You want your house to be lit up brighter than Clark Griswold's in Christmas Vacation. But you've got problems to solve, beyond just the aesthetic challenge. How can you make sure you don't take a three-story dive off a slippery eave. And how much power are a few thousand feet of lights gonna require?
Here's how to get into the holiday spirit without killing yourself—or your utility bill.
Before you even touch a string of lights, you'll need to develop a comprehensive plan of action. First, decide on the scope of this project and make sure you stick to it—running a line of icicle lights around a door frame is much easier than illuminating every square inch of your house. Decide where you'd like to install lights—along roof lines and walkways, around windows and planter boxes, or draped over shrubs and trees—and measure the lengths that will actually be adorned as well as the distance to the nearest outdoor power outlet.
You may need to break out a ladder when performing the initial measurements. If your house has horizontal eaves, you can get a rough estimate of the roof line simply by measuring around the base of the house. If the house has peaked eaves and gutters, you'll need to use a ladder and tape measure to obtain accurate lengths. Be sure to also include door and window frames in your totals. For plants, according to Lowe's, you'll want to use at least 100 lights for every 1.5 feet of vertical height (a six-foot tall shrub would need a minimum of 400 lights, for example).
Once you have the distances totaled, use that value to calculate the number of 50-bulb light strings needed to cover it and how long the extension cord will need to be. Skip the 100-footers. Shorter strings are easier to handle when standing on a ladder, and they're cheaper to replace if something goes wrong.