Holidays Outdoor Lighting: 19 Bright Ideas

All Star Electric
outdoor lighting in winter in San Antonio - Whole house illumination - Illustration

Deck the Halls With These Outdoor Lighting Ideas and Do it Safely

It’s Christmas in just a few days, and if you haven’t decorated your home with some kind of holidays outdoor lighting, there’s still some time to show off. Of course, people leave their lighting decorations on display well into January, so your efforts don’t need to go to waste once Christmas is over!

Being electricians, we love see people’s creativity at work with lights in their front yard and on their home. From what we’ve seen in San Antonio and online (people proudly displaying their holidays outdoor lighting on video), we made a list of 25 different ideas to create a festive mood around your home for this season.

At the end of the list, you will find multiple tips to keep these installations safer from electrical hazards. Please read them carefully.

Note: Some of these decorative ideas are more costly than others. If you are on a tight budget, some of them will not be relevant. Make wise choices, don’t go into debt to buy these things. Take stock in knowing that anything you do to embellish your neighborhood helps your community. There are only winners here, whether you spend $25, $50, or $250.

So, here’s our list, let’s get inspired!

Lighted Garlands for Your Front Door

A light garland set around a front door to decorate for Christmas

Here’s a classic lighting decoration. Pre-lit classic pine garlands now come with warm white LED lights: they won’t add much to your power bill and they have this traditional look we love in movies. We have also seen berry and pinecone garlands with lights: these have a more rustic feel. Let’s not forget the icicle light garland, sure to give your front door this winter look even if it doesn’t snow in San Antonio. Installing these garlands is a breeze: just make sure to secure them tight enough with hooks, so that wind gusts don’t get them. It’s also a good thing to protect the wall outlet where the garland is plugged in.

Window Frame Lights

We’ve seen them in various styles: warm white curtain lights create a cascading effect; they are simple to hang from the top of a window frame. We prefer LED for durability and less power usage, of course. To add color, use window light stickers of different shapes, or festive red and green border lights. To install: follow the window frame and secure the lights with small hooks, like Velcro ones.

Roofline Lighting

An example of roofline lighting with a light garland running along the eaves of a home.

A definite winner, roofline lighting silhouettes your home and is very visible from afar. Roofline lighting comes in several flavors: classic white icicle lights, easy to hang along gutters or eaves. A bit more expensive, Twinkly smart LED lights controlled via a mobile app enable you to switch colors and patterns. If you don’t want to spend a dime in electricity, solar-powered roof lights will do the trick. Use clips to secure these lights to your gutters, and if you run them from a cupola or chimney to the edge of the roof, attach them on both ends. This is a job that requires much caution as roofs are dangerous to climb, especially in wet or icy conditions. Be sure you are actually able to do it before starting, or require help.

Directional Up-Lights and Down-Lights

This goes beyond the typical Holidays decoration, and more of an outdoor lighting fixture. Directional lighting highlights the architectural features of your home. We recommend that you consult with a professional licensed electrician to set up adjustable LED spotlights at the right place and with proper technique for a permanent installation. We often use up-lights to make front-porch columns and the side corners of a home pop. In the front yard, plant solar garden down lights to illuminate your walkway and garden beds; when it snows, these lights are reflected on the white of the snow, for a great lighting effect. We have seen people use color-changing floodlights too, adding a dynamic element to their outdoor lighting.

String Lights for Trees

Tree lighting is a favorite Holidays outdoor lighting set-up. Several options exist: classic white LED string lights, multicolored globe string lights, solar-powered twinkle lights. The classic white LED string lights are energy efficient, and will last typical longer than small bulbs. They give up a nice glow. Multicolored globe string lights add this magic touch of color you want your decorations to have, but they can be less visible than the first type. Eco-concerned people will of course pick the solar-powered twinkle lights, but clearly in winter they can’t charge fully during the day, so they will die off earlier in the night. For installation, some people recommend starting at the bottom of the tree and ending with the branches.

Icicle Lights on Eaves

An example of icicle lights running along the eaves and gutter of a home for Holidays outdoor lighting decoration purposes.

