easier when it comes to preparing for the season. With the old incandescent lights, a single burnt-out bulb could KO an entire string of lights. Thankfully, that's no longer a concern. But you'll still want to do a pre-installation check for these items:

Physical condition of the light strings.

This is both a safety and a reliability issue. Make a careful visual inspection of each of your light strings, starting at one end and working your way to the other end. Keep an eye out for cracking or abrasion of the insulation. Check for sockets that are broken or cracked. If you find any of those problems, discard the line and order a replacement. 

Light strings don't last forever, and the service life you can expect from your light strings depends upon the quality of manufacture and the conditions of storage. Weâ ve found that top-quality commercial grade light strings will generally last for about 6 to 7 seasons when stored properly during the off season.

Here's a tip for monitoring the age of your light strings: At the end of each season when you're putting your strings into storage, wrap a colored 4" tie wrap around the plug of each set. Use a color that indicates a given age. For example, black might indicate a second year string, yellow might indicate a third year string, and so on. That way you'll know exactly how long each light string has been in service when you take them out of storage at the beginning of each season.

Functionality of light strings.

Once you've determined that the physical condition of a light string is OK, go ahead and plug it in. Check to see whether all of the lights are working. 

If you've purchased top-quality light sets, there's little that's likely to go wrong with the LED bulbs themselves since the bulbs and sockets are molded as one piece. But lower-grade sets - those that are often sold at the big box stores - do not offer that advantage. The bulbs in low-quality sets can be removed individually, so you'll want to check for loose or missing bulbs.

Do you have all the lights you'll need?

If your light design for this season will be identical to last season's display, then you already know that you have all the light strings on hand that you'll need. It's just a matter of making certain that those strings are good to go.

But if you'll be expanding your display this year, this is the time to finalize those plans and assess what you'll need to add to the equipment on hand. Planning ahead and ordering early will help to ensure that your installation will go like clockwork. 

Installation supplies you'll need

If you begin your installation only to find that you don't have the necessary supplies on hand, your project will be stopped dead in its tracks - just as surely as if you found a problem with your light strings.

The supplies you'll need will be determined by your unique situation, of course; what you'll be installing, and where you'll be installing. But the following list may be useful in helping you to plan for the specifics of your installation project:

Clips and attachment accessories.

You might be surprised at all the helpful gadgets that are available as aids for installing Christmas lights. Clay roof clips, shingle clips, ridge row clips, gutter hooks, tree and shrub clips, light stakes, and many other useful gadgets are available to help make your installation a breeze.

So once you've planned out your installation and you know what will be going where, you might want to browse through the selection of attachment accessories available from a supplier of Christmas lights and supplies - just to see what's available. Once installation day arrives, the process will be so much easier, faster, and more enjoyable if you've planned ahead and ordered the accessories that best suit your situation.

Electrical equipment.

You'll want to check the condition of your extension cords, inspecting them for wear and tear the same as you inspect your light lines. But you'll also want to be certain that you'll have what you'll need on hand, and that every cord you'll be using is properly rated for the purpose.

Planning and ordering ahead is a great way to avoid the temptation of using less-than-perfect cords at the time of installation. More than one home disaster has been precipitated with the mindset of: "I'll just use this cord temporarily, and get a proper replacement in a day or two."

This is also a great time to think about remote controls and timers. There are many options available, ranging from simple mechanical timers to photocell-controlled timers that will switch your light display on or off based upon ambient outdoor light levels.

Hardware and supplies.

Perhaps nothing is more frustrating than to be sailing along with your installation project, only to have it come to a screeching halt because you need some trivial item like electrical tape or zip ties. Each project is unique, of course, and it's sometimes difficult to predict exactly what you'll need in terms of supplies. But the list below contains items that will be handy to have on hand for most installation projects:

Staple gun and staples.

Electrical cord and/or zip cord to make custom extension cords.

Spare light sets.

Spare fuses (if applicable).

Extra clips and assorted attachment hardware.

Various sizes and colors of zip ties. (4" , 7" , 14" and 36" ).

Galvanized wire for hanging decor and securing garlands, wreaths and displays.

Ground stakes for securing yard displays such as perimeter lighting around walkways and driveways.

A little preparation can really pay off!

Be Prepared. It's the age-old motto of the Boy Scouts. But it applies to most everything in life, including the installation of your Christmas light display. Spending a little time checking that you're good to go before the season is upon you will help to ensure that everything goes smoothly and per plans.

After all, there are plenty of things to stress about during the holiday season. No need for the installation of your fabulous light display to be one of them!

About the author: Jason Woodward is Director of eCommerce for, a leading supplier of Christmas lighting and decoration products. Christmas Designers caters to all Christmas enthusiasts, including private homeowners and professional installation contractors. You can also find Jason on Google+