Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas Lights In Action

It has been a long wait for Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas lights to finally make it to the market. It was over 3 years ago when we first heard about Twinkly Pro and ever since that first introduction to the technology, we’ve been captivated by the possibilities of this revolutionary animated Christmas lighting system. But like with any complex product development, it took a number of revisions and several years of testing before it was finally ready for the demanding Christmas enthusiast and Pro Christmas markets.

After years of waiting, we’re finally able to offer Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas lights to our customers. This is the first truly professional-grade animated lighting solution that allows you to map and program your Christmas lights through a simple to use, yet very power app. No more tedious and complicated lighting and programming to achieve the animated look you desire. And thanks to the built-in soundboard, your lights will even respond to external interaction such as clapping, singing or music. This allows for a truly interactive lighting system.

For a quick overview of Twinkly Pro lights in action as well as the incredible power of the Twinkly app, take a look at the video below.

 

Shop for Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas Lights HERE

Introducing Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas Lights

Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas Lights

Will this finally be the year that easy to use, truly pro-grade RGB Christmas lights are available? For those of us in the professional Christmas industry, this is something we’ve been waiting on for a long time now. Yes, there have been some great choices for high-grade RGB Christmas lights for many years now, but they have been expensive and difficult to set up and were only really suited for larger commercial lighting applications. But that has finally changed! And we’re extremely excited to see where the RGB Christmas lighting market is heading.

As a business, we’ve been involved with Christmas lighting and decorating for more than 40 years. And I can honestly say we’ve never been as excited for a new product as we are about Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas Lights. Our own installation division is actively planning a lot of installations this season using Twinkly technology and light sets.

Twinkly is a European company that has done a fantastic job of developing an easy to use RGB product line. Rather than having to deal with difficult setups, complex animation programming, and lots of operational headaches, Twinkly Pro has streamlined RGB Christmas lights into a simple to use control interface that can be accessed via a smartphone or tablet. And while similar interfaces can be found on some low-grade RGB Christmas lights at big box retail stores, what makes this system so different is that it’s designed and manufactured specifically for professional and commercial Christmas applications.

In order to ensure that not only the technology behind Twinkly Pro RGB lights is up to pro-level standards, but also the light sets themselves are at the same high-quality level, Twinkly selected Minleon as the manufacture of the lights. Minleon has been the premiere LED bulb maker for more than a decade now and they have a strong reputation for quality in both bulb manufacturing as well as RGB light set manufacturing. We’ve used Minleon products for many years and have always been impressed with their high-quality manufacturing and attention to detail.

The combination of Twinkly Pro technology and Minleon quality light set manufacturing means that we finally have an easy to use RGB lighting system that is designed from the ground up for professional and commercial Christmas lighting applications. And at a price point that is about half of previous commercial-grade RGB Christmas lights, Twinkly Pro is set to take over the RGB lighting industry when it comes to Christmas lights.

 

Shop for Twinkly Pro RGB Christmas Lights HERE

Christmasworld 2019 Frankfurt, Germany

22 years ago my plan was to take a temporary job with a Christmas lighting company. Make a little money to help pay the bills and then move on with my life. After all, no one can actually earn a living in the Christmas business. That’s just crazy!

Well, here I am, more than two decades later. That temporary job turned into a full career. And not just a career, but a life that is all about Christmas. And yes, you can actually earn a living in the Christmas business. In fact, you can earn a great living and go places that you thought you’d never have a chance to visit.

After having traveled around the world many times over the past decade, I’m still in shock that I have a career that is all about Christmas lighting and decorating and part of my job is to visit amazing places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Frankfurt. In fact, I’m writing this blog from Frankfurt, Germany as I attend the ChristmasWorld trade show.

Even after being to this show a number of times over the years, I’m still in awe of the sheer magnitude of everything you see here. From the size of the exhibit halls, to the amazing decorations and lights that are on display. It’s hard to take it all in. Europe goes all out for Christmas and this expo showcases the over the top designs that this region is known for.

With nearly a million square feet of Christmas décor, this show is nothing short of amazing. Join me as a take you on a brief tour of Christmasworld 2019.

GFCIs and Christmas Lights – How to Overcome GFI Related Problems

GFCIs and Christmas Lights - A Survival Guide

GFCI Frustrations

When it comes to Christmas lighting and decorating, nothing kills a Christmas masterpiece faster than a GFCI tripping. All it takes is a little moisture sneaking into the Christmas lighting or electrical system and then BAM, in a millisecond, everything goes dark. The GFCI has decided that the mixture of electricity and moisture is unsafe and that the best thing to do is to shut down all your hard work. You’re left in the dark with nothing to do but find the pesky little reset buttons and hope to get your lights and décor turned back on again.

When it comes to Christmas lighting and decorating, GFCIs cause more headaches than anything else you’ll deal with. Especially in areas that are a little warmer and receive rain instead of snow.

Before going any further, let me make clear that I’m in no way anti-GFCI. They are life saving devices and countless lives have been saved by having them required for outdoor electrical outlets. In no way do I want to go back to the days before GFCIs when people were frequently seriously hurt or killed from the lethal combination of water and electricity.

What I’m focusing on in this article are the headaches that GFCIs cause anyone that is installing Christmas lights and decorations, either professionally or at their own home or business. And I’ll be offering some ways to help to minimize the issues related to moisture and GFCIs. I’m also in no way recommending anything that would go against the standards established by the National Electric Code (NEC).

 

What is a GFCI?

GFCI Outlet and Breaker

 

A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protects people from getting shocked. It’s as simple as that. But if you want the full description, the NEC defines it as, “A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device.”

Basically, a GFCI senses the slightest difference in the amount of electricity between what enters a circuit and what leaves the circuit. A small variation, as little as 5 milliamps, will cause the circuit to trip or shut down within 1/10th of a second. This prevents people from getting electrocuted.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Christmas lights and decorations and GFCIs, generally all it takes to trip a circuit is for a little moisture to get into the outlet, cord or lights. If this happens and the power is on, the circuit will trip, causing the lights and décor to go out. All that hard work and beautiful lights go completely dark.

So what can you do? Is it possible to avoid GFCI’s from tripping? Unfortunately, the only way to completely avoid GFCI issues to not to have the lights plugged into them, but it is against the National Electrical Code to use non GFCI outlets for outside Christmas lighting. And beyond just the code violation, it creates a serious safety risk.

But fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to help minimize GFCI nuisance tripping. By taking a few precautions and following the techniques outlined in this article, you can reduce tripping by at least 75%. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that our professional installation teams reduce GFCI issues.

 

Cords, Connections and Outlets

At least 50% of GFCI related issues can be traced down to issues at either an electrical connection or the outlet itself. During my years in the field with installation teams, I was always amazed at how many outlets did not have bubble covers. This is a big problem area when it comes to nuisance GFCI tripping. The bubble cover needs to be oversized so that it can accommodate as many power cords as there are outlets and it should be able to completely close and latch while in use. Also keep in mind that one GFCI outlet or breaker will frequently control multiple standard outlets. So, it’s important to make sure all outlets, even if they are not in use have proper bubble covers.

Moisture Displacer Spray

 

You’ll also find that older and weathered outlets tend to trip easier. The corrosion that builds up inside the outlet makes them more prone to tripping. This is especially true if an outdoor outlet does not have a proper bubble cover and has been exposed to weather for a number of years. If outlets appear to be old and weathered, having them replaced can help reduce tripping.

Moving past the outlet, the next problem area is where two cords connect together. This can be either two extension cords or where the extension cord connects with the light sets themselves. Any cord to cord or set to set connection is a potential nuisance tripping trigger point. Fortunately, there’s a number of ways to help reduce the chances of GFCIs tripping when it comes to the connection points.

  • Make sure all connections are tight and completely plugged together. The male blades should not be visible.
  • Do not allow connections to be buried in ground cover or mulch. You need air flow around the connections to keep them dry.
  • Do not allow connections to sit in low areas where water gathers.

 

No Plastic Bags!

Years ago, we were working with a large city in Florida and they decided they were going to stop GFCIs from tripping by placing plastic bags over the outlets and electrical connections. We immediately warned them not to do this and it would only make the situation worse. We also warned them that it can cause a fire hazard as well. But the city’s electrical team made it clear that they know what they’re doing, and they had no intention of listening to our warnings. They went ahead and used the plastic bags. The GFCI issue only got worse and within a few days, they actually had an outlet and tree catch fire due to the bags.

So, why did this happen? Why did the bag not help seal up the outlets, and even more serious, why did it start a fire?

First and foremost, you need to keep in mind that moisture gets into everything. All a bag does is prevent airflow to the outlet. Moisture, in the form of condensation, still builds up. But without significant airflow, it will not dry out. The GFCI will trip as this moisture builds, but there is still power going to the outlet, just not through the outlet. The moisture continues to build and can lead to the wiring in the electrical box to short out, which in turn can start a fire. It is rare for this to happen and I’ve only encountered it twice, but nevertheless, it’s still a hazard that needs to be avoided.

So never cover an outlet or connection with a plastic bag. Instead of preventing the outlet from tripping, it will only make the situation worse and can lead to shorting out the outlet, which can potentially cause a fire.

 

Moisture Displacer Spray

Over the years we’ve found that dielectric grease, or a deep penetrating moisture displacer can further reduce the amount of nuisance GFCI tripping. When used on set to set connections, extension cord connections and the outlets themselves, the spray creates a barrier the helps prevent moisture from immediately tripping the GFCI. This will not impede the function of the GFCI and it will still operate as designed. But it does help reduce the amount of nuisance tripping that we encounter.

When applying the displacer spray, it only takes a small squirt to coat the electrical connections. Too much of the spray will make a mess and leave you with greasy Christmas lights and decorations.

The displacer spray we used is Sprayaway Deep Penetrant Moisture Displacer. Avoid the low-cost sprays that tend to be thin and wash away easily. WD-40 was the first water displacer spray to hit the market back in the 1950s. But now days there are sprays that do a better job and will hold up longer to outdoor elements.

 

Watch the Load

Through a lot of testing, we have found that the heavier the electrical load, the more prone to tripping a GFCI is. To test this, we selected multiple jobsites and loaded up individual outlets with 15 amps and measured their tendency to trip under various conditions. We then took this same load and divided it between two outlets. In nearly every case, we found that the two outlets with lighter loads were less prone to tripping than a heavy load on a single outlet or single GFCI circuit.

We’ve had a number of electricians over the years argue with us regarding the increased tendency of GFCI outlets and circuits to trip at higher loads. But after 21 years selling, installing and offering consulting services in this business, I can tell you, without a doubt, that the total load plays a role in how easy a GFCI will trip.

 

Adjust Those Sprinklers

For at least 80% of the pro Christmas installers out there, irrigation during the holiday season is nonexistent. But for the folks in Florida, Southern California and South Texas, irrigation during the winter months is very common. But unfortunately, sprinklers and GFCIs are not a good mix.

Adjusting the irrigation schedule around when the Christmas lights are on will make a big difference. If sprinklers are on at the same time as the holiday lights and decorations, you will be fighting a losing battle.

