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The Tangle-Free, How-To Guide for Hanging Christmas Lights

Learn how to choose and install the right Christmas lights for your home with this ultimate guide.

What's Inside


Decorating your home with Christmas lights is a wonderful way to bring out the festive atmosphere of the holidays. Their warmth and brilliance provide the finishing touch to your overall theme for the season.

There are several factors to consider and steps to take when hanging Christmas lights. To help with this process, we have created a comprehensive guide to installing indoor and outdoor lights that will complete your holiday look.



How to Choose the Best Christmas Lights

To help you decide what kind of lights to get, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Indoor or Outdoor?

Not all Christmas lights are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, so you have to determine first where you'll be hanging them. For instance, if you need them for your backyard where they would be exposed to the elements, you would have to make sure that they are safe for outdoor use. Look for Christmas lights that have been approved by reputable companies such as UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or ETL (Edison Testing Laboratories).

2. Clear or Multi-Colored?

Choosing between clear and multicolored lights is simply a matter of preference and decorating style. If you like the elegant look of classic holiday décor, then clear lights are your best option. Multicolored lights, on the other hand, are great for adding pops of color and creating a playful atmosphere in a space.

3. Incandescent or LED?

There are three types of Christmas lights and each has its own advantages, depending on your style and needs.

LED C6, C7 and C9 Lights

The names C6, C7 and C9 refer to the sizes of the bulbs: C6 are an inch long, while C7 and C9s are two inches and three inches long, respectively. Available in a variety of colors, these lights are known for their long-lasting brilliance. Each bulb has its own socket, preventing the whole string from going out if one bulb breaks. They are ideal for outdoor use.

Incandescent Christmas Lights

Commonly referred to as "mini lights," these bulbs are smaller than C7s and C9s, and come in various shapes and sizes. They may not be as bright as LED C6s, C7s, and C9s, but what they lack in luminescence, they make up for in quantity. These are ideal for Christmas trees, wreaths, and garlands.

LED Mini-Lights

LED mini-lights not only come in various colors, shapes, and sizes, but are also durable and designed to emit a more soothing radiance. LEDs are also cooler since they're constructed with metal sinks that immediately dissipate heat. Some types also have special features, like Balsam Hill's Candlelight LED lights, which pairs the traditional glow of an incandescent mini-light with the energy efficiency of an LED bulb. These are ideal for both outdoor and indoor use.

4. How Big is the Space?

Measuring the space will help you determine how many light strings you need to purchase.Determine the length of the space where the lights will be installed, then compare this with the length of the light strings.

25 feet is the standard length for a 50-light strand and 50 feet for a 100-light strand. If the length of the space is 120 feet, for instance, then you need to get at least five 50-light strands or three 100-light strands. You may need more if you're hanging the lights in a pattern.

5. How Big is the Tree?

If the lights are for your Christmas tree, the number of bulbs you need depends on the height of the tree. Find the height by measuring from the highest point of the tree down to the lowest branch.

Below is a list of recommended number of bulbs for every tree height:

Using this information, you can determine approximately how many light strands you need to complete your holiday look.



How to Properly Hang Lights on Your Christmas Tree

To decorate your Christmas tree with lights, you need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Step ladder
  • Extension cord

To ensure a worry-free holiday, always follow these safety precautions:

1. Use light strands that are compatible with each other. The packaging provides this information. Take note that different brands of light strings can probably be used together, but there may be fewer connection issues if the sets come from the same brand.

Pro Tip:
If you're adding lights to a pre-lit tree, use a separate power source instead of connecting them to the existing lights as this may void the lighting warranty.

2. Make sure the wattage of the bulbs is the same. This will prevent power surges and a potential electrical mishap.

3. Use only one extension cord; never overload it.

4. Keep the extension cord out of reach ofchildren and pets. Never place it in the middle of the floor.

Add Lights to Your Christmas Tree

1. Untangle the lights carefully. Test the bulbs to make sure all of the pieces are in working condition.

2. Coil the first set of Christmas lights loosely around your hands. Avoid dragging the strings across the floor.

3. Begin at the bottom of the tree, making sure you have left enough slack for the plug on the strand to reach an extension cord or electrical outlet. Slowly coil the string of lights around the tree and start weaving the lights in and out of the branches.

4. Circle the tree. Move upwards upon each rotation. Once the lights run out, plug in the next string. Hide the socket within the branches.

