In the years following, I have shopped after-Christmas sales and added to my stockpile of decorations. Now, with 12,000 lights illuminating my house, it has gotten to the point that I need to begin putting lights up at the end of October in order to have the job completed by Thanksgiving Day--the day of the big reveal.
Over the past 20 years, I've not only accumulated a lot of tiny lights, but also learned a few things that I can share with you. So here are the Renaissance Dad Tips and Tricks for Holiday Exterior Illumination.
1. Be safe on the ladder. Recently while I was about 20 feet up a ladder, Big A was overheard commenting, "It would be a shame if he fell. I like him." So, since our kids like us, remember a few common sense rules: Do not stand on the top rung. Do not climb up while holding things in both hands. Do not try to scooch the ladder over by attempting to jump it. Remember to maintain three points of contact (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) at all times, and no, your chin and knees do not count as points of contact.
|2016 light display|
|2017 light display|
3. Let your kids help. I'm not talking about Rusty Griswold going through boxes and unknotting strands of Christmas lights. I mean ask your kids if they have any ideas for how you should decorate. Two years ago my kids mentioned that we should have a star with a manger. I made a pallet star with them, and attached it to my roof-mounted non-functioning swamp cooler. They were so excited about it and asked if it was going up again this year. One of my daughters said that she thought we should do some stripes on the house this year, which is one of my favorite features of the 2018 light display. Some of the best decoration ideas on our house came from the kids.
|2018 light display|
5. Speaking of holding lights in place, light holders (attached to shingles or gutters) are AMAZING! My first Christmas light hanging was wrapping lights around nails that I put in the eaves. The lights twisted every which way, and were a bit of a mess (said in a Paul Hollywood voice). When I discovered light holders, I suddenly looked like I knew what I was doing. These can be picked up in after-Christmas sales and usually come with about 50 or so in a pack. Stock up, since the sun beating down on them causes them to need to be replaced every few years (yes, we have sun and Christmas lights in Arizona).
|2019 light display|
7. Timers and extension cords are a must. I used to have a switched outlet that I would use to turn the Christmas lights on and off. I was disappointed when I forgot to turn them on, or when I got home from work late and the lights were off. Then I got an outdoor timer. The lights are programmed for evening and early morning, so my late nights have turned into a wonderful return home with my lights welcoming me. And there can never be enough extension cords, especially if you are spanning your lights across your yard. I use 15+ for my current configuration.
8. Keep a container with all of your extra bulbs and fuses. Years ago I realized the need for a centralized location for all of my spare bulbs and fuses, so I got a large container that stays in my Christmas light bin. When a bulb burns out, I no longer need to hunt and scavenge for it. It is in one container. Now if only I didn't have 38 different kinds of bulbs to go through.
Bonus tip - LED lights help reduce your electrical bill, especially when you have more than 13,000 lights on your house. I am now fully switched over to LEDs on the outside of my house, and not only are they brighter and more durable, but they use significantly less juice than their greedy incandescent buddies. Even if you can't switch over this year, it is well worth the investment, especially if you follow the advice from tip number 6.
If you've made it this far in the article, you've probably figured out my personal philosophy on exterior illumination: you can never have too many lights. While I more than tripled the amount of lights on my house this year over last year, I believe that next year I have room for improvement and can add even more. "Go big or stay home," they say. And I say, "Make sure that the home you're staying in has a ton of lights on the outside."
Do you have any tips that I may have missed? Drop me a line and let me know. You can either comment on this post (below), contact me (bottom of the page), or visit the Renaissance Dad Facebook page to let me know your thoughts.
Merry Christmas, and happy holidays!