 

Timers and Photocells

When it comes to GFCI’s, avoid keeping lights and décor on 24/7. The longer the lights are on, the greater the chance they’ll trip. If the outlet or circuit is not on a photocell or standard timer, then one needs to be installed. If it’s not possible to have this done as a permanent photocell or timer, then use a temporary, plug in photocell. But avoid the plug in, temporary traditional timers. Unless you’re using a timer with a battery backup, you’ll not only be battling GFCI issues, but also dealing with timers that are not set correctly. Every time the GFCI trips, the timer will also need to be reset due to the loss of power.

 

Staples Issues

Staples either penetrating too deep and cutting into the cord or the staple not being lined up properly and being shot through the wire are both very common GFCI trigger points. Use a staple gun with a good guide and make sure it’s not overpowering the staple, in turn driving it too far into the tree or wood.

Reducing the number of staples per light set can also help with GFCI issues. The quantity of staples will depend on the type of tree. Trees with rough trunks may not require any staples, smoother bark trees will require more. If you’re dealing with palm trees, you’ll find that Royal Palms need a good number of staples, but Washingtonians don’t need any. So, adjust your staples based on the trunk texture of the tree. Use enough to hold the lights, but the fewer you can use, the less potential GFCI problems associated with staples you’ll encounter.

 

Weep Holes Matter!

C9 weep holes

Most people have never heard of weep holes on Christmas light sockets, but they are vitally important in order to reduce GFCI issues. In the old days we did everything we could to keep moisture out of C7 and C9 sockets. We’d even use rubber washers to help create a seal between the bulb and the socket. You may even come across some of my early videos where I mistakenly made this recommendation. But, just like I mentioned previously about placing plastic bags over outlets, no matter what you do, moisture tends to find its way into the sockets. And by using washers, it prevents airflow, but moisture and condensation still enter into the socket. Without airflow, the socket stays damp, leading to an increase in tripping.

So these days we go the opposite direction. Instead of trying to seal up the socket, we want to make sure moisture and air can flow through it. We’ve moved away from the rubber washers, and most quality sellers are now offering C7 and C9 sockets with two weep holes in the bottom. This allows water to flow through the socket as well as allowing air to pass through, keeping the socket drier than what was previously possible.

This does lead us to a question we frequently get asked, “Why do we still sell the rubber washers for C7 and C9 sockets if they are problematic?” While we don’t recommend washers for standard perimeter lighting installations, there is one situation that you do benefit from using washers.....ocean front installations.

If you’re installing light line within a block or two of salt water, the washers can help reduce the amount of corrosion inside the socket from salt. For anyone that has done installations in this type of environment, you know how damaging salt can be to C7 and C9 light line. By using the washer, you are dealing with some condensation issues in the socket, but the amount of corrosion you get in the socket from the salt water will be significantly less. The corrosion can create even bigger GFCI issues, so the washer can be helpful in salt water environments. It would also be a good idea to put a drop of moisture displacer in the socket. This will further reduce the corrosive impact of salt and moisture.

 

Pick the Right Light Set

Quality, quality, quality…………...this can’t be stressed enough when it comes to the LED Christmas lights. There’s many reasons for this, but at the top of that list is the fact that better quality lights will reduce the amount of nuisance GFCI tripping.

So what types of light sets should be avoided? Above all else, always remember the #1 rule when it comes to selecting a proper light set; NEVER buy two-piece Christmas lights! (stringer light sets with removable bulbs) Yes, you’ll save a little money upfront, but between quality issues, bulb failures and an increase in GFCI nuisance tripping, you’ll have nothing but headaches. Bottom line………only buy one-piece LED stringer sets. Stay away from the cheap, big box retail two-piece lights. Because the socket and bulb are not a single, molded unit, moisture tends to penetrate the bulb socket leading to significant GFCI issues. This is also a significant failure point within the light set, even if conditions are dry. Two-piece stringer light sets are not designed for quality Christmas lighting applications.

On inexpensive light sets, in addition to the bulb issue, you’ll also find that the rectifier is another weak point. The rectifier contains important electronics for the operation of the light set, so keeping it out of the elements is critical.

With high quality pro grade lights, the rectifier is double injected molded. Meaning that it is placed in the injection machine twice, creating a double layer seal. This makes it virtually impossible for moisture to get into the rectifier. Unfortunately, retail grade rectifiers are very susceptible to moisture intrusion.

With any light set, the plug is always a weak point and is where a significant percentage of GFCI issues occur. If you’re installing 500 light sets, you have 500 connection points that moisture could penetrate. Two prong Edison plugs have been the standard for Christmas lights for many years, but even the tightest plug connection is not water tight. This brings us to our last, but definitely the most important, consideration when working to reduce GFCI tripping: Coaxial connect light sets.

 

Coaxial Connect Light Sets

Coaxial connect stringer light sets, sometimes referred to as RY connect, was first introduced during the early days of LED Christmas lights. The sets used heavier 20-gauge wire instead of the standard 22-gauge. Set to set connections were made by screwing the threaded ends together and a rubber washer created a water tight seal. In 2007 and 2008, these sets were the standard when it came to commercial grade LED Christmas lighting. At that time, they were only available in 25 light sets and were very costly. But despite the short configurations and the cost, many of us in the higher end Christmas markets jumped on board and embraced these new light sets. We loved the coaxial connections.

RY Coaxials

Initially we thought that GFCI issues would be reduced by 75% or more, but unfortunately, after a couple of seasons of using these lights, we found that we were overly optimistic, and the true reduction was closer to between 30% and 40%. However, despite the lower reduction percentages, we were still thrilled to have a light set that would help to reduce nuisance tripping. It was also a big advantage to have a light set that would not come unplugged, even in the harshest weather conditions. Add to this the advantage of the heavier 20-gauge wire and you have a light set that not only reduces GFCI issues, but also holds up better to demanding lighting applications.

These days only about 25% of our light set sales to the general public and pro installers are coaxial connect, but for our own installations in Florida, 100% of what we install are coaxial sets. The GFCI reduction alone makes these a worthwhile choice. There is about a 15% price difference, but this is more than made up for between the GFCI improvement and the longer lifecycle of the light sets thanks to the thicker electrical wiring.

 

Don’t Despair……Prepare

If you’re in an area where temperatures are consistently below freezing during late November and December, GFCIs may not be much of an issue. But for homeowners and business owners in warmer areas of the country, GFCIs can range from moderately troublesome to a seriously troublesome daily problem.

Before you install your first light set for the holiday season, decide what GFCI tripping reduction solutions would work best for your lighting and decorating program and then implement the plan. By taking a little extra time during the installation process and making sure as many GFCI trigger points have been addressed as possible, you should be able to eliminate up to 75% of the GFCI issues you typically have.

The Best Santa Tracking Apps for Following St. Nick This Christmas Eve

Santa Flying Through the Sky

While Col. Harry Shoup sat at his desk at the U.S. Continental Air Defense Command at the height of the Cold War, he was probably hoping not to receive many calls to the red phone sitting ominously in the corner. The number was known only to himself and a four-star general at the Pentagon, a direct hotline put into place to warn of an attack on U.S. soil. Yet one crisp, cool day in December, the phone sprang to life.

Without hesitation, Shoup snatched it and put the receiver to his ear, undoubtedly fearing the worst. Only it wasn’t the gruff voice of a senior military officer on the other end of the line. It was a little boy, quietly asking “Is this Santa Claus?”

At first, Shoup thought his solemn duty to his country had become the subject of a prank. But when the kid started bawling, he realized this was no laughing matter. Without missing a beat, he put on his best impression of Kris Kringle for the youngster, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and all. Then he asked to speak to the boy’s mother.

“You haven’t seen the papers yet?” she said. “There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.” Shoup looked it up, and lo and behold, there in the middle of a Sears advertisement was the direct line to his ominous red phone, billed as a direct line to Santa Claus himself. It didn’t take long for calls from other kids to start flooding in. In response, Shoup put a couple of his men on the phones to masquerade as Santa.

The Continental Air Defense Command — today known as NORAD — continued to play along, and the game escalated from there. When Christmas Eve came around in 1955, Shoup called up the local radio station to alert them of an “unidentified flying object.” “Why, it looks like a sleigh!” he said. For the rest of the evening, the radio stations called Shoup nearly every hour, asking for updates on Santa’s position.


The Birth of the First Santa Tracking “App”

You can read the Shoup’s whole story at NPR’s StoryCorps here, as told by his kids. But by their accounts and many others, Shoup had absolutely no idea that one day, his efforts to make a few hundred kids’ Christmases a little brighter would turn into the widespread, official Norad Tracks Santa program.

Back in the day, kids and imaginative adults alike would tune in every Christmas Eve to listen as the NORAD apparatus traced Santa’s exploits around the globe. Today, the program continues, albeit in a much more high-tech incarnation, with games, GPS updates and an accompanying mobile app. During the countdown to the big day, NORAD provides users with all kinds of fun activities. Once Christmas Eve finally arrives, you can check the system anytime during the evening to see an exact GPS position of Santa and his sleigh, rendered in “real-time” 3D graphics. You can even watch clips of Santa as he swings by major landmarks and world cities — the perfect tool to make a believer of even the young skeptics in your family. NORAD has even partnered with Amazon to sync up the program to your Echo. Just ask “Alexa, where’s Santa?” and she’ll give you up-to-the-minute updates.


The Best of the Rest

NORAD is widely considered to be the original when it comes to Santa tracking technology, but it’s hardly the only option available. Today, a search on the Google Play store yields dozens of applications purporting to provide the latest and greatest in Kringle-related updates. Unfortunately, pretty much all of these are nothing more than cheaply-made cash grabs made by unscrupulous developers looking to capitalize on your Christmas cheer.

Not so with the Google Santa Tracker. This app/website combo sports colorful new designs and activities for kids every year. With an advent-calendar style set-up, each day unlocks a new game or experience to engage in, with all kinds of educational opportunities that young kids will love. Then, like NORAD, on Christmas Eve they begin broadcasting his journey live, in a cute interface dappled with more games and things to do. Your kiddo can learn to write simple code, learn about holiday traditions from around the world, and even learn a few words from a language spoken in one of Santa’s destinations.

Also, worth checking out is Reindeer Cam and its accompanying app, which offers a live stream of Santa’s reindeer around the holiday season. While it’s not always the most thrilling display you’ve ever seen (it’s a farm, after all), Christmas-obsessed kids will thrill as they watch Santa himself feeding his trusty steeds during one of the scheduled times. The comment feed allows kids to post a message directly to Kris Kringle, and parents can submit their names to have them show up on the site’s ticker. Occasionally, “Santa” will even read a heartwarming viewer-submitted story on air!

It may seem like slim pickings for Santa tracking tech, considering all the advances we’ve made in recent years, but hey — Santa defies science, so what do you expect? Just make sure that whatever Santa tracking app you use, you don’t stay up too late staring at it. You wouldn’t want him to miss your house!

The Definitive, Step-by-Step Guide to Using C7 and C9 Bulk Light Line For Your Christmas Display

It doesn’t matter how serious or passionate you are about your Christmas light display; If you don’t work like the professionals do, your results simply won’t be able to compete. Luckily, top-tier Christmas design doesn’t require complex techniques or dozens of more hours of labor—it just requires using the right materials for the job.

