How to Have a House

Living with and understanding a home.

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Have fun with Christmas lights.

How’s your exterior Christmas lights coming along?  Millions of Americans have already put their’s up.  Maybe they have a small display around the front windows and door.  Some people hire companies who come out and do all the climbing, bulb checking and then come back and take them down after the holiday.  Some people put their lights up inside the windows so they don’t even have to go outside (this is how we did it as kids).  No matter the choice of display it’s a good idea to keep some things in mind.  
Old fashion incandescent bulb lights are still pretty popular. If you want a big bulb this is how most people go.  They install uniformly because of their shape and size.  They can be seen from a mile away and will basically act as gutter de-icing wires if mounted on the gutter.  They also break easy.  That’s why I don’t use them. Customers try to give these things to me by the mile, no thanks. I’m a breaker.  Ask my wife.  Glasses, cups, plates, windows-if it’s glass I break it.  The one year I tried to install incandescent lights that were given to me, I broke so many just trying to un-tangle them I gave up and threw them away.  My neighbor uses these big pretty bulbs and has made his own jig to place them at perfect angle and distance from each other.  His house is way bigger, he makes more money and roasts his own coffee.  You’d think he’d lay off showing me up all the time. Alas, soon some evening I’ll come home and see his perfect light display.  My wife says it’s ok, I think she’s just being nice.
LED light strings are the way to go. They come in all sorts of colors and designs just like the incandescent, minus the break ability and bulk.  They are not so bright, this could be unacceptable to the neighborhood show offs.  I like the multi color pattern installed straight across the gutters and gable peaks with the icicle style white light strung below.  Outside of climbing the roof in cold weather, cursing hangers that break below 50 degrees and having to take them down after Christmas, these are quite pleasing.  The use way less electricity and are just more user friendly.  
If you hang your own lights be careful.  Climbing ladders is not all that bad, even in snow.  Falling is not so great.  Clear the driveway or walks and put some sand or ice melt down where the ladder will stand.  Use a ladder brace at the top, cold icy gutters will toss a ladder right off.  Try to do this job before snow gets on the roof or you’ll be frustrated trying to mess around with lights in snow.  Do this job when someone is home and have them come out and “check your progress” every half hour or so.  Tell them you need hot chocolate or coffee, just don’t set yourself up for freezing half to death if you do take a spill.  Use proper hangers.  Don’t use any staples or nails in the roofing.  You’ll be asking for trouble in a lot of ways if you do.  When you do get done hanging the lights make sure you’re plugging them into a GFI outlet.  The exterior of your house will be wet, don’t risk a shock for you or critters roaming around at night.  
When you take them down next year put them away carefully.  The ridiculous thing about a big knot of light strings is, they guy putting the string away makes the knot.  Then the following year it’s like, “how did these things become such a mess?”.  Wrap them around a piece of plywood cut in an hour glass shape, if you’re really cooky put them back on the original packing they came in.  What ever your method do this when you take them down, you’ll be glad.  
Have fun with your lights.  I like to see things like peace signs, music symbols, menorahs and zodiac symbols on the side of the house.  A little of center, keeps the neighbors guessing and reminds us all that it really is the season.  Happy Holidays.