Now the excitement of Halloween and bonfire night has passed there is a bit of a lull before the next big holiday.

But that hasn’t stopped a lot of people getting into the spirit of Christmas. Supermarkets already have their festive selections presented and elaborate Christmas light ‘switch on’ events have begun.

The family, the food, the presents – Christmas time inevitably means different things to different people. For some people, Christmas is about competition.

The competition to get the best presents, the challenge to cook a better meal than your sister-in-law managed last year and, of course, the friendly competition to have the best Christmas decorations on the street.

Christmas lights have really taken off in recent years. One element of Christmas that seems to have been imported from America, the elaborate outdoor home displays can now be seen right across the country.  

Make sure you have the best light display in your neighbourhood by following these installation tips.

Make a plan

Planning can make the difference between a good light display and a great one.

Make a rough sketch of your house and garden and map out where the lights will have the biggest impact.

Make sure you measure the boughs of the house and other places you want to hang the lights and then purchase to these exact specifications. If you are looking at a commercial job then you may want to consult a lighting designer and use CAD software.

String, net or curtain

Christmas lights fall into three categories – string, net and curtain. String lights are the kind you will be used to wrapping around your Christmas tree. Curtain light strains hand down like icicles and nets can be used to cover a large area.

Think about how you will use each of these in your plan, making sure to pay attention to the measurements and distance between bulbs.

Think about bulb type

As well as thinking about the type of light you want to hang, you also need to think about the types of bulb that you mount as well.

There are a few main bulb types you will be confronted with. One of the most popular is LED Christmas lights which are cheap and robust. But these lights give out a ‘cold’ light, unlike incandescent filaments and other kinds of traditional bulb.

Think about your power source

Many Christmas lights from specialist suppliers have connectable leads. This means that they can be attached end to end, and each lead doesn’t need its own power source.

This allows you to create more elaborate displays, but you must be careful not to overload the circuits. Check the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and think about consulting an electrician if you are doing a commercial display.

Don’t lose your sanity

Christmas lights strike fear into the heart of many homeowners because the wires are so easy to tangle up. And once they are tangled there is little you can do to separate them. Avoid this by wrapping the lights around a bit of rolled up newspaper before storing them for next year.

If your lights do come out the box all tangled up, then the trick is to not panic. Take a deep breath, make yourself a cup of tea and play yourself some relaxing music. Tangled up Christmas lights are like quicksand – the more you struggle against them the more they seem to tangle up.

Deck the trees

Decorating a tree or bush in your front garden is a great way of adding a new dimension to your light display.

If you are planning a tree, make sure you measure the length of the trunk and determine how long the lights need to be to wrap all the way up it. And make sure you leave an equal space between each wrap, this can make a light decoration job look really unprofessional.

Tidy up wires

You may not be able to see them at night, but you certainly will during the day. Until somebody invents wireless Christmas lights you will have to take steps to minimise the loose wires you see.

If you have several loose wires heading back to the power source you can group these together using electrical tape or heat shrink tubing. If you are decorating a commercial premises or public place then you should cover the wires with a protector or ramp to prevent people from tripping over the wires. This can be particularly hazardous during hours of darkness.

Protect your lights

Once you have set up your lights, carrying out repairs can be very frustrating. This is why you should always plug your lights in before installing them to check they all work.

You can also provide extra protection from the elements. Most blown circuits are caused by moisture getting into connectors, you can prevent this by sealing any loose connections with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing.

This is how professional installation teams prevent short outs and embarrassment on large-scale commercial projects.

Don’t upset the neighbours

Christmas lights can be a bone of contention in some neighbourhoods. Some towns and villages embrace the festive cheer that Christmas lights bring, but others seem to have problem with even small displays.

Proper planning can prevent you being labelled the neighbours from hell. Understated is better than overstated, but if you want to go all out to dazzle your neighbours then make sure you know what you are doing.

Keep lights to the house, bushes and trees, stick to a colour scheme and avoid elaborate animatronics and you should be ok.