If you’ve been wondering why professionally-installed displays outdo yours year after year, chances are that C9 bulk light line is the answer. Instead of buying cheap, readymade stringer light sets at a big-box store with the bulbs already molded to the cord, pro installers cut their cord to the exact specifications of the project at hand, then select and screw in the bulbs themselves. This eliminates leftover light line at the end of runs and results in higher quality bulbs and a much cleaner, more attractive display overall.

Still, amateur installers sometimes balk at the idea of creating their own custom light line. To some, it sounds like a difficult, involved, and maybe even dangerous process. But in reality, using C7 or C9 bulk light line in your home Christmas display is so easy that any intrepid enthusiast can do it. Just follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll be installing like the pros in no time.

Installing C7 and C9 Bulk Light Line


1. Buy the right bulk light line.

Bulk light line, also known as empty socket light line, is purchased in lengths ranging from 25' to 1,000' bulk spools. Other than the length of the cord, there are a few factors to consider:

Cord socket size: Bulk light line comes with sockets attached for either C7 or C9 bulbs. C9s are the most commonly used, the large ones most people picture when they think of a beautiful display, and for good reason. But the slightly smaller C7s can be perfect for lighting smaller structures or scattering in trees.

SPT-1 vs. SPT-2: The cord’s SPT rating refers to the thickness of its insulation. It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of the subject, but all you really need to know is that SPT-2 is .015” thicker than SPT-1. We recommend using SPT-1 if you’re only keeping your lights up for the holiday season. If your cords will be exposed to the elements for more than four months at a time, it may be worth springing for the thicker cable.

Socket spacing: Spacing between bulb sockets ranges anywhere from 4” to 36”. 12” is the industry standard, though 9” or 6” is common when decorating small structures with a need for more minute detail.

Cord color: The most popular and affordable cord color is green, followed by white at a distant second place. Brown and black are also sometimes available, but will usually be more expensive and hard-to-find. It’s best not to overthink the color, just go with your preference and keep it consistent.

After you’ve chosen your cord, make sure you pick up the right vampire plugs to make your bulk light line actually usable. Match the plugs to the SPT rating of your cord, and you’re good to go.


2. Buy your bulbs.

Once your light line is squared away, you’ll need bulbs to screw into the empty sockets. One of the advantages of using bulk light line is that since the bulbs don’t come pre-molded to the cord, you can choose whatever color bulbs you choose. With so much freedom, though, it can be a little bewildering to beginners.

Ultimately, the color of your bulbs will come down to personal preference. Most folks go with either the classic multicolored look or warm white bulbs for their displays, but if you want to stand out, you can opt for more exotic colors such as pink or purple.

The main thing you should worry about is the quality of the bulbs you’re buying. Before you drive to your nearest hardware store and pick up a batch of shoddy big-box lights—or low-quality lights masquerading as a “commercial” grade—it’s important to understand the differences between retail-grade and truly professional-grade LED Christmas lights. It's best to stick to the bulbs that professional Christmas installers use. The top choice for professionals is either Pro Christmas or Minleon brand bulbs. Anything else and you're leaving it up to chance. And you'll find that the price is only a few cents higher per bulb than their low-quality counterparts.


3. Measure and cut the cord.

Once you’ve got all the materials you need (don’t forget clips!) you’re ready to put it all together. But before you start cutting the cord and attaching vampire plugs, you need to know how many lines you’re going to need. Measure carefully along the edge of the roof, driveway, or walkway you’ll be lighting, making sure to include a slight bit of leeway so the plugs can reach their outlets. It doesn’t have to be to-the-millimeter exact, but the more precise you can be, the cleaner the presentation will look when you’re finished.

You'll want to make sure you aren't maxing out your cord. Keep in mind the 300/500 rule. Never run a single line more than 300 feet or 500 bulbs, whichever comes first. For 12" spacing, you're okay going up to 300 bulbs, which is 300 feet. But if you're using 15" spacing, then you'll want to stop after 240 bulbs, which is 300 feet. Going longer than 300 feet results in voltage drop and can cause problems with your light line. Also keep in mind that you can plug up to four, 300 foot runs into a single outlet. Just be sure you're using a 3-way adapter that is rated for 15 amps.

Once you’ve got your measurements, use wire cutters to cut your light line to size, and you’re ready for the next step.


4. Attach a male and a female vampire plug to either end.

We’ve already put together an article detailing everything you need to know about vampire plugs, but for a quick breakdown, take a look at the guide below.

 

Vampire Plugs - Slide On Plugs
5. Screw in the bulbs.

This part is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case, it’s worth noting you want to do this before you clip the light line to your home. When screwing in bulbs, you can choose whatever color pattern you want, but be vigilant to keep it consistent. Many have been driven to the brink of insanity by a single misplaced colored light offsetting their perfect display.


6. Hang them up!

Now comes the labor-intensive part. Carefully attach your custom light lines to the perimeter using high-quality clips, making sure to use one clip per socket, regardless of how close the spacing is.

And then finally, you’re done! Once everything’s put together, you’ll be delighted by how much more vivid and crisp your display looks than years past, without a single annoying trailing light in sight. The first time you use a bulk light line for your installation, it may take a few extra minutes, but once you experience the ease and brilliance of custom-length light line, we’re guessing you’ll never go back. There’s a reason why professionals only use a bulk light line for perimeter lighting—the results speak for themselves!

C9 Bulk Light Line Vs. C9 Stringer LED Light Sets: Which Should You Be Using?

C9 bulk light line

If there’s one problem that has plagued nearly every amateur who’s ever tried to set up a top-tier Christmas light display, it’s what to do with extra light line. You don’t have to be a pro to notice it in your own neighborhood: Those points on an otherwise perfectly lit perimeter where the installer suddenly realized their string was several feet too long, trailed it down from the rooftop, and crammed the excess behind the bushes hoping nobody would notice. It’s a big, glowing blemish on millions of otherwise excellent displays every year, yet most folks assume it’s just a necessary evil.

But actually, you don’t have to let haphazard trailing light line muddy the clean, vivid presentation of your Christmas light display. All it takes is a little know-how, a DIY ethic, and the easy-to-use secret weapon of professional installers everywhere: C9 bulk light line.

You see, the tools you’ve likely been using this whole time — C9 stringer light sets — aren’t quite suited for perimeter lighting. In the same way you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, you’ll never be able to achieve the crisp design of a professional display with readymade light sets. Read on for the difference between C9 stringer light sets and C9 bulk light line, why it matters, and how you can leverage both their advantages to build a light display that will dazzle the whole block.

 

Stringer Light Sets: A Straightforward But Inelegant Solution

Stringer light sets are the immediate go-to for many homeowners. They’re sold in fixed lengths, with a male and female plug on either end, complete with bulbs already molded into the sockets. Since they’re completely self-contained, they’re typically seen as the “no-fuss” option for amateur perimeter lighting.

In addition to having bulbs that are molded into the socket and are not able to be removed or replaced, you're also dealing with less illumination from the bulbs. Stringer sets use a single LED diode, which offers lower illumination output than C7 and C9 replacement bulbs. Pro grade replacement bulbs contain advanced SMD LED chips that produce up to 60% more illumination intensity.

Certainly, stringer Christmas light sets are simple to use. All you do is buy a few sets, clip them along the perimeter, and plug them in. The problem arises when you inevitably end up with too much or too little line remaining when setting up your display. You can try and hide the gaps and trailing lines all you want, but these are lights we’re talking about — they’re going to be obvious.

Any professional worth their salt wouldn’t be caught dead leaving a rogue string sticking out from one of their displays. That’s why they never use stringer light sets for perimeter lighting, instead opting for C9 bulk light line.

However, stringer light sets do still have their place. The pros typically use C7 or C9 stringer sets for scattering lights in the canopy of trees. And smaller stringer lights, including 5mm wide angle conicals, M5s, T5s, and C6s are widely deployed in all kinds of applications. But again, when working on perimeter lighting, it’s best to cut your light line to the required length yourself.  Which brings us to…

 

C9 Bulk Light Line: The Easy-to-Use Industry Standard for Perimeter Lighting

When homeowners look at their near-perfect light displays and compare them to the professionally-installed display down the road, they often imagine there’s some complicated, expensive combination of techniques and equipment involved. But actually, for the most part, it all comes down to the fact that pros use C9 bulk light line for all their perimeter lighting.

C9 bulk light line is purchased in long spools, at anywhere from 25 to 1000 feet. There are no bulbs screwed into the sockets, or plugs attached to the line. If you’re a homeowner or hobbyist, it’s easy to get intimidated by the idea of cutting your own custom-length light lines, but it’s actually incredibly easy to do. All you need to do is:

- Measure out the area you’ll be lighting

- Cut the bulk light line to the size you need

- Attach a male and female vampire plug to either end

- Screw in whichever bulbs you choose

...and you’ve got a light set tailored precisely to your needs. Attach them to your home with the right clips, and you’re good to go. Setting them up is as simple as it sounds, and ultimately results in a pristine, professional-looking appearance that can’t be beat. And if you’re after a smaller bulb than the C9, C7 bulk light line is an excellent alternative.

If you’re serious about your Christmas light display, you need to do as the professionals do. That means switching out your old stringer light sets with custom C9 bulk light line, cut to size. Take the DIY plunge and you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it will make. When it comes time to step out to the sidewalk and bask in your handiwork, you’ll rest easy without a single light out of place — and with no lingering disappointment at being outdone by your neighbor!

4 Bizarre Christmas Movies You’ll Love to Hate

No matter how wintry it is outside, folks will get heated if you bash their favorite Christmas movie. On the one hand, we’ve got the finely aged classics like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and, um, maybe “Die Hard.” Stack these up against newcomers like “Elf” around Christmas dinner and you might as well have brought up politics once the verbal barbs start flying. In fact, I’d be willing to bet I’ve already enraged a couple readers by omitting their own personal favorite in the brief list above.

But hey, honestly? From Charlie Brown to Tim Allen, the Christmas film canon seems pretty well done and dusted. Far more interesting are the holiday flops, the movies that end up on the cinematic Island of Misfit Toys. This holiday season, skip the classics you’ve already watched 20 times, and put on one of these four surreal, so-bad-they’re-good Christmas disasters instead.

Santa Claus (1959)

 

 

Jolly old St. Nick, Lucifer, and Merlin the wizard don’t tend to cross paths all too often. But in this feature originally directed by René Cardona (and later overdubbed into English) the three engage in a pivotal battle over the mortal souls of all the world’s children.

The film opens on Santa’s spacefaring palace Christmas night, as he and his “elves” — which look more like overworked children than whimsical helpers — scramble to get ready for his annual voyage. But the devil has other plans and enlists his chief demon Pitch to wrest control of the Earth from “that bearded old goat Santa Claus” and “make all the children of the Earth do evil.” The demon manages to turn three naughty little boys to his evil bidding, while he and the big man struggle over the minds and hearts of Lupita, a poor girl who wants nothing more than a new doll. For some inexplicable reason Merlin is Santa’s most trusted assistant and helps him in this cosmic duel.

