Advice and Tips

So what should you look for when buying your lights? Well, it may be obvious to many, but if you're going to put lights on the outside of your house, you need to make sure that they are suitable for outdoor use. There are two main types of lights that can be used outside, mains powered and low voltage. When you buy them, look on the box. If it doesn't say that they're suitable for indoor AND outdoor use, or suitable for outdoor use only, then they are NOT suitable. If all else fails, ask the retailer, and if they don't know then do not buy them. The majority of the lighting that we use tends to be low voltage, although we also use some mains lighting and also some specialist lights shipped in from America. If you do use mains lighting, try and keep it well out of reach so that it can't easily be disturbed. Although it's generally safe, it's also better to be safe than sorry, and remember, mains electricity can kill. As I've said previously, most of our lighting is low voltage, and therefore completely safe outside. It's also a lot cheaper to run, with a typical set of 150 lights consuming around 30watts of electric (about half that of a standard indoor light bulb).

How should you connect them? If you're not electrically minded, (and I'm no expert) then you should always seek advise from someone who is. Electrical shops are usually quite happy to answer questions, so don't be afraid to ask. One of the key points to remember is that, even if you're using low voltage lights, they will still be fed from a transformer that is powered on mains electricity. You MUST make sure that the transformer and the mains connection are not exposed to the elements (i.e keep them indoors). Some low voltage lighting also has a control box to control the functions and speed of flashing lights. Generally, it's ok to leave the control box outside, but make sure that it doesn't get submerged in water. If you're using mains lighting, and the cord isn't long enough to reach inside to plug in, you're going to need a waterproof connector. These are available, but are also very expensive (typically around 9 each). The low voltage lighting tends these days to have about 10 meters (around 30 feet) of cable attached to it, which should be more than enough for most people. As far as getting the cable into the house to plug it in, unfortunately, you're probably going to have to drill a hole or two. In order to minimise the amount of drilling you need to do, it's best to plan in advance. Work out where you're going to plug the lights in, and then figure out how you're going to arrange the lights outside so that all of the cables come back to the same point. This means that you'll probably only have to drill one hole. If you do need to drill, we've found it best to drill through a wooden door frame or window frame. If you've got UPVC doors and windows, this is NOT advisable, as they are usually sealed units and you will destroy the benefits of the unit. As a last resort, you may need to drill through a wall to get the cables inside. If you do have to drill through a wall, you're going to need a masonry drill bit, and if your home is rented, you may need to get permission from your landlord. When you put everything away after Christmas, you're gong to be left with a hole where the cables went. Whatever you do, don't just leave the hole exposed to the elements. If you do, and it's through the wood, the rain, snow, wind etc will get in, and apart from making the inside of your home either wet, cold or both, it's likely to start rotting the wood. The best thing we've found is to protect the hole by repainting the cut wood and then plugging it with something like a cork out of a bottle of wine. Apart from being practical, it also gives you an excuse to drink the wine. This way, when you come to do it again the next year (and believe me, if you do it once, you'll do it again) then all you'll need to do is remove the cork.

So how should you arrange the lights? Well, I'm afraid that one is down to you. The only advise I can give you on this is, use your imagination. You can hang them, twist them, drape them and shape them. The sky, or should I say the house, is the limit. If you don't want to, or can't put them up outside, why not decorate the insides of the windows upstairs and down. You can get window silhouettes and indoor light curtains very cheaply, and they're very effective.