5. Continue the process of circling the tree. As you reach the higher sections, you may need to use a stepladder. Make sure that each section has an equal number of lights before moving on to the next.

6. Once finished, plug in the lights and observe the tree from a distance. Adjust the placement of the string if there are lights hidden or covered by any branches.



How to Install Outdoor Christmas Lights

To mount outdoor installations, you need:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Ladder
  • Extension cords
  • Insulated hooks and light clips
  • Optional: Christmas Light Storage Reel

To ease the installation process, look for products such as the Christmas Light Storage Reel. The spool keeps the lights from getting tangled and clamps onto gutters, so you have two free hands to install the lights.

Follow these safety precautions before proceeding with any Christmas light installation:

1. When using a ladder, make sure to set it down on a dry and level surface.

2. Always have a partner securely holding the ladder at the bottom to keep it from shifting or moving throughout the process.

3. Only use lights that have been approved and tested by a reputable organization, such as the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or ETL (Edison Testing Laboratories).

4. Verify if the lights can be used outdoors.

5. Never overload extension cords. This can cause electrical surges that may damage lights or even cause fire. Remember to use one plug per outlet. Avoid plugging too many adapters and don't use the sockets to power an extension cord. To be on the safe side, only use 75% of the available plugs.

6. Use insulated nails or hooks to minimize electrical hazard.

7. Never pull or twist Christmas lights.

Hang Your Outdoor Christmas Lights

1. Carefully untangle all the lights and lay them out on a dry surface.

2. Plug in the light strings and check that the bulbs are all working.

3. Attach the hooks and clips in the chosen location. Be sure the hooks are evenly spread out to prevent the light strings from drooping or gaping.

4. Carefully attach the light strands to the house trim using the clips or the hooks.Make sure each section is free of tangles or twists.

5. Plug in the lights to ensure the entire set-up is in working condition. View the installation from a distance to spot any inconsistencies.

It may be a good idea for a second person to help with the installation process. Ask help from a family member or friend to watch out for uneven patterns while you're hanging the lights, so you can adjust them on the spot.



How to Repair and Store Christmas Lights

How to Replace Broken Christmas Light Bulbs

Burnout is part of the normal wear and tear that comes with the prolonged use of Christmas lights. Most pre-lit artificial Christmas trees come with free replacement kits to make repairs easy. They are also readily available in most hardware stores. They come in different types and wattages.The compatibility of your unit with other lights is also usually indicated on the packaging.

When switching out damaged light bulbs, follow these three simple steps:

1. Plug in the lights and scan the entire string to spot the broken bulb. Unplug the lights and remove the bulb.

2. Check the bulb receptacle. One way to tell if the bulb has, in fact, burned out is to check if there is black residue at the bottom.

3. Insert a compatible replacement into the receptacle. The bulb should already glow once the unit is plugged in. If the bulb fails to light up, the damage may be with the fuse, in which case, you will need to follow the steps in the following section.

How to Repair a Broken Fuse

Prolonged use and unexpected power surges can damage the fuse of Christmas light strands. Here's how to fix a broken fuse:

1. Unplug the lights.

2. Take the pronged plug and look for the panel where the fuses are located.

3. Slide the panel open with a flathead screwdriver.

4. Using the screwdriver, gently remove the worn-out fuses. Discard them properly.

5. Carefully insert the replacements. Make sure that they are 5-Amp, 125-Volt fuses for Christmas lights.

6. Use the screwdriver again to close the fuse door.

7. Plug the lights back into the outlet. If the lights fail to turn on, the string itself could be broken. When this happens, it's better to purchase a new set.

How to Properly Store Christmas Lights

Improper storage can damage Christmas lights.You can use a Christmas Light Storage Reel to keep your lights tangle-free throughout the off-season.

Alternatively, you can also follow this simple technique to prepare your lights for storage:

1. Cut several pieces of cardboard into squares. Slit one side of each square.

2. Insert one end of the string into the slit and coil the string around the cardboard square. When you reach the end of the string, insert the last light bulb into the slit.

3. Repeat the process with the other Christmas lights.

4. Place each set of lights inside a plastic bag. Place the bags inside a large plastic container. Store them inside a dry closet.

Christmas lights are essential to a joyful atmosphere in your home. By following our comprehensive guide, you can create a dazzling holiday display for your family and friends. For an even more exciting season, consider one of our gorgeous pre-lit Christmas trees.