The movie is full of truly strange gems. One particularly memorable scene sees Pitch induce a nightmare into Lupita’s slumber, in which life-size dancing dolls try to convince her to turn to a life of petty theft. And who can forget the laughter of the unsettling, animatronic reindeer? Still, I don’t think there’s any better way to sum up this film’s stilted, surrealist logic than with this long-winded conversation between Santa and one of his helpers, Pedro.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)

 

 

It might be a stretch to call this 1985 stop-motion film from Rankin/Bass Productions (of Rudolph and Frosty fame) a failure exactly, but where it lacks in horrible filmmaking it makes up in sheer bizarre Christmas worldbuilding. All you need to know is that it was based on a 1902 children’s book written by L. Frank Baum, the writer of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” to know how closely the movie toes the lines between bonkers and refreshingly imaginative.

The plot stars *deep breath* an immortal known as The Great Ak who discovers an infant Claus on the border of the enchanted forest who he gives to the lioness Shiegra to raise as her own, until the wood nymph Necile steals the human to raise him herself, making him the only mortal in the realm of Immortals and thus sympathetic to the plight of human children. He decides to make toys and bring happiness to them, which the evil King Awgwa (who is dedicated to steering kids toward ill deeds) really doesn’t like, resulting in a war between the monstrous Awgwas and the Immortals and eventually ending up with The Great Ak successfully persuading the council to grant the now “Santa” Claus eternal life. Phew! As far as Santa origin stories go, this one’s an admirably convoluted take. Still, it manages to top the holiday lists of many nostalgic moviegoers.

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

 

 

You know Star Wars, right? The ones with the “I am your father” and the lady with the cinnamon-bun hair and everyone’s favorite character, Jar Jar Binks? Well, this ain’t it.

Well, it is … and it absolutely, utterly isn’t. You see, after “A New Hope” came out in 1977 and grossed more than $450 million to pretty much everyone’s surprise, no one really knew what exactly the Star Wars “universe” might become. So, hoping to keep the franchise on the public’s mind while production charged ahead for the second film, George Lucas approved a CBS production for a Star Wars holiday special. The production was helmed by what Vox calls “a dream team of variety show producers” and included all the original stars and a ragtag group of contemporary celebrities. But without George Lucas’s tight hold on the reigns of the Star Wars franchise, the thing spun out of control in the most fascinating way possible.

Behold the results, which Disney would surely rather have buried by now. The variety show stars Chewbacca as he heads home to visit his family for a holiday called “Life Day.” The scenes of his family, grotesque wookies which for some reason wear normal clothes, are told pretty much solely in the signature grunts of his species, making for a grueling viewing experience. But that’s far from the weirdest thing about the special. One of the most loathed/beloved scenes is Chewbacca’s father Itchy in a sexually-charged virtual reality encounter with singer Diahann Carroll. Another turns the Mos Eisley cantina into an episode of Cheers, with Golden Girls’ Bea Arthur as the bartender. The band Jefferson Starship even makes an appearance for a full song, awash in late-70s neon light.

It’s a catastrophic, clunky mess, so much so that it’s been disowned by every member of the Star Wars cast — and I can’t recommend it enough. If for no other reason than to see Chewie’s son Lumpy. Look at this guy!

 

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

 

 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this list, it’s that Santa has more enemies than I thought. In this failed mashup of yuletide cheer and sci-fi space opera, a gang of Martians set out to kidnap St. Nick and bring him to their home planet, ostensibly to instill the spirit of fun into the children of Mars, where playtime is apparently banned. Of course, to separate the real Santy Claus from his imposters, they need to kidnap two Earth children first. The plan goes off without a hitch, and a hostage Santa begins pumping out toys for Martian kiddos from a new factory on the red planet. But the warmongering Martian, Voldar, and his cronies believe that Martian leadership has gone soft and hatch a plan to kill Santa and the two children. In the end, Santa doesn’t so much “conquer” the Martians as he does convince them to elect their own present-giving figure and let him and the kids go home.

The set-up is odd enough, but what really makes this movie unique are the horrible acting and some of the most hilarious low-budget set and costume designs ever put to film. For instance, this polar bear, or, well, almost any other harebrained moment in the entire production.

The film is widely considered to be among the worst ever made, and for good reason. But, like each of these incredible Christmas movies, it’s the kind of trainwreck that you just can’t tear your eyes away from, a cult favorite among lovers of insane cinematic decisions. Enjoy with a cup of hot cocoa, but keep the Irish cream handy in case you need an extra kick to make it through!

5 of the Most Outrageous Christmas Light Displays Ever Set to Music

It started back in 1983, when Chuck Smith of Franklin, Tennessee hooked up his Apple II computer to some Christmas lights. By his account, the resulting strobing, flashing light display was “truly amazing, but the most terrible thing [he’d] ever seen for Christmas.” Next, to the staid, static lights of his neighbors, he felt like a showboater. But just before he could take the things down, a horde of kids flooded out of a car in front of his house, thrilled at his latest innovation. “I knew I was onto something,” he told the Washington Post.

So began the long, storied saga of folks combining their holiday spirit, tech-savvy, and lots and lots of free time into hundreds of gloriously over-the-top Christmas light displays across the country. After Chuck Smith opened the door, it didn’t take long for thousands of other excitable exhibitionists to barrel right through it, vamping on his original idea. Before too long, music entered the equation, and the world of synchronized Christmas light displays transformed from a close-knit community of holiday enthusiasts to a genuine countrywide sensation.

Nowadays, a twinkle here and a strobe there seem pretty tame compared to the dubstep-fueled holiday raves you see on YouTube. To help you filter out the gaudy from the inspired, we picked out five of the best (in no particular order).

 

  1. Carsen Williams’ “Christmas Lights Gone Wild”

 

 

An oldie, but a goodie nonetheless. The floodgates for musical light displays burst open in 2005 when an electrical engineer named Carson Williams uploaded this video to the forum Planet Christmas. The performance, synched to the chugging arena rock of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter,” garnered a lot of attention from fellow would-be enthusiasts, and within a year, it was a viral phenomenon. Chances are you watched the video at 240p more than 10 years ago, stunned by the hilarious audacity of the spectacle. It was the first to blow up on video, but it wouldn’t be the last.

 

  1. Trista Lights’ 2016 Christmas Light Show

 

 

Aside from featuring the worst version of “Winter Wonderland” we’ve ever heard (see 4:26), this light show is among the most technologically sophisticated of the modern era. Featuring flexible pixel light nets set up to act like lo-fi LED displays, each “screen” can display all kinds of holiday shenanigans. With everything from a pixelated Santa and his elves grooving to a chopped and screwed “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” to an incredible, flowing ripple effect at 7:34, it’s hard to imagine the painstaking effort it took to calibrate each individual dot in this complicated matrix.

 

  1. 2016 Johnson Family Dubstep Light Show

 

 

Somewhere down the line, Skrillex’s “Bangarang” from 2011 became the unofficial anthem of Christmas spectacle (along with the aforementioned “Wizards in Winter” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra). So if you’re watching these for the music, well, good luck. But whether you’re gung-ho about blistering bass music from a simpler time, or you’d prefer to listen to reindeer antlers roll around in the dryer, you can dazzle at the sheer bombast of this Christmas light display. If you look closely you can even see the eight spotlights beaming columns of blinding white light hundreds of feet into the December sky.

 

  1. 2014 Yucaipa Full Neighborhood Display

 

 

The folks who live on Manning Street in Yucaipa, California have gained a bit of a reputation over the past decade or so. Every year more than a dozen homes link up Christmas light displays for a show that spans blocks, everything kept perfectly in sync with the technical wizardry of one Jeff Maxey. While we couldn’t find the perfect video to do the show the justice it deserves, just imagine what it would be like to take a wrong turn down Manning Street late one cold December night — you’d have to wonder whether someone spiked your cocoa.

 

  1. The Larsen’s 2017 Display

 

 

Now if you’re interested in a more straightforward, yet still wildly complex dance of more than a million bright lights, this 2017 display from the Larsen family should be your go-to. With a massive house and yard absolutely covered in decorations, this display still manages to maintain an aesthetic clarity pretty much unrivaled by competitors. There’s a reason, after all, that these guys won ABC’s “The Great Light Fight” back in 2013.

 

The best Christmas light displays can spark a flicker of holiday cheer in even the scroogiest of hearts — especially if you can look past the tunes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, after watching dozens of strobe-heavy dubstep-drenched light shows, this writer is going to go rest his eyes.

Vampire Plugs Are the Key to a Professional-Looking Christmas Light Display

If you’re a Christmas enthusiast looking to up the ante on your annual light display, it can be difficult to know where to start. Maybe you’ve done a little digging, and have discovered the open industry secret that is empty socket light line. You know that the key to clean a display with no trailing lines is measuring out the exact length of cord you need, and cutting it to size. You want to get started crafting a truly professional-looking display, but you’re intimidated. The idea of cutting and fashioning your own custom lines of Christmas lights sounds more like a job for an electrician than a hobbyist.

Lucky for you, with the use of slide on vampire plugs, building your own light lines or extension cords is incredibly simple. It requires nothing more than a pair of wire cutters, some C7/C9 light line or zip cord, and a couple of minutes.


Vampire Plugs: The Unsung Heroes of the Christmas Light Industry

Vampire plugs, sometimes called gilbert plugs, are comprised of a small plastic housing, a slide-on piece designed to hold in the wire, and either a male or female plug end. They’re easy to use, cost almost nothing, and enable almost anybody to build custom-length extension cords and Christmas light lines with minimal hassle.
To use them, you simply need to measure out the length of empty socket light line or 18/2 zip cord you need and cut it to size. Then, make sure the ribbed side of the cord lines up with the larger blade on the vampire plug, and slide a male and a female plug onto either end. To see the process in action, watch this quick tutorial video:

See? It’s the easiest way to make perfectly-sized light lines and extension cords out there. It’s been a technique used by professional installers for decades, one that’s remained pretty much unchanged for almost as long.


Vampire Plugs and SPT

The one thing you need to keep in mind when buying vampire plugs is that they need to match the SPT rating of the cord or line you’ll be using them for. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding SPT ratings — and a lot of misinformation out there — but they’re actually pretty straightforward in practice.

SPT primarily refers to the thickness of the insulation. SPT-1 is .03” and SPT-2 is .045”. Since SPT-2 is 50% thicker than its counterpart, it’s often used in areas where harsh weather becomes a problem or if it’ll be experiencing a lot of wear and tear. It’s possible to get a lot more technical than that with amperage and all kinds of complex calculations — see our blog on the subject — but all you need to know is that as long as the vampire plugs you’re using match the SPT rating of the empty socket light line or zip cord, you’re good to go.

If you’re serious about your Christmas display, there’s no reason not to make the switch over to empty socket light line with vampire plugs. Check out our step-by-step visual guide below to get started!

 

Vampire Plugs - Slide On Plugs

Starting Your Own Christmas Lighting and Decorating Business

Installing Christmas Decorations

There’s nothing more satisfying than owning a business that provides a good living for you while making customers exceptionally happy. We know that feeling very well at Christmas Designers, because a Christmas lighting and decorating business is just that kind of enterprise. We get to earn money while helping people celebrate an incredibly important time of year.

And as small businesses go, Christmas lighting and décor offers a lot of advantages.

You can earn a full-time income while working only part of a year. There are no special skills, training or education required. Startup costs are lower than in other small businesses. Demand for the service is high; in fact, there aren’t enough pro installers to go around in most regions. And with an average 80% year-to-year customer retention rate among installers, stability and security are very likely.


Benefit from the voice of experience.

