Add a Unique Look to Your Outdoor Christmas Display with Animated Snowfall Tubes
Would you like to add a unique and enchanting dimension to your outdoor Christmas display this season? Consider hanging a number of animated snowfall tubes within the winter-bare foliage of your trees.
Animated snowfall tubes - also called falling snow lights - consist of a series of brilliant white LED lights that illuminate sequentially from top to bottom within a clear tube. The effect is that of big, fat, moonlit snowflakes falling through the nighttime sky.
There are a number of ways to use snowfall tubes, but hanging them in the branches of trees within a yard or landscape is particularly popular. And it's a relatively quick and easy process.
Below is a step-by-step guide for installing a series of animated snowfall tubes within the branches of a tree.
What You'll Need…
You'll need only a few items for this project:
- Snowfall Tubes - Obviously enough! Snowfall tubes come in 3 different lengths: 12, 24, and 36 inches. How many will you need? That varies, of course, depending upon the size of the tree and your own aesthetic preferences. A rough rule of thumb might be 5 to 10 tubes for a medium-sized tree.
- Empty Socket Light Line Cord - You can use empty socket cord to build your own Christmas light lines - including snowfall tube displays. It's called 'empty socket' because the cord comes without bulbs. That means that you can screw any style of bulb you wish into the empty sockets. Multiple socket sizes are available, as well as multiple distances between sockets. For this project, you'll want cord with a C9 socket size, with 24 inches between sockets. Plan on using about a fifty-foot length for a medium-sized tree. (Empty socket light line cord can be purchased in bulk: 50', 100', 250', 500', & 1,000').
- Light Line Fittings: You'll need a few fittings for the snowfall tube light line you'll be building, including:
- At least 1 each male and female end plugs
- Some socket caps (used to seal any sockets which are left empty to keep out dirt and moisture)
- Zip-Ties. A quick and easy method of attaching the cord to the tree branches. 7 1/2 inch zip-ties seem to work nicely for this job.
- Tools and Equipment. You'll need a pair of dykes (wire-cutters) and a ladder. That's it!
What You'll Do…
Once you have your supplies on hand, you're ready to get started. If possible, choose a day with reasonably light winds. It's much easier to work with branches that aren't waving in your face or flogging you in the back! And it's always a good idea to wrangle up a helper to hold your ladder, just for safety's sake.
You'll start with the lower branches, and work your way up. Here's the process:
- Decide where you'll place your first snowfall tube. Select a lower branch as a starting point, and decide where you want to place that first snowfall tube.
- Attach that first socket to the lower-branch location you've selected. Be sure to leave a foot or so of cord extending beyond the socket; that's the end of the line where you'll install a male plug later for plugging into an extension cord. Attach the line to the branch using 2 zip-ties, placing a zip-tie on each side of the socket. Cinch each zip-tie tight, and use the dykes to trim off the excess length. If you wish, you can add a drop of glue (hot glue or super glue) where the socket contacts the tree branch to help hold it in place against the weight of the snowfall tube.
- Thread the snowfall tube into the socket. You just screw the snowfall tube right into the socket, same as you'd install any other type of bulb.
- Select the location for the next snowfall tube, and string your cord to that next location. Don't string the cord tight between snowfall tube sockets; it's best to leave some slack in the cord to allow for wind-induced movement of the branches. Zip-tie the socket to the branch, and screw-in the snowfall tube. Before you move on, backtrack a bit and use socket caps to seal any sockets that will remain empty between this snowfall tube and the previously installed tube.
- Repeat until finished. Working from low to high, repeat the process until you've installed all of the snowfall tubes that you wish to place in the tree.
- Install end plugs. Trim off any excess cord that extends beyond the last socket bearing a snowfall tube, and install the female end plug (cut the line halfway between the last snowfall tube and the next empty socket). Then go back to the beginning of the line and install the male plug. The end plugs just slide right on - no tools are needed.
Just One Thing Left to Do…
Wait for nightfall, plug in your line, and enjoy. Of course, you might want to go ahead and plug the line in for a test run right after you've completed installation - just to avoid any Clark Griswold-esque embarrassment later when family and friends might be watching when you flip the switch!