Drive down most roads and avenues in the approach to Christmas and you will find house after house proclaiming its allegiance to the season. Head to the high street and this is a guarantee. Sparkling lights adorn trees, bushes, windows, gables, gutters, fascia boards, shop fronts and rooftops.
Christmas lights took on extra meaning when people here in the UK – and many of our friends in the USA – switched on their displays during the coronavirus outbreak to spread festive cheer in their neighbourhoods: some colour and light in dark and sombre times.
Maybe, for Christmas 2020, we can all aim to add more much-needed light in this year of all years. Here are a few initial pointers. Choosing outdoor lighting for your home or business can depend on whether or not you have outdoor electrical sockets in place. Trailing electric cables from an indoor socket is never recommended, so invest in outdoor sockets installed by a qualified electrician. There’s a battery alternative, with a growing range of battery-powered LED lights widely available. Each set comes with a timer function that will turn on the lights for up to eight hours and keep them in off-mode the rest of the time. There are also App-controlled lights you operate from your phone. There has also been a recent trend towards laser projected lights: a simpler solution to deliver the spectacular. Read on and we can expand on these choices.
Having made the decision over the outdoor electrical sockets or battery option, the next concern is the type and number of lights you want. Let us point you in the direction of a specialist Christmas lights firm – Harrogate-based family business Lights4fun at lights4fun.co.uk. Here you will find a vast range of lights and accessories and further information for your individual needs. Read about the founder Tim, his family and successes (is that really Buckingham Palace on their list of decorating ventures?) and you will immediately be won over by Lights4fun.
What will it be: icicle lights dangling from the fascias in chilly blue, quirky novelty lights in the shape of mini-lanterns, practical rope lights or sparkling cluster lights, bunched to illuminate the house and garden?
For our part, we suggest the most effective displays take the proportions of the property in mind. It is also wise to use lights that complement the street and neighbourhood. Think subtle in a more reserved and traditional area. Let loose if the street goes kaleidoscopic. Lights4fun also supplies compact projector lights. For around £35 you can own a sound activated light with red and green patterns that switch between snowflakes, dots, starbursts and stars. If you want more options in the laser lights field, read the next segment headed Laser Projection.
Another good online source for perusing and purchasing lights is christmastreesandlights.co.uk. The online layout for outdoor options shows a variety of lights not only in close-up but also in use on and around houses, including wrapped around trees to dazzling effect. You can check out Christmas Direct at xmasdirect.co.uk – providing indoor and outdoor lighting solutions from twenty mini lights for a children’s bedroom to large installations on Oxford Street, London. The company behind the dazzling 2011 Boots commercial sourced lights from Christmas Direct and they even supplied trees for BBC drama “Holby City”. Other sites for your lighting consideration: christmastimeuk.com and thechristmasdecorators.co.uk (we have an entire segment on the latter if you scroll down this page).
Rather than cover the house in a multitude of bulbs or illuminated festive figures, you might want to go for the simpler projection lights. Plug it in, stick it in the ground or place it on its tripod and your home can be lit up for Christmas – indoors as well as out. Perhaps check out laserlightprojectors.co.uk to give you an initial steer. This Canadian-based company offers such products as a multi-coloured outdoor/indoor laser Christmas lights projector with a moving pattern for around £230, with free shipping. Single colour static lights will cost you around £150. These lights are becoming ever more popular so you will find numerous options online, including at amazon.co.uk or the afore-mentioned lights4fun.co.uk.
App Option – The Future is Here
What is this? Controlling your Christmas lights with your mobile phone? Yes, indeed. You can now buy sets of lights that allow you to turn them on, change their effects and even play music through them via a handy app. These Palm Control Multi-function Warm White LED Lights are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Once you’ve put the lights up, simply download the free app – available for both Apple and Android – and take full control of your building’s illumination. The lights are operated by Bluetooth and can be controlled from anywhere there’s a connection.
Plan Ahead – Aim to Blend
If you are going for bulbs, strings and figures rather than projecting lasers, our general advice regarding outdoor lights is to start your planning early. That goes for purchasing them and decorating with them. The nearer you get to Christmas the busier you are likely to be with other preparations – so the long-desired great light display may get put off for another year. Also factor in the weather. Maybe it will be kinder to you in late autumn as you clamber up that ladder time and again. And if you want a specialist lights company to put the display together, you will need to book ahead to avoid disappointment. Make sure you have accurate measurements and also check the lights work before you take even one step up that ladder. If you are using extension leads they should match the grounds, so orange probably won’t cut it.