For a long time, the only way to learn the Christmas lighting and decorating business was to get a job with an existing company and basically serve an apprenticeship. Once you learned the ropes, and if you had the business acumen for it, you could eventually take a shot at striking out on your own.

That’s certainly one way to do it. But there’s so much collective experience and wisdom that can benefit newcomers to the field, we decided it was time for a textbook on the subject. Starting Your Own Christmas Lighting & Decorating Business is a master class in the Christmas lighting and decorating business from one of the largest, most experienced Christmas businesses in the world

This book is a comprehensive, detailed, 331-page guide to starting and sustaining a successful Christmas light-hanging and décor-installation business. Packed with information and illustrations, and written by Jason Woodward, a 20-year industry veteran, Starting Your Own Christmas Lighting & Decorating Business takes you step-by step through every possible detail of planning, starting and running a successful Christmas business.


Learn the technical side of the business.

This book takes all the things you once had to learn by working with an established crew and lays them out in easy-to-understand terms with plenty of illustrations. We don’t just tell you how to get the job done, we show you, as well.

It’s all in there: the electrical know-how you’ll need, tools and supplies necessary for doing do a pro-level job, everything you need to know about the various types of Christmas lights, how to deal with different installation scenarios, what it takes to service a job after installation and keep it looking great. And of course, you’ll also learn the best way to take displays down, store your lights and other equipment, and service your gear during the off-season.


Understand the business side of the business.

In addition to getting the specialized technical knowledge you’ll need to get your Christmas business up and running, you’ll also need to answer certain questions that anyone starting a business asks along the way.

Where to start with planning and launching a business? How much to charge? What’s a good technique for closing sales? Where are the best places to advertise? What other kinds of marketing are helpful? All those questions and more are answered in Starting Your Own Christmas Lighting & Decorating Business.


Let us help you avoid common pitfalls.

Getting a small business off the ground is hard work, and Christmas lighting and décor is no exception. The financial rewards can be great, as long as you’re willing to be patient. For instance, we’ve seen a lot of people crash and burn by booking a ton of business before they’ve gotten enough experience to manage that kind of workload. Over-eagerness at the outset can leave you exhausted, discouraged and the target of a lot of bad reviews. We’ll walk you through how to pace your workload and many other aspects of the business that can defeat your purpose if you don’t approach them the right way.


Start that small business you’ve always wanted.

Take it from us at Christmas Designers—there is no more rewarding way to earn a living than by helping people celebrate at Christmastime. Whether you’re helping a homeowner make a statement in the neighborhood, helping a retailer give customers a festive shopping experience, or helping a town create a special atmosphere of community spirit, looking around knowing it was you who made those displays happen is a great feeling.

Starting Your Own Christmas Lighting & Decorating Business is the perfect first investment on the way to owning your own Christmas business. Yes, we’re partial because it’s our book. But because we’ve lived every experience the book addresses, we know that the information inside is solid, honest and useful.

Once you’ve finished reading Starting Your Own Christmas Lighting & Decorating Business, you’ll know if starting up your own Christmas business is the right move for you and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running with all the know-how you need.

 

 

 

LED Christmas Lights: Everything You Could Possibly Need to Know

For some people, Christmas lights are an essential piece of the holiday season. For others, they’re a way of life. Get any seasoned light installer talking about their craft, and you’re sure to hear a barrage of unfamiliar terms, strong opinions, and unmitigated passion for their favorite hobby.

But whether you’re a Christmas enthusiast on a mission to make your house visible from space, a homeowners association with an eye for the festive, or a business owner looking to jazz up your storefront, it pays to learn everything you can about the Christmas lights you’re buying. If you’re looking to master the art of Christmas installation and bring your displays to the next level, read on. We’ve compiled absolutely everything you need to know in a single place, with handy links for further exploration.


First things first: throw away those dusty incandescent Christmas lights

Before we start getting into the nitty-gritty, we need to address the clan of stubborn folks still clinging to their outdated, incandescent mini lights. Even today, when LEDs are more advanced than ever before, some people still believe their old bulbs are superior.

Back in the day, this was certainly true. When LEDs first became practical for consumers around 2006, most emitted an ugly blue hue. They used less power, sure, but they were unreliable, unwieldy, expensive, and often less vibrant than their incandescent counterparts. As a result, many enthusiasts refused to adopt the tech, and their anti-LED attitude continued for years to come.

But today, LED technology has evolved far beyond its humble beginnings. Even the most basic big-box LED sets emit accurate colors at decent brightness. And when it comes to professional-grade LEDs, there’s just no competition.

LED Christmas Lights

While we’ve harped on the benefits of LED Christmas lights before, it’s worth a quick rehash here for the skeptics:

  • LEDs consume way less energy, saving you as much as 90% on energy bills.
  • LEDs boast superior illumination intensity and color accuracy and don’t fade over time.
  • LED bulbs are virtually indestructible, and last much longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs offer a wider range of designs, giving you more flexibility with your displays.
  • LEDs allow you to connect many more sets together without fiddling with extension cords or vampire plugs.

Each of these, as well as the fact that you can almost perfectly emulate the look of incandescent lights with LEDs if you so choose, make the switch to LEDs a no-brainer. The only potential barrier to LEDs over incandescent lights is their higher initial cost. Rest assured, though, that the energy savings, longevity, and sheer brilliance LEDs will lend to your Christmas displays will pay for itself over just a couple seasons.

Do be aware, though, that many suppliers overhype how long their bulbs will last. While those LED bulbs you’re buying may be rated to last 75,000 hours, this is just for the LED diode. In nearly every case, the construction of the LED set will fail long before the diodes do. That’s why it’s so important to buy light sets made with quality components and good solder connections. If used seasonally and appropriately stored in the interim, high-quality LED Christmas light sets should last around five to six years.


Steer Clear of Shoddy Retail LED Christmas Lights

Have you ever spent hours toiling away on your lights only to be upstaged by your neighbor’s brighter, clearer, and more vibrant display? If so, retail grade lights are probably to blame.

Retail lights

Not all Christmas lights are created equal. Industry insiders and Christmas display enthusiasts break LED Christmas lights into two categories: professional-grade and retail grade. While some big box stores will try to sell you “commercial” grade lights, don’t be fooled — most of these are nothing more than a retail grade set with a higher markup.

Now, if you’re just a Christmas hobbyist, you might balk at the idea of buying the same lights professional installers use. But if you really want to dazzle with your display — while saving money over time —you should definitely go with professional-grade lights. There are four main reasons why:

  1. Pro-grade LED Christmas lights to use a one-piece bulb and lens design.
    Because they combine the LED diode and the lens into a single sealed socket, pro-grade lights last much longer. Their tight design prevents debris from making its way into the lighting set and causing it to fail.

Molded one piece design

Retail grade lights are manufactured in two pieces, with a separate bulb and lens. This allows you to remove and replace the LED diode. You might think this is actually more convenient, except for the fact that their two-piece design inevitably lets in unwanted dirt and moisture, meaning you will need to replace the diodes, and also the entire set, far more often. This makes pro-grade lights more cost-effective in the long run.

  1. Pro-grade lights use better electrical components.
    While it’s hard to tell from a glance, true pro-grade LED lights are equipped with significantly superior internal electrical components, including the LED diodes. LED lights are small, but electrically complex — these things really do matter.

Diode Comparison

  1. Pro grade lights provide much better color consistency.
    Maintaining color consistency across light sets has always been a problem with LED sets, especially with warm, white lights. But with modern, pro grade LEDs, the issue is rarely noticeable with the naked eye.

Warm White Color Variation

 

  1. Pro-grade light strings are shorter, making them more flexible and easier to manage.
    In the retail market, it’s easy to find light sets longer than 50 feet. These big, unwieldy strings might seem like a decent value, but in reality, they’ll cause you a big headache down the road. Professional installers usually keep strings around 25 feet or 33 feet at the absolute longest. Long strings get tangled up easily, are heavier, and generally just worse to work with. For your own sanity, professional-grade lights keep lengths reasonable. Now that you understand what you’re really getting when you buy professional-grade, LED Christmas lights, let’s dig into the lights themselves. There are two primary types of light sets serious Christmas light experts use: stringers and empty socket lines.


LED Stringer Light Sets: Simple and Self-Contained

Stringer sets are the type most people think of when they picture Christmas light strings. They come in a 3-wire configuration, with a number of bulbs directly attached, and a male and female plug on either side. These are the sets you’ll usually employ when you’re decorating foliage. Since they come in a predetermined length, complete with bulbs, they’re the easiest and most straightforward lighting option available.

But that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. When considering the best stringer light set for the job, there are four things to consider: the bulb lens design, the number of bulbs per set, the bulb spacing, their color, and the type of connection they use. We’ll break down each of these considerations in the following sections.


Pick Your Lens Design

The lens design is what gives each specific type of LED stringer light its own particular flavor. While you’ll likely be working mostly with a 5mm Conical, it’s good to know all of your options and where they’re best used. Here are each of the available stringer bulb lens designs, from smallest to biggest.

 

Bulb Sizes Chart

 

  1. 5 mm Wide Angle Conical
    At first glance, these guys, usually just called “Conicals,” look a little diminutive and stubby, but plug them in, and you’ll see just how powerful they really are. Clocking in at 25% brighter than your average incandescent mini light, there’s a reason these are the number one light used by professional installers worldwide, though they’re still vastly underappreciated among enthusiasts. If you haven’t used them before, I highly recommend it. Their only downside is that they’re so bright that they can be too much for interior applications.
  1. M5 LED Mini Light
    The M5’s elongated, faceted design makes for a classic look when lit up. Dimmer than the Conical, but excellent for outdoor foliage or greenery indoors.
  1. T5 Mini Light
    These are what you use when you want to get as close to the look of a traditional incandescent mini light as you can. Between this and the M5, it usually comes down to personal preference, but you can’t go wrong with either.
  1. C6 Light Set
    The C6 is smaller than the ever-present C7’s and C9’s you see all over the place, but still with that large-bulb feel. Though they’re often considered a bit of an outcast in the lighting world, they shouldn’t be overlooked. Use them in indoors on artificial wreaths, trees, and garlands, or even in outside on the perimeter of your house for a crisp, clean appearance.
  1. C7 LED Stringer Set
    Slightly smaller than the popular C9, C7 LED stringer sets are medium-sized, multipurpose lights. Though they’re cheaper than their C7 replacement bulb cousins, they are also less flexible. Still, an excellent budget option for decorating large outdoor trees or other similar applications.
  1. C9 LED Stringer Set
    The C9 is the Christmas light as far as most people are concerned. It’s been in use for more than 90 years as a staple light in perimeter lighting. These are the bright, rotund bulbs you see everywhere during the Christmas season. Though again you should go with the C9 replacement bulb if you want to customize your line lengths to your property, the C9 stringer set should be your go-to for low-cost use. Professionals make the best use of them in the foliage of towering trees.


Pick the number of bulbs per string

When you’re new to the Christmas light game, it’s easy to think that the more bulbs on a string, the better. That’s why you can track down strings of LEDs at big box stores with more than 300 bulbs piled on. We already covered by long strings are a bad idea, but there’s another reason why cramming as many bulbs onto a string is a recipe for disaster. It’s important to realize that every bulb is a potential failure point.

