While Christmas lights continue to get more impressive with what they can do, such as color-changing or twinkling effects, one thing they can’t do is stay up year-round. Most holiday lighting is rated for at most 90 days but, how did they come up with that time frame? Thanks to the folks at Underwriters Laboratories, they created a standard, UL 588 (The Standard for Safety of Seasonal Use Decorative-Lighting Products, read more(here) and they conduct testing on products to ensure their construction and usage is safe and appropriate. In more recent years, they have included provisions for year-round string light products under UL 588, however, most products used for the holidays are only meant for a short duration, which is 90 days at most. This ensures products are out of the elements and less likely to deteriorate and pose a safety issue as each year many house fires can be attributed to holiday decorations.
Labeling: You also can mark all light connections with color-coordinated tape or outdoor zip ties. So the male electrical end and the corresponding female electrical end would have matching colors (We like these from home depot). Use duct or electrical tape on bulbs that are placed on key points such as roof peaks, corners, etc. It is also helpful to label each individual strand or section…resist the urge to just throw them in the box for next year!
Maintenance: Some light strands are easier than others to replace bulbs when they go out. In our experience, it is often a fruitless endeavor to replace bulbs, so often times we replace the entire strand. However, don’t be surprised that the new strand looks different when lit up compared to the older ones. Lights that have been used for a season or two will have a different hue from when they were new. Additionally, new light strands will differ slightly from the manufacturer even though they are advertised as the same color. Bulbs are not the only item to look out for; be sure to check plugs and wiring for damage and wear and replace them as needed.
Storage: When storing lights it is important to store them correctly. For strands with wider spacing or larger bulbs, wrap the strand in large loops about 5-7 bulbs long. For mini light strands, we recommend wrapping them into a ball (stay tuned for a tutorial). We like to use the black and yellow storage totes often found at hardware stores. But before you call it a season, pro tip: put a silica packet in the storage bin. Keeping moisture away will increase the lifespan and overall safety of your lights.
Hopefully, some of this information will help you have an easier and therefore safer install next year. Of course, you can always contact a professional for the safest installation option. If you have any takedown or install questions we are on Facebook and Instagram and try to respond to all inquiries.