By Tom Tate
This year is rapidly drawing to a close and that means the holiday lighting season is back. If your home space is in need of a decorative refresh, here are some tips to take your artistic stylings to the next level. There are two areas to cover, so let’s get started.
Safety is up first. If your lights are ground mounted or can be installed standing on the floor or ground, you can skip ahead. However, since most decorations involve some installation at height, you need to do the following:
- Have a ground crew (one or two people) to steady your ladder and pass up the decorations…an invaluable part of safety and for keeping you supplied with untangled light strings, fasteners and encouragement.
- Remember to keep a safe distance from your overhead electric service.
- Don’t overreach. If you cannot get to a point with your body completely centered between the sides of the ladder, get down and relocate it.
- Don’t overextend the ladder. If your ladder is too short, rent or borrow a longer one. A ladder extended beyond its working limits is dangerous as is standing on rungs too close to the top.
- Do not overload circuits by stringing more light sets together than the manufacturer recommends. Check the packaging for details.
- Check your wires for breaks and cracks in the insulation that can lead to shorts.
Most of these tips apply equally to inside and outside decorating activities.
Light selection is next. If at all possible, invest in LED lights this season. Unlike the first versions to hit the market that were characterized by rather harsh and unattractive colors, the newest generation’s colors are reminiscent of the incandescent lights of yore.
Why go the LED route? Longevity and cost of operation are the two key reasons. Unlike incandescent lights, whether the large or mini bulb, LEDs will last for many, many years. LEDs have no filaments to burn out. Aside from physically destroying the bulb, the LED is amazingly robust. Given the modest number of hours of operation, you can expect LEDs to last seven or more years.
Then there is the cost of operation benefit from LEDs. These gems of technological advancement truly sip electricity. A reasonable estimate of power consumption is 7 watts per 100 lights. How does that compare to the old incandescent? Each of those bulbs used 12 watts so a string of 100 devoured 1200 watts.
Truly want to manage the cost of operating holiday lights? Invest in timers to turn the lights on and off automatically. Really into gadgets? Invest is a smart plug for your lights you can program and control from your smart phone.
Once you have your design finalized and installed, it is my recommendation to leave as much of the outside portion of lights in place. No, don’t be that person who leaves the holiday lights on all year. Simply disconnect them after the holidays, protecting the plugs and sockets from dirt and debris. Think of the reduced stress and risk if you set and forget your design. With the longevity of the LEDs, you can enjoy this freedom and practically eliminate the risks associated with high-wire seasonal gymnastics.