Instead of hundreds of bulbs, most professionals recommend buying strings with 70 to 100 lights, though if you have small sections to cover, you can easily go lower.


Decide how far your bulbs should be spaced apart

Spacing between bulbs varies anywhere from 4” to 12,” but for home use, there are a few general rules to follow. Go by application: 4” to 6” spacing should be used to wrap the trunks of trees, scatter lighting should be kept to 6” to 8”, and 8” to 12” is the standard for C7 and C9 stringer sets.

Do not that the wider spacing options can make the string significantly longer. For this reason, most 6” sets are 50 bulbs, most 4” sets are 70 to 100. It’s a good rule of thumb to keep your sets around the 25’ mark.


Pick your colors (the fun part)

While most professional installers work largely in warm whites, when you’re setting up your own display, you’re only limited by your imagination. Today, there are all kinds of options, from the standby multicolor to pink, purple, and everything in between. If you’ve never used modern, pro-grade LED lights, you’re in for quite a treat as you see just how vivid they can be.

C9 C7 Replacement Bulbs

If you’re using retail grade LED Christmas lights, you will likely realize that the color consistency, especially with white lights, just isn’t there. Though you’ll still have to deal with a little variation, good pro-grade lights allow around only 3 percent variation in color, which you won’t notice in practice.

Now you’re all ready to pick up your first few sets of professional, self-contained stringer lights! They’re a great low-cost, hassle-free options for those dipping their toe into the Christmas light world, and they’re essential for smaller lights.

But when it comes to C7s and C9s, to get the absolute picture-perfect display of your dreams, you’re going to need a little more flexibility and customization options. That’s where empty socket light line comes in.


Empty Socket Light Line: The Secret Weapon of Professionals

Stringer lights are fantastic, but the fact is, you’re never going to get the absolute perfect length Christmas light lines for your house by fiddling with ready-made strings. As long as you stick to those, you’re going to have trailing ends and poorly-shaped sections. To fix this and ascend to the next plane of Christmas enthusiasts, you’ll need to go one step further with empty socket light line.

C9 Empty Socket SpoolEmpty socket light line is exactly what it sounds like: a big spool of line with empty sockets

for bulbs. You buy it by the foot, or in 500’ to 1,000’ packages. To actually use it, all you do is measure out the precise length you need, to the cord, affix a slide-on male and female plug, and screw in your chosen bulbs. It’s a lot less technical and intimidating than it sounds — read this guide if you don’t believe me.

There are a number of advantages to an empty socket line, including:

  • The ability to cut a line to the exact perfect length.
  • The ability to choose whatever bulb colors you want, in any sequence.
  • Superior bulb quality, with better brightness and color.
  • Better reliability. Since LED retrofit bulbs are self-contained units, there aren’t any electronics to fail in the line.

 

Consider your options

Of course, just like with stringer light sets, there are a few important things to think about as you’re picking out your socket line.

First, there’s the cord socket size, which will allow you do choose between C7 or C9 bulbs. The majority of the time, you’ll want to use C9 for perimeter lighting, but C7s can work well for smaller structures.

Wire Insulation SPT1 SPT2

 

Then you’ll need to consider whether you need SPT-1 or SPT-2, which refers to the thickness of the cord (0.3” insulation or .045” insulation, respectively). Unless you’re keeping your display up year-round, SPT-1 is probably the easiest bet.

You’ve also got a choice of color for the cord. Just keep it simple, and stick with the traditional green, or maybe white if you’re feeling adventurous.

You’ve also got to think about the maximum number of bulbs per line. The calculations can quickly get complex, but if you just keep in mind the numbers 500-300, you’ll be fine. If you’re using C7 or C9 bulbs, end your run at 500 bulbs or 300 feet at the absolute maximum, whichever comes first. We’re guessing you probably won’t have to worry.

SPT1 Amperage SPT2

Then, finally, you’ve got to think about the socket spacing once more. Again, when you’re working with C9s, it’s best to stick to 12” spacing, but you can go smaller if you’ve got finer details to highlight on a structure.

A quick note: when you go to buy empty socket light line, you want a bulk line, not line with the plugs already molded on. The latter option is just like stringer lights without the bulbs — a set length, with no wiggle room.


Choose your bulbs

With light line, it all comes down to the bulbs. The cord carries the electricity, but it’s the LED bulbs that do all the heavy lifting, electrically speaking. So when setting up your first light set from the line, bulb choice is paramount.

 

G5 Patio Light

 

As we’ve stated, you’ll mostly be working with C9s and the occasional C7s, but if you want to branch out, you can also use round bulbs like G30s, G40s, or G50s. These are especially good for bistro-type patio lighting in your backyard if you want a year-round application for your strings.

In both sizes, you’ll have a few lens types to choose from. First, there are the faceted lenses, which bounce the light around and more fully illuminate the bulb. Then there are the less common smooth surface options. The transparent smooth-surface bulbs are generally not at the level of their faceted counterpart. Smooth, opaque bulbs, however, can put out a lot of color in an increasingly popular throwback package.

The most important consideration, though, is the bulb’s brand. All you really need to know about this is that Minleon, the most recognized and respected LED bulb brand on the market, Pro Christmas, and Opti Core all make excellent bulbs. Anything outside of those three brands and you’re rolling the dice. If you do buy off the beaten path, make sure to do your research. Many an enthusiast has been burned months after buying a bunch of expensive bulbs, only to have them fizzle out much earlier than expected.


Make the leap but beware

If you’ve gotten this far, chances are you’re more interested in Christmas lights than your average neighbor. So go ahead, dip your toe in. Buy a stringer set here, set up your first socket line — just keep your head about you. Once your display is up and you bask in the glory of all your professional-grade, LED Christmas lights, that immense sense of satisfaction can lead you down a slippery slope. This stuff is addictive, after all — why do you think we do it?

What Type of Christmas Tree Decorator Are You?

What type of Christmas tree decorator are you? Does your tree reflect your personality? Maybe you match it to the decor in your home? Or maybe you go for a specific theme? Through the years the style of the Christmas trees has changed with the times and culture from a traditionally tinsel dripped creation with bold bulb lights, to something that's a personal work of art for each family. Take a look at these Christmas tree categories and decide if you fall into one or if your holiday style is in a league of its own!

Traditional

If you are a fan of the classic and timeless style, you probably have a traditional Christmas tree. This look features common holiday colors, matching sets of ornaments, and full branches. Usually, the tree is tall and medium bodied with a common and "perfect" shape.  Ribbons are often run through the branches of the traditional Christmas tree and they are encompassed by a tree skirt.

Modern

You fall into this category if you're not one to knock the traditional tree look, but you're also all about staying on trend. The modern Christmas tree mirrors the shape and color coordinated look of the traditional style, but the colors are updated and ornaments are often a bit more uniquely shaped. The modern tree tends to be slightly less crowded and often features more subtle color or even a monochromatic style. The modern tree is usually trimmed with a tree skirt but of a more whimsical variety, such as a furry or glittery skirt.

 

Minimal

The Minimal tree features a look inspired by simplistic Scandinavian design. The Minimal tree itself often had a shorter, wider shape and the branches are thin and sparce. Ornaments are sparse as well, these trees are quiet uncrowded and feature very few colors. Black and white ornaments, paper and wood items, and clean tree skirts are common.

 

Whimsical

For those of you who completely and totally relate to the Christmas stylings of Whoville, you likely fall into the whimsical tree decorator category. Whatchamajiggers and doohickies abound on the whimsical tree! You get creative—pipecleaners, pompoms, yarn, candy, you name it, it's a tree ornament. A sure way to identify the whimsical Christmas tree is by the fact that a lot of things are probably sticking out of it. It may have a slightly "electrocuted" look...but in a good way. To heck with traditional hues, bright and uncommon colors and a given for this style.

 

Off-Beat

If you are an off-beat holiday decorator... you know who you are. But so does everyone else because this style is unmistakable. It's not even clear that you are decorating for Christmas with the exception that you decorated a Christmas tree during Christmas time. This is not to say you are doing it wrong, you're just doing it totally different than everyone else and we applaud that. In this category, you are going to see colors that are not only "non-traditional" but are border-line anti-Christmas. And you will see themes that well...don't usually have anything to do with Christmas either. Lastly, the off-beat tree may not be a tree at all, but a selection of items shaped into a tree. Just take a look.

 

Over-The-Top

The over the top Christmas tree decorator is the polar opposite of the off-beat decorator. With you Christmas-crazed stylist it is crystal clear what holiday it is. You are the "go big or go home" types when it comes to the holidays. What to look for: extra extra large ornaments, extreme opulence, decor that goes beyond the tree (like trees surrounded by model trains and mini Christmas villages). What NOT to look for: space for another ornament.

Which of these categories do you fall into!?

3 Holiday Travel Tips to Save You Time, Money, and Sanity

Family Christmas Dinner

The holiday travel gauntlet is almost upon us. Before we tuck into our turkey dinner or tear a single shred of wrapping paper, we have to brave the chaos and crowds that go hand-in-hand with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The bad news is, if you’re getting on a plane this holiday season, there’s probably no avoiding the haggard hordes. Last year, more than an estimated 6 million people took to the skies between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1, with close to 100 million others making the trip by car. If current trends continue, we can look forward to another record-breaking travel season in 2018, for the 10th year in a row.

The upside to this is that flight prices are down by an average of 15 percent from last year, according to Patrick Surry, data scientist at price-tracking booking app Hopper. But to make the most of these savings — and to avoid going full "Bah! Humbug!" — here are a few tips to live by this holiday season.


Book now, not later.

By now, we mean now. Experts at booking platforms like the aforementioned Hopper or Hipmunk say that the month of October is the best time to book flights for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The latter would’ve had you secure your tickets between October 1 and 15, but since that’s passed, go with Surry’s advice and shoot to square away all your bookings by the week before Halloween. After that, expect prices to steadily increase day by day, with a massive jump in the last two weeks before departure.


Choose travel days wisely.

To really pile on the savings, Surry recommends you leave on November 22 and return November 28 for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, leave December 18, and return either January 4 or December 27. If you can stomach a goodbye on an actual holiday, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are both good options as well. Traveling on these dates will not only save you a few bucks, but give you a little more room to navigate airports without a crushing throng of holiday-hungover families getting in your way.


Remember your airport fundamentals.

Family At Airport Passing Through Security Check

Crowds cause their own special brand of anxiety, but it’s TSA hold ups, missed flights, and general ill-preparedness that will really sour your travel experience.

Although dads across the United States will be chomping at the bit to get to the airport at some ungodly hour, the TSA says arriving two hours in advance should work just fine, though it might be a good idea to add another half hour or so if you live in a bigger city. Anything later than that and you’re asking for trouble, especially during the holiday rush. And make sure to check the flight status before you pile into the car — no sense being there on time if you’re going to be waiting for eight hours.

Then comes security. Even without shelling out cash for TSA PreCheck, the new Clear system, or preferred boarding status, there are ways to avoid getting stuck in the security line. First, make sure you check into your flight ahead of time, instead of waiting for your boarding pass at the front desk. Then come the basics: Follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule, pack your essentials in a single zip-shut bag, wear shoes that you can quickly remove and put back on, and if you’re bringing gifts, leave them unwrapped. Or even better, ship them to your destination beforehand.