If you like the classic winter look, drape icicle lights along the eaves. Icicles lights mimic the look of real ice stalactites, which gives your roofline a nice look when it does not snow. Installation is pretty easy, simple clips will affix them to your eaves.

Laser Lightshow

This is a different kind of lighting: it projects dynamic patterns onto your house, and creates an eye-catching display that is very visible from far. When positioning the laser lights, make very sure the lights hits the house, and not anywhere else: if the beam is projected over the roof towards the sky, this could trigger legal issues. We are no lawyers, so take this with a grain of salt but better check with the manufacturer of the laser lightshow.

Window Silhouette Lights

A view of silhouette lights behind windows during winter, with a reflection in the window panes of the home on the other side of a street.

With shapes like stars or Christmas trees, silhouette lights add a very festive feel in your windows from the inside out. Very easy to install, they are secured with suction cups or small hooks.

Starburst Lights

Starburst lights are sort of new in the magic bag of Holidays outdoor lighting. They add a striking sparkling touch to your decorations, like mini-firework displays. You can hang them from trees or from your porch. They use LED, and some color sets are controlled with a small remote pad.

Fairy Lights in Jars

Set mason jars along your windowsills or your porch, and place battery-operated fairy lights inside. This adds colorful details to your Holidays outdoor lighting.

Lighted Wreath on Gates

Lighted wreaths are a classic Christmas outdoor lighting decoration.

This one is such a recognized symbol, it’s not even trying to be original. But a lighted wreath is cool. It spells Christmas out as surely as Santa. You can find them online with pre-installed lights. If you install the wreath on your driveway gate, make sure you secure it tightly or lose it to the wind.

Rope Lights for Driveways

Create a welcoming path to your home by lining up your driveway with rope lights. Secure the rope lights with stakes or sturdy clips designed for outdoor use. They will double up as a visibility feature when you go home late at night. From a design standpoint, they add depth to your lightshow and guide the eye toward your home.

Hanging Lanterns in Trees

Lanterns are a staple of Christmas outdoor lighting. Lanterns with LED candles work very well to create pathways and transitions from one lighting zone to another. Choose weather-resistant lanterns and hang them solidly at varying heights using double cords or little chains. Make sure they are solidly secured to the support (trees or stakes) to avoid losing them to the wind.

Net Lighting for Large Areas

An illustration of net lighting creating an entertainment zone in a large yard.

This is a bit more costly, so not for every budget. You can affix net lights to house walls or hedges or stakes to cover a large area of lighting. Suspended over a space, net lights give the impression of having a pergola in your yard. The trick is to make straight lines, and to attach them securely with several points of contact to prevent sagging.

Candy Cane Pathway Lights

Candy cane lights are a staple of Christmas. These decorations can reach $60 for a pack of 20, not necessarily very affordable for all of us. But they do look cool, and now that they come with LED, and can be remote controlled, the visual effect along a pathway is terrific.

LED Snowflakes

LED snowflakes come in garlands and individual units. In this illustration, two garlands run from nearby tree trucks to the electrical installation of a home.

Here again, LED technology has made it possible to create new shapes. We have seen LED snowflake lights hung in trees, under porches, even in garlands running from trees to trees. They give a great Winter Wonderland feel to your yard. When you hang them on tree branches, make sure you select branches that can support a bit more than the dry weight of the lights, as they can gather ice during the night.

Festive Yard Figures

These decorations are definitely not cheap, with reindeers ranging from $60 to $100, and 3-ft snowmen around $60. We’ve seen them here and there around San Antonio, and you could tell the homeowners spent a great deal of time, talent, and treasure to decorate their home for the neighborhood. Sometimes a whole neighborhood transforms itself in a giant Winter Wonderland, with a contest between homes and a vote. When installing these yard figures, make sure they are securely anchored to the ground: they will easily catch a wind gust, and tip over or be dragged around your yard.

Lighted Topiary Animals & Shrubs

Topiary decorations for outdoor lighting  during the Holidays season.

