Light The Night: Illuminate Your Outdoor Space with Help from the Pros

Lots of plastic containers (or tubs as we like to call them), stacked high, filled with outdoor Christmas decorations, are sitting in the basement or storage shed or attic, all ready for you…but are you ready for them?

The biggest chore many of us tackle every year is decorating our home’s exterior for the holidays. Headaches often ensue when we drag items out of their yearlong hiding places (never in quite the order that we need them), climb rickety ladders to reach rooflines, dodge overgrown shrubbery, and attempt to untangle lights that may just decide for themselves not to get in the holiday spirit this year. Don’t look down—a whole day could go by and you may not have anything to show for it.

More and more homeowners are hiring professionals to do the job because having it done on time, safely, and tastefully means a holly, jolly Christmas for all.

Landscape companies, who spend a good part of the year enhancing a home’s surroundings, are a natural fit for this work as the cold weather begins to set in. Chris Templeton, owner of CLC Incorporated, a design and landscape firm in Forest that also specializes in outdoor lighting, says his holiday lighting service for area homes and businesses has grown by about 20 percent each year.

His company takes care of every aspect of the job, from consultation and design, to installation, take-down, and storage of materials.

The biggest benefit that keeps customers signed on every year? The time savings, he says. “People live very busy lives now and don’t have the time to do what they want with their Christmas lights and decorations. It can take them three or four weekends, when we can do it in two days,” Templeton says. “Once they see the time they save, they never look back.”

He says it is also a relief for clients who simply are unable to do the work themselves because of age or disability, or because of a fear of heights. “Crawling around on the roof isn’t right for everybody,” he says.

Some holiday lighting companies work through a distributor that offers a full line of products, and they may require you to purchase the products up front. Templeton explains that his customers lease the lights on a two-year basis and have an option to add or change their design from year to year.

Designers will first visit the home to plan the design along with the homeowner. Measurements will be taken and items will be chosen. Such designers also carry the electrical know-how that’s necessary to equip the home without overloading circuits. Some companies like CLC will also take pictures of the house and then run the photos through a computer program that will generate a simulated finished look with the selected products.

Templeton says that many homeowners simply don’t know where to start when it comes to holiday decorating. (Then, of course, there are those who don’t know where to stop!) While we can be lured by the pictures on the boxes in retail stores and the beautiful homes in all those holiday TV commercials, many of us don’t know how to combine the products for an elegant display.

But Templeton says his designers stay focused on highlighting your home’s features for the holidays; there’s no going overboard. They will make sure your house doesn’t stand out like the Griswolds’, but is also something you can’t miss.

“People want to light up their homes for the season mainly because of the joy it brings to the neighborhood, the general interest it creates in sharing the spirit of Christmas,” he says. And many, of course, decorate their homes for children, contributing to the magic of the season, he adds.

The most common designs CLC employs are simple but sophisticated, with people choosing to border their rooflines and windows and wrap their trees with lights. Templeton says his customers also request a lot of pre-lit, artificial greenery—garlands, swags and wreaths.

The convenience of the whole process is that most of the companies that provide this service also store and maintain the items. No more carving out a spot in a storage shed and no more replacing bulbs or making repairs. While those businesses that require you to purchase the products will charge you a higher initial cost in the first year, each job cost really depends on the amount of lighting—and type of lighting—you choose.

As the lighting industry continues to introduce more technology, the options have varied as well. Customers may choose to pay more for the new LED lights, with the allure of a lower electric bill and a longer life span. Templeton says that a handful of his clients are using this new technology, which consumes about a quarter less electrical power than traditional C-9 Christmas light bulbs. While a lot of math goes into traditional lighting to make sure circuits aren’t overloaded, with LEDs you can cover an entire home and use only about 14 outlets, according to Templeton. The LED lights come in single color, multicolored, or clear. LED rope lights are particularly popular, with flashing and scrolling options. Just adding a full strand of stars or snowflakes in a warm classic white (the original clear lighting) or a classic white LED light, can make a home look like a winter wonderland.

One of the benefits of hiring a professional to handle this is that installation can begin at your convenience; most people choose to have lights installed just after Thanksgiving. Take-down can be timely as well. So there’s no more waiting to see if you will be the last house in the neighborhood with Christmas lights as it gets closer to Valentine’s Day.

While hiring a professional can take the headaches away, it can also take out all the guesswork. Installers
will take into account your home’s electric capacities, testing your outlets, using the appropriate adapters and cords, as well as keeping cords safely tucked away in the yard and at the side of homes. They can set up specialized digital timers, too, so the work is basically hands-free for the homeowner.

If outdoor decorating is at the top of your Christmas to-do list, but often makes its way to the bottom, hiring someone to take care of the chore could free up more time to get to those tasks that make the holiday what it should be—a meaningful, stress-free, “bright” time for your family.

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