Outdoor Christmas Lights: Safety Tips & Design Ideas

Christmas lights on house

It’s that time of year for hanging lights around the house to celebrate the season. Whether you regard this ritual as a chore or a challenge to create an show stopping display, the lighting industry now gives you a multitude of new lighting options and control systems to tempt your imagination.

Before you grab the ladder and drag the boxes of Christmas lights from the attic or stock up on new string lights, icicle lights and net lights, take some time to consider set-up and installation safety. If you feel ambitious, you might also like browsing a collection of outdoor Christmas lighting photos at the end of this post to spur your creative juices.

Safety Tips For Installing Outdoor Christmas Lights

  • Make sure your ladder is sturdy. Secure it, if necessary, with insulated holders.
  • If you must use a metal ladder, keep well away from overhead power lines.
  • When installing lights along gutters, work from the ladder, not from on the roof.
  • Use plastic gutter clips that secure the light strings safely over the front edge of the gutter.
  • Do not install lights on trees that come in contact with power lines.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet as your power source. If you don’t have one, you can purchase a portable one (about $20) from your home improvement store. Unless these portable GFCI units are covered for outdoor use, they must be installed in a garage or otherwise out of the weather.
  • Only use extension cords with three-pronged plugs.
  • Only use extension cords marked “For Outdoor Use”.
  • Organize and secure extension cords so they are out of the way. If they need to cross sidewalks or paths make sure they are either covered with a dedicated cord protector (preferred) or taped to the sidewalk with strong, waterproof tape.
  • Never connect together more than the recommended number of light strings.
  • Make sure the light strings are UL listed for outdoor use.

The Lights: A Growing Selection of LED Options

Today, LED string lights in all bulb sizes, icicle lights and net lights can be found in all home improvement stores and online. LED bulbs can produce light that closely matches traditional incandescent holiday lights. If you have an attic full of traditional incandescent C7, C9 or miniature light strings, consider upgrading to LED bulbs. You can still maintain the traditional look of larger C7 and C9 bulbs, but with LED as the light source. You’ll use far less electricity and get a much longer bulb life. You also have the option of adding control systems to LED lights that produce simple to spectacular special effects.

Need Inspiration?

Browse these outdoor lighting installation photos where you’ll find everything from simple elegance to sophisticated grandeur.

Outdoor Christmas Light Display

Outdoor Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

Christmas Light House Display






Shop Christmas Lights

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Dave Burtner

Dave has been active in the lighting industry since 1994. Formerly a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and certified by the National Council On Qualifications for Lighting Professionals, Dave now writes blog posts, lighting tips and provides lighting product assistance for the Topbulb website.

7 thoughts on “Outdoor Christmas Lights: Safety Tips & Design Ideas

    1. Nick Heeringa says:

      Hi, LED bulbs don’t have an “expiration date,” per se. But the bulbs you purchase should have a rated life that’s an estimate of how many hours they’ll last. In general, LEDs will outlast comparable bulbs using incandescent, halogen, or fluorescent technology.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  1. I’ve never had time to decorate my house for the holidays. However, it’s my goal this year to at least get some lighting done. I’d never thought about using LED lights. It would be great to save money and have the bulbs last longer.

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