If you do experience problems and end up entangled in a cancelled, missed, or delayed flight situation, it’s often a good idea to call airlines directly to figure out your next move. The folks at the gate may be able to help, but they’re likely to be slammed and in a massive rush. Best to cut out the middleman and start your search at the source.

Traveling is probably not your favorite part of the holiday season, but it doesn’t have to be an absolute nightmare. Stick to these recommendations and before you know it, you’ll be catching up with old friends and family, basking in that warm holiday glow.

 

Freshen Up Your Facade: Tips to Boost Your Curb Appeal for the Holiday Season

Couple hanging Christmas lights

The holiday season is the time when families bundle up, pile into their cars and drive around taking in all the glimmering holiday lights. But don’t forget: While onlookers are cruising through your neighborhood, they’re not just marveling at the animatronic reindeer — they’re also sizing up your curb appeal. After all, it’s impossible for them to “Ooh!” and “Aah!” at all the shining bulbs without first noticing how your home looks from the outside. Not to mention the guests most people entertain throughout the season, all those eyes forming their first impression of the place you call home.

Whether you’re trying to woo prospective buyers or impress your mother-in-law, it’s essential during Christmastime to keep your house looking its best. Luckily, with all the decor opportunities that go hand-in-hand with the holiday season, it’s easier than ever to keep the exterior of your home in tip-top shape. Here’s how to give your home a facelift for the festivities — without cutting into your gift budget.


First thing’s first: the basics.

No matter how many lights, wreaths, garlands, or other cute Christmas knick-knacks you slap on your house, it won’t disguise a failing facade. In fact, overloading your home with eye-catching decorations can actively draw attention to those aspects you’d rather keep hidden if you’re not careful. So before you start going full Clark Griswold, you should ensure you have all the fundamentals down pat.

If you live in a climate that still offers warm and dry days this time of year, take a long, hard look at your home’s paint job. Are chips flaking off in the corners? Have the vivid colors faded to a washed-out pallor? If so, the single best thing you can do is get out the paint cans and get to work. People tend to assume that do-it-yourself house painting is an expensive, laborious process, but in reality, with a dedicated effort you can be shucking off your crusty painting jeans in just 2-3 days. If you’re too time-strapped even for that, consider just touching up your siding, or brighten up your front door. Most exterior paint will only run you around $30 a gallon, and if done right, is a weekend project that gives results you can enjoy for a decade or more.

Even if you’re not ready to paint your home, you should still give the exterior a thorough cleaning. Pick up a simple siding cleaning kit from your local hardware store for cheap. These can attach straight to your hose, brush and all, and supply your stream of garden hose water with cleanser for those tough-to-scrub areas. If you want to get serious, rent a power washer for a day and really cut into those dirt stains. Turn it onto the sidewalk and feel the satisfaction of obliterating those blotchy little spots that have stubbornly sat on the pavement for as long as you can remember. After rinsing everything down, you’ll be amazed how much newer your home will look.


Now get festive with it.

Christmas decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you want them to be, but oftentimes, when it comes to curb appeal, less is more. If you’re wanting to keep it tight and tasteful, start with your front porch. Grab a few garlands and wrap them around your porch posts, and along the balustrade. Hang a simple wreath with a nice bow that compliments the color scheme on your front door. Even something as basic as a holiday welcome mat can go a long way in creating an impression for visitors.

To make your porch really pop from all the way out on the street, it’s best to do a mix of textures, shapes, and complimentary colors. Whenever you add a new decoration, go out to the sidewalk and see if it fits. You need to be ruthless; You may love that antique sleigh, but does it really go with those oversized bulb ornaments?

Christmas garlands and wreaths on front porch

Before you get up on the roof and start putting up the Christmas lights, examine your fixtures. A lot of people like to go with alternating red and green light bulbs for their garage and porch lights, but in the wrong hands, these can create a dark, uninviting walkway. They can work, but whatever you do, make sure it all matches, and that it genuinely looks good, rather than just Christmasy.

Now, if you’re up to it, it’s time to put up the holiday lights. Use our handy guide to hanging Christmas lights here to learn everything you need to know about this sometimes daunting task, and to ensure you smile, rather than frown in frustration, when the job’s done. The key is to take your time, and avoid cutting corners whenever possible. When those lights switch on and blast out into the street, any section where something is hanging down or improperly spaced will be glaringly obvious. To make your lights really pop, you don’t have to go crazy — a few high-quality, well-placed strands will always beat out a haphazard overload of blinding colors. Though, of course, if you’re more of an enthusiast, go all-out! Just keep these basics in mind.


Put it all together.

Once everything’s clean, your front door is looking Santa-ready, and your lights are finally all in place, you’re all set to coast into the holiday season looking like the most festive folks in town. Hook up your lights to a timer, and set it to turn on just before the sun sets. It’s an insider secret; Most people turn them on after it gets dark, but lighting them up in the “golden hour” can give your home a warm, welcome glow.

Now that your work is done, sit back and enjoy your fresh-faced home, knowing that even your snootiest relatives will change their tune. Just make sure not to rest on your laurels for too long. After all, there’s shopping to do!

Thanksgiving in Lights

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to decorate with warm glowing accents. Fairy lights, string lights, and hanging lights create inviting spaces everywhere you look—especially at the table. Thanksgiving is a time for gathering together, showing hospitality, spending quality time, and reflecting on what we're thankful for. Setting an atmosphere for the occasion is important! Use string lights in your fall decor to welcome friends and family with shine!

This Scandinavian-inspired thanksgiving table setting features delicately glowing fairy lights scattered throughout the minimal centerpiece. The gleam of the lights elevates the simple style to make a big statement without all the work of creating a complex display.

 

Indoors or out, mixing in string lights with classic fall accents is the perfect way to brighten your home. Light up leaves, gourds, pumpkins, and fall florals with LED string lights or fairy lights. 

 

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to enjoy fall weather if the temperatures allow. Set your gathering table outdoors and set the scene with hanging patio lights. The glow of the above lights will give the dining look style and allow guests to continue to enjoy time around the table into the darker hours of the evening.

 

 

Seasonal greens are an easy and elegant way to set a fresh Thanksgiving tabletop. Effortlessly create a centerpiece full of greenery with a pre-lit garland or by assembling your own greens and accenting them with softly glowing lights. 

 

Again, natural fall foliage and greenery are perfect for pairing with string lights and fairy lights! This simple and festive Thanksgiving centerpiece includes a wooden tray, small faux pumpkins, berries, leaves, and lights that make it all shine.

 

White pumpkins are a chic style for all fall occasions and they look even better when lit by shiny and dainty strands of lights. Gather white pumpkins in various sized, acorn laden fall branches, and warm white lights to create an elegant decor piece for table centers, porches, and more. 

 

Orange and yellow are a warm and wonderful color combination for the Thanksgiving season. Deep reds also make a beautiful accent color. Set your table in these hues and add glowing accents of yellow light, orange light, and red light

 

Decorating for Thanksgiving with subtle nods of Christmas style it a great way to invite the spirit of the holidays into your home! Fill a bowl, vase, or jar with Christmas ornaments and pile on the lights! Rustic accents like wood and pinecones keep our look within the fall season while welcoming the coming season. 

Use Color Strategically in Your Commercial Christmas Light Displays

There’s nothing quite like a dazzling display of white Christmas lights. Indeed, it’s a great option for your holiday displays—if all you want to do is dazzle people.

When you stop to think about it, you’ve probably seen white lights decorating restaurant patios and parking lot trees at all times of the year. There’s nothing uniquely “Christmas” about them.

Outlining trees and buildings, wrapping bushes and bundling lights into glimmering bunches may win you some oohs and ahs, but whether they’ll do anything to improve business at Christmas is up for debate.

Your commercial Christmas lighting display isn’t just about decoration—it’s about marketing. It’s about positioning your location as a place that understands the season and everything people want it to be for themselves, their families and their friends.

Since one of the most powerful tools any marketer has for making an emotional connection with customers is color, and since contemporary LED lights produce such pure and vivid color, it makes sense that color should play a role in your commercial Christmas lighting displays.


What’s wrong with a “White Christmas?”

Don’t misunderstand us. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with white Christmas lights. We love them, and they have a very special place in our Christmas Designers tool kit. But think about it this way—there’s already white light in the air and what white lights do best is accentuate that fact; that’s why color pops so beautifully in our display pieces, because shimmering white allows those other colors to take the center of a beautiful stage.

Remember a guy named Bob Ross—the soft-spoken artist who gave painting classes on television? He used a lot of what he called “titanium white,” a striking white paint that did amazing things for other colors, whether it was offsetting them or lightening them into other shades.

The same is true of white Christmas lights. They can offset a concentrated block of color lights, or they can be mixed into that block to disperse the color in a playful and attractive way.


Consider the psychology of color.

Perhaps you’re already using color—the traditional red, and green of Christmas, for instance. Did you know that psychologists have studied the effects those colors have on people? We’re not talking about pop-culture notions about one color causing road-rage and another inspiring world peace; the psychology of color is a lot more interesting than that.

For instance, while red tends to be associated with excitement and energy, it can also indicate intimacy and romance. While green can suggest nature and serenity, it can also be used to make not-so-serene statements about money. The effect of color on a person has to do with context. And in a commercial space, context is an important element anywhere you turn.

One study, out of Canada, found that people make decisions within 90 seconds of an interaction with a person or product—and about 62% to 90% of the assessment is based on colors alone.

Now, we’re not going to give you a lecture on who responds best to what colors; there are too many variables. For instance, design expert, Joe Hallock, found that blue is by far the most popular color among both men (57%) and women (35%), but that doesn’t mean you should switch from swaths of white lights to swaths of blue. In fact, that may make your retail space look more like a nightclub than a place for Santa’s helpers to do their shopping.

What we do want you to understand is that color can help you do more than just pretty up your space for Christmas.


Color is at the heart of emotion.

What does all of this have to do with what color your Christmas lights should be? It’s about remembering that the season means different things to different people and that not everyone is in the exact same mood or frame of mind when they walk into your place of business.

A sea of white lights may feel like a star-filled sky to you while you’re sitting at your planning table, but it may also be the last thing some harried shoppers want to see. Creating a few havens of color here and there provides a little something for everyone AND can be very helpful in directing shoppers around your space.

Have you ever gone to tree farm on a snowy day to pick out a Christmas tree? Think about how great it is to see those glimpses of evergreen peeking out of that white blanket. Have you ever watched a nature TV show, where beautiful, blue glacial ice gleams amid an ocean of snow?

We’re not saying you’ll be able to compete with the wonders of nature, but you can use color to create a very pleasant and entertaining shopping experience for people.


Let’s talk about blue for a minute.

We’ve already mentioned that blue is the top color among both men and women, so it may be a good idea to start infusing blue in areas where you want people to slow down and browse. Sure, keep the spaces between locations bright and white, but when it’s time to slow down and start savoring the shopping experience, a bit of blue can be just thing to get people to slow down and stay a while.

And then there’s red.

While we’ve already said that red isn’t always about being frenetic, it does tend to indicate urgency. For instance, what message is more urgent than a big red, heart-shaped box or Valentine’s Day candy or a big, romantic bouquet of long-stem red roses? On the other side of the spectrum red’s urgency lets us know when to stop in traffic or where to find first aid.