This is a variant of the reindeer and snowman metallic figurines. Topiary shrubs give back a touch of green to your front yard when snow covers your lawn and your trees have no leaves left. Because of the price of these decorations and the crime rate going up, we recommend to place them closer to your home than to the curb.

Glowing Orbs

LED glowing orbs are a good way to create a soft visual path to a scene you want to draw the eye to. Snow tend to flatten the scenery because it lack shadows and color variations. When you scatter glowing orbs around, they re-create the sense of depth. If you lay the orbs along a pathway, they will lead the eye of your visitors to what you want them to look at. These LED orbs are self powered with small solar cells.

Electrical Safety Tips For Your Holidays Outdoor Lighting Scenes

As licensed electricians in San Antonio, we have to remind homeowners that DIY electrical decorations directly plugged in the mains present a safety risk in winter, due to rain and snow. So, for your safety, here are a few tips to reduce the risk of short circuits.

Weatherproof Electrical Boxes

Install weatherproof electrical boxes where the plugs will be located. These boxes are designed to withstand outdoor elements and provide a secure enclosure for electrical connections. We can, of course, install them for you.

GFCI Outlets

Your outdoor electrical outlets should be GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). They will prevent electric shock in wet conditions by shutting off the power flowing to the decoration when a fault is detected in the path of the electrical current.

Photo of a TayMac MM510C weatherproof outlet cover showing the sockets and the plug of an extension cord protected from outside rain and humidity. Courtesy of the TayMac store:

Weatherproof Outlet Covers

Some newer models of outdoor outlets come with weatherproof covers. These provide a seal against moisture even when cords are plugged in.

In some jurisdictions, they are now mandated by code.

If your electrical installation dates back a couple decades and your exterior outlets don’t have these covers, call us to install them. These give you an extra layer of safety in stormy weather, when strong gusts of winds bring rain under your porch and soak your wall outlets.

Silicone Sealant

With the power off at the service panel, apply a silicone sealant around the edges of the plug and the socket to create a water-resistant barrier. The sealant you use must be outdoor-grade and suitable for electrical applications. When you work with this type of material, always always always ensure power is turned off at the service panel.

Drip Loops

A drip loop is a U-shaped bend in an extension cord. When connecting your Christmas decoration to the mains, drip loops help preventing water from traveling along the cord into the plug or outlet. Make sure you install the lowest point of the loop below the level of the electrical outlet.

Electrical Tape

A simple way to reduce the risk of short consists in wrapping electrical tape around your plug connections. This does not replace the other precautions, but it is an additional layer of protection. We would use a high-quality, weather-resistant electrical tape rated for outdoor use.

Cord Connect Protectors

When 2 extension cords are joined, use cord connect protectors. They encase the connection, shielding it from water and snow.

This extension cord connect protector fully encases the plug and the socket, and also isolates them from water puddles on the ground. You can find them both on Amazon and at your local DIY store.

Elevate Plugs & Connections

Another simple way to reduce the risk of shorts is to keep your plugs and connections off the ground. you can find cheap mounting brackets and hooks in a DIY store, and this will avoid your plugs to lie in water pools. This will also help preventing snow to accumulate over them.

Go Out and Inspect Your Plugs Regularly

These tips will help avoiding shorts. But go around your yard regularly to inspect your plugs and connections; remove any snow accumulation, make sure your plugs are still off the ground, reseal connection as needed (with the power off at the service panel). Holidays outdoor lighting is a joy for all, but it definitely carries some electrical risks with it, and we should not underestimate them.

Do You Need Help for Your Outdoor Lighting Project?

If you need the hands of a professional licensed electrician to stage your outdoor lighting project (whether permanent or just for the Holidays), don’t hesitate to call us at (210) 391-0274. We operate as licensed electricians in San Antonio, Helotes, Selma, Alamo Heights and Castle Hills for almost 30 years. We have designed and installed many outdoor lighting installations, either temporary or permanent. Tell us about your project, and we’ll give you a quote.

Additional resources

All Star Electric San Antonio has kept an A+ rating at the BBB San Antonio since we joined.

We have a long experience of outdoor lighting installations: read about our services here.

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