Vail Landscape Logic column: ’Tis the season for holiday lights
As soon as the Thanksgiving dinner is done, many people are ready to throw the switch on their outdoor holiday lights. If that is your plan, then get organized now. Here are a few tips to consider.
Simpler is better
Whether it is the time and effort you put in to the project, the expense incurred or how the display will ultimately look, your life will be simplified if you stop short of a huge lighting extravaganza. Take a careful look at your yard and use holiday lights to play off of the focal points and architecture already in place. Using trees, fences and the roofline of the home is standard.
What else do you have? A gate, gazebo, outdoor fireplace, patio and porch posts or even the rim around raised planting beds can be showy locations for holiday lights, sometimes with easier access than the second-story roof. Be creative with planters, yard art or even a wheelbarrow or wagon filled with evergreens. Take advantage of what you already have for a one-of-a kind lighting statement.
Simple also relates to color. If you use plain white bulbs or mix them with one or two colors, you will avoid a busy and distracting display.
Use LED lighting
Because LED lights do not heat up like incandescent bulbs, they are less of a fire hazard both inside and out. They also require less power and are generally more user-friendly to install and manage. If you drop an LED bulb from the second story rooftop on the sidewalk below, it probably won’t break. LEDs are more expensive to purchase, but the additional cost will be offset over time because LED lamps last four to five times longer than traditional lights. They also use about 90 percent less power.
Don’t think less power means less caution, however. LEDs should be used with safety in mind, as with any other electrical device. Though LEDs typically require fewer power sources, they can still overload circuits.
Points to consider when installing LEDs or incandescent lights:
• Know how to use a voltage meter to avoid overloading circuits.
• Use only outdoor-rated extension cords and outlets.
• Make sure power comes from a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet. It will shut down automatically if there is too much current.
• Never plug incandescent strings into the same power source as LEDs because their voltages are completely different.
If your lighting project is do-it-yourself, then follow in the footsteps of the pros when installing lights:
• Never be on a roof or on ladders during snowy, icy or windy conditions.
• Know how to set a ladder at the proper angle and maintain three points of contact at all times.
• Even if you are one step off the ground, wear a helmet.
• Have a spotter on the ground when anyone is on a ladder.
• If overhead electrical lines are around your property, then avoid hanging lights or being on a ladder near them.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.