What might that mean in your retail space? Where do people want a sense of urgency? At checkout, perhaps? A little island of red at information kiosks and cash registers may be just the thing to let a busy shopper know that he or she can count on getting some quick help and a quick path to paying for their purchases.

Okay, let’s talk about green, too.

Again, there is no one way to use green. Depending on the shade, researchers have connected it to everything from love to fear. But here’s an interesting thing: when design expert, Joe Hallock, did some research into the favorite colors of men and women, green came in at 14% for both groups. That tells us that you may want to consider green for areas where you’re hoping women and men will shop equally.


Now that you know all that…what?

First of all, don’t overthink it. Because even if you don’t buy into the psychology of color, the very fact of color can still be very important to the success of your Christmas decorating.

By simply placing color in the places where you want people to stop and spend time, you’re helping them know where to go in your space to find what they’re looking for. If you decide on amber for your power tools section, for instance, start working that color into the pathways leading to that section. Use it to point people in the right direction.

But use it boldly. Don’t just mix it in. Make sure it can be noticed—perhaps an entire amber tree here and there—and that the department, as the customer approaches it, becomes something of an island where amber is a dominant theme. You can use other colors to do the same thing for other departments. Our team at Christmas Designers will be happy to help you plan a color strategy.


What about playing it safe with multi-color lights?

There are great reasons to use multi-color as part of your overall design strategy; it can, for one thing, be very helpful in transitioning between areas that have a very specific color theme. But we strongly recommend not falling into the trap of “color for color’s sake.”

Also, in the attempt to provide “something for everybody,” there’s a strong temptation to simply throw a lot of color around and hope for the best—that people will feel gratified by the inclusion of a particular color. But all that does is make every color fade into the background.

To use a somewhat stereotypical example, the existence of some green in a multi-color light string is not going to make the shopping-averse Irish American husband more likely to relax in the jewelry department. If anything, a sea of multi-color can have a similar effect as a sea of white lights, calling attention to nothing in particular. A much better idea is to provide a strategic color theme that properly highlights the places where a gift-seeking guy can find what he’s looking for.


One more thing.

There’s another, much more simple reason to infuse your commercial Christmas lighting display with color: it’s fun! Think about the most entertaining residential displays in your home neighborhood at Christmas. It’s the people who aren’t afraid to have fun and make some bold statements who get folks from other neighborhoods driving by to see their displays.

By using color strategically and purposefully, you can enhance the shopping experience for guests while building a reputation for taking people’s enjoyment of the season seriously.

 

Commercial Christmas Trees

Your Shopping Guide to Commercial Christmas Trees

Commercial Christmas Tower Tree
It’s hard enough deciding on a Christmas tree that everyone in your family will enjoy—for business owners, property managers and office managers who need to decorate retail and office spaces for Christmas, there’s a much bigger puzzle to solve. Commercial Christmas trees, also called Christmas tower trees, are seen by thousands, even tens of thousands, of people in the course of the Christmas season, so they need to be impactful. That calls for planning.

For instance, do you need one tree or several? If you’re a retailer with multiple departments in your establishment, you may want to give each department its own sense of place with individual trees, perhaps even decorated in themes that relate to their locations. Or you may prefer to have a single, significant tree near your entrance and other types of smaller, regular style, non-tower trees throughout your establishment. The same goes for offices. A single, stunning lobby tree can stand on its own, or be the first delightful step on a pathway featuring a variety of smaller trees in your various departments.

The great news is that there are tons of options available for making exactly the statement you want to make with your Christmas business décor. Just give us call at Christmas Designers and we’ll be happy to discuss your space and make some commercial Christmas tree and other commercial décor suggestions.

One of the first decisions a lot of people face is whether to go with a real tree or an artificial tree. In business settings, we recommend using only artificial trees (and not just because those are the kind we sell). Here are just a few reasons:

  • The logistics of sourcing, obtaining and setting up real trees is a big hassle in a business environment. One very basic concern is that someone has to spend time putting on the lights. Unless we’ve missed something in the industry, no farms are growing pre-lit trees just yet.
  • Once real trees are set up, they require watering to keep them from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. And then there are all those pine needles. Your cleaning crew and grounds crew are going to LOVE those vacuum-defying little things.
  • They’re one-and-done. You can only use a real tree once, so the whole job of finding a tree has to happen all over again, next year.

With proper care and storage, a high-quality, artificial commercial Christmas tree will last many years. This is especially true of the internal frame, tower trees. And if you’re concerned about their effect on the environment, don’t be. According to one study, if you use an artificial tree for at least 4 years, your carbon footprint will be smaller than if you purchased a real tree every year. And as for the concerns some have about the environmental effects of artificial tree disposal, the same study found that both real and artificial trees, no matter how they were disposed of, accounted for less than 0.1% of the average person’s annual carbon footprint.

So, what should you look for in your trees? Here are some things to keep in mind:

Quality: If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Every industry has people in it for whom quality-control isn’t a top priority. When it comes to real trees, God doesn’t make junk. But in the world of artificial trees, there are some all-too-human people who do. If your artificial tree looks like it’s been through a hurricane after one season, you’ve defeated both the economic and environmental purposes involved in buying it.

Fast, simple assembly: Whether your tree is 9 feet or 90, make sure it doesn’t have a complex assembly system.

Accessible, pre-lit branches: As we mentioned in the above comments on real trees, having to put time into lighting a commercial Christmas tree is not a good use of someone’s working hours. Make sure your tree has pre-lit branches on which the light strings can be easily changed over the years, should any burn out.

Frame strength: This is another must-have, no matter what size your tree is—a sturdy, stable frame that will give you years of use and peace of mind that your tree will always stand firm.

Standard hardware: If you come across a tree that has been designed to use a lot of proprietary or specialty hardware, just keep on walking by. Special hardware can be very difficult to replace. Get a tree that uses nuts, bolts, and screws that you can replace at any hardware store, and that don’t require anything more than the standard tools in your toolkit.

All of the above become even more important if you’re going for that “Rockefeller Center” look and investing in a commercial tower tree. Let’s take another look at those shopping-list features:

Quality: An exceptionally-tall artificial tree is a serious investment; if feeling ripped off by an over-priced, low-quality smaller tree feels bad, that’s nothing compared to getting only one or two seasons out of a poor-quality, tower-style commercial Christmas tree.  Ask questions about the materials and construction methods used in making your tree, and don’t be afraid to take your time making a decision while you do some research.

Fast, simple assembly: Insist on an easy-to-follow assembly procedure that makes building the frame, connecting the electricity and attaching the branches a safe and intuitive process. Obviously, assembling a 50-foot-high tree will never be as “fast” as setting your home tree in its base, but there’s no reason why it should be a monumental, daunting task.

Accessible, pre-lit branches: If you have the wherewithal and patience to hand-string the lights on a large, commercial Christmas tree, we salute you! But when you come to us, you’re going to get high-quality lights, pre-strung onto high-quality branches. And they’ll be on there in such a way that you can easily change out a string should one go bad.

Frame strength: Any outdoor tree needs to stand up to the elements—literally. Make sure the frame of your tree is formed out of strong, easily stacked and firmly secured conical steel sections.

Standard hardware: We can’t stress this strongly enough when it comes to tower trees and the many hardware pieces used to secure them. From the smallest screw to the large stakes used to stabilize the frame, you shouldn’t have to go farther than a local hardware store for a replacement.

And here’s one more thing to consider before you fall in love with a particular tree design: How easy is it to store? Instead of telling you what to look for, this time, we’ll simply tell you what we offer with our Majestic Mountain Pine—designed specifically for the unique needs of businesses in need of a large, beautiful, statement-making outdoor Christmas tree.

In addition to providing all the quality features we’ve already mentioned, the various components of the Majestic Mountain Pine are designed to nest tightly, making the most of your available storage space.

All that said, we hope you’ll come to Christmas Designers for your commercial Christmas tree needs. But if you go elsewhere, please keep all of the above considerations in mind.

And may your Christmas season be both a merry and prosperous time for your business!

 

 

 

Luminous Halloween Houses

Some would say that there are two types of people in the world, crazy Christmas people and crazy Halloween people, so maybe this just makes us crazy people but we love both! A fully decked out holiday home is just as important as a super spooky one in our book. Plus, decorating your home for Halloween is a great way to get your Christmas lights out early. Here are some spooktacularly inspiring Halloween houses that really glow.

A Classic Halloween:

This stunning Halloween house features classic glowing orange garlands with hints of spiders and bats.

Super Spooky Cemetary:

This graveyard themed porch uses orange string lights and purple icicle lights to create an ominous glow.

A Grave Greeting:

This terrifying door greets guests with fanged grins and an orange-lit archway.

Monster Mash:

This almost glamorous Halloween house welcomes partygoers with a curving archway of lights and a green glowing porch. A few ghouls can be seen dancing upstairs.

Simple and Elegant:

Purple string lights cover all the naturally growing vines along the front of this charming home. Glowing lanterns illuminate the rest of the porch.

The Witches Brew:

This yard is full of spooky charm. A wicked witch makes her brew among gravestones against a backdrop of orange light-wrapped trees.

 

Trick or Treat:

Simple framed windows can brighten up your home for Halloween, as seen in this wickedly wonderful porch setting.

Fairy Light for Fall Décor DIYs

Fairy lights may arguably be the most versatile lighting style for decorating any time of the year. Their bendable wires allow them to be twisted and turned into any shape around anything and they have a perfect soft twinkling glow. However, their time to shine brightest is definitely during autumn! Fall brings back the romantic feeling of a crisp breeze and the sight of fallen leaves that demands mood lighting, and fairy lights bring it.

Additionally, fall is known to be a great time for do-it-yourself decorating because you can decorate in au naturel style with foliage, pumpkin, pinecones, cotton, hay, and more. The best way to make these simple harvest-inspired items really shine? Fairy lights! We are going to show you a few simple ways to update your fall décor with this lighting style.

Mason Jars (The King of Fall DIY Decorating) + Fairy Lights

DIY Photos From: thefrugalhomemaker.com, www.diybeautify.com, sparkandchemistry.com, and makinglemonadeblog.com

From plain to painted, mason jars are a perfect pair for fairy lights. At their simplest, the jars and lights are a quick and easy lighting display combination, but they can be far from simple with a bit of imagination. Pick your favorite fall colors, patterns, and themes and you can paint, decoupage, Mod Podge, and embellish your way to a unique jar and light display that's all your own.

 

Leaves + Fairy Lights

Photos From: Pinterest

Leaves...the OTHER king of fall decorating, are a beautiful fall accent all on their own! But the colors are accentuated by the ambient glow of fairy lights. A leafy glowing garland is easy to make yourself! Just grab your string of fairy lights, glue gun, and an existing garland, leaves and greenery from the craft store, or go outside and gram REAL fall leaves! Glue them down and light them up for a perfect fall foliage look.

 

Outdoors + Fairy Lights

Photos From: Pinterest

You absolutely can take your fairy lights outdoors this fall, we would even argue that you should. Maybe even, must? Perfect for patio canopies and cascades, these lightweight light strands are incredibly easy to hang. Then, layer them onto, well, pretty much anything. Those bendable wires have no-limits! Whatever needs lighting up this fall, can get a fantastic glow from our selection of LED fairy lights in a variety of luminous colors!