LED All the Way
LED string lights or rope lights are the best lights to use outdoors. Many will have an IP44 rating that means they are weatherproof. Lights designed for indoor use will not be sufficiently insulated or waterproofed. With string lights it is possible to use a connecting system that allows you to run an impressive display just from one plug. The latest LED lights come in a variety of designs, can even be battery-operated and will save you money on electricity. Rope lights are encased in plastic tubing, making them a reliable all-weather option in defiance of rain and snow. These work well edging gutters and garages or garden fencing and walls.
Much is More
When dressing an outdoor tree with lights, a single length of lighting will give you a weak display. To create a stunning effect you will require hundreds upon hundreds of lights. This could be costly but is an investment in years of Christmas pleasure for you and your neighbourhood. Clearly, if you have smaller shrubs and conifers to dress in lights this is less taxing on the wallet. Here, net lights will give a more regular distribution of light than string lights if you wish to make arranging them easier.
Lighting hung from the house itself requires some thought. Lower level lighting around porches and at ground floor level may be more easily achievable than dramatic lighting higher up on the building. But if you are aiming high, please put safety first and do not attempt risky jobs alone. A&E has played host to a number of enthusiastic lighting decorators over the years. Also, what goes up must come down in January – so factor this in to your plans. Again, we suggest you look at specialist sites such as lights4fun.co.uk for help and advice with how to attach outdoor lighting securely to your house.
Another option outdoors is that of all year round lighting. This is not as expensive as you might think as an outdoor floodlight, that can be placed under a tree or used to highlight the best part of your garden, costs under £50 from most leading DIY stores. With this you have a year-round resource which will combine well with your other outdoor festive decorations. It’s also possible with certain lights to change the bulbs for a coloured element. Indeed Amazon sells coloured LED floodlights. You could also use the Christmas season as an opportunity to install or update existing porch lights that will also serve you well for years.
Did you know…most LED lights need 90 percent less electricity than normal lights? Big savings can be made on the post-Christmas electricity bill if you are prone to going light crazy in the festive season. LED lights stay much cooler so are inherently safer and because the bulbs are made of plastic, not glass, are less likely to break.
No need for electrical sockets for outside lights because of the battery alternative. Each LED set comes with a timer function that will turn on the lights for up to eight hours and keep them in off-mode for the rest of the time. Some manufacturers promise their battery lights will run for 30 days on just one set of three AA batteries. They can work indoors or out. Such lights are ideal for wrapping around a Christmas wreath on the front door, bunching in outdoor lanterns by the door and intertwining on porch garlands.
Premier Decorations Limited was established in 1987 and has grown to become a leading business-to-business importer and distributor of seasonal decorative products (including Summer and Halloween items, as well as Christmas) within the UK and Ireland. Check out premierdec.com. Decorations to adorn business premises are can be provided and erected by thechristmasdecorators.co.uk, with offices nationwide. Much more on this company in the next section.
Want the lighting magic, but don’t like the idea of DIY? Some of the afore-mentioned lighting firms will do the job for you for a price. It could be money well spent. We also love and heartily recommend The Christmas Decorators – billed as the only company in the UK that specialises in festive lighting and decorations for homeowners. The company’s website reads: “Our elegant exterior lighting is created to suit each individual property to complement its style and surroundings. This includes the lighting of roofline contours, bushes, shrubs and trees as well as highlighting drive ways and entrances with garlands, wreaths and potted trees. Inside, an array of beautiful Christmas decorations can be provided to add a large sprinkle of Christmas spirit including Christmas trees, doorway, banister and fireplace garlands as well as festive floral arrangements. Allow us to take the hassle out of decorating, dismantling and storing your Christmas decorations this year, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy it.” There are regional arms of the company across the UK, with 50 offices nationwide. Search them out online at thechristmasdecorators.co.uk or ring 0845-190-1909. The Christmas Decorators also work with businesses – including some of the most famous brands in the land – and have many glowing tributes online. Best to book early to avoid disappointment.