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How to Power Outdoor Christmas Lights: Simple Tips for a Festive Glow

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You’re ready to decorate the outside of your home and realize you only have one outdoor outlet. How do you power your outdoor Christmas lights?

how to power outdoor christmas lights

Decorating the exterior of our home during the holiday season can often cause a dilemma when we only have one outdoor outlet available. Fortunately, there are several ways to power up our outdoor Christmas lights and create a dazzling display. In this article, we’ll explore various options to ensure our festive decorations shine brightly.

We’ll discuss utilizing existing outdoor outlets, running extension cords from inside the home, using solar lights or panels, and operating on battery power. Additionally, we’ll cover safety precautions to keep in mind when handling electricity and string lights, dos and don’ts of extension cords, wattage considerations, the importance of turning off lights when not in use, and how to check for heat generated by our lighting setup.

Use Existing External Outlets

Obvious answer, I know. But we recommend using existing outdoor electrical outlets when setting up lights. If outdoor outlets are lacking, consider using a light socket adaptor that screws into the porch light fixture.

Run an Extension Cord from Inside the Home

extension cord

If you find yourself without an outdoor outlet, don’t worry! We can still power your decorations by running a heavy duty extension cord from inside your home or garage. These heavy duty extension cords are designed to handle the electrical demands of longer distances and outdoor conditions.

To further enhance your festive setup, consider using a waterproof power stake along with your outdoor extension cord. These power stakes often feature built-in photocells and timers, allowing your decorations to turn on when it gets dark and off at a time of your choosing.

For an audio-visual treat, some power stakes even come with built-in speakers to play music and sync your lights to specific songs. By using these handy accessories, we can bring your outdoor holiday decorations to life, even without a dedicated outdoor outlet.

Use Solar Lights or Panels

Looking for an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to decorate? Solar lights are a fantastic choice with numerous beautiful solar-powered Christmas light strands available. Here are some styles we love:

These lights often have color settings and pattern flash modes. Some even come with Bluetooth enabled capabilities, allowing them to dance to the music you download from an app.

bluetooth enabled lights

For more power and the possibility of using existing LED light strands, consider a portable power system which includes solar panel, solar generator, and more. These reasonably priced power sources can also be helpful in emergencies and while camping.

Using Batteries to Power Outdoor Lights

We recommend using battery-powered light displays for versatility in decorating various objects. With batteries, you can effortlessly illuminate:

  • People
  • Cars
  • Bicycles (with care)
  • Sleds

Enjoy the freedom of decorating moving objects with colorful and diverse fairy lights!

Safety Precautions when Using Electricity and String Lights

We all know that working with electricity requires caution, and it’s essential to keep safety in mind when using string lights, especially outdoors. To prevent accidents like fires, electrical shocks, and even death, let’s follow these preventative measures:

  • Use waterproof, heavy-duty extension cords: These cords are insulated and can handle higher voltages without heating up.
  • Opt for low voltage decorative lights: They reduce electrical hazards and are energy-efficient.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets: Stick to one light string per outlet to avoid overloading.
  • Keep cords away from potential damage: Avoid placing cords where they might be damaged, such as under rugs or near sharp objects.
  • Turn off Christmas lights when not in use: This helps prevent accidents and also saves energy.

By following these simple safety precautions, we can create a safe and festive atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

The Don’ts of Extension Cords

We recommend avoiding the following when using extension cords:

  • Damaging locations: Don’t place cords where they can be damaged or cause injury.
  • Door/window closures: Avoid closing doors or windows on cords, which could break internal wires.
  • Walkway crossings: Refrain from laying cords across driveways or sidewalks. Use a cable ramp if necessary.
  • Standing water: Despite cords being waterproof, never let them sit in standing water or snow. A safety cover can help prevent water intrusion.

Pay Attention to Wattage

It’s essential for us to be mindful of the wattage when it comes to our home’s outlets, especially during the festive season. Overloading outlets can lead to potential hazards. To keep our home safe, let’s follow these simple steps:

  1. Identify the Circuit Breaker: Locate the home electrical breaker box and find the specific breaker for the outlets you’ll be using for Christmas lights.
  2. Determine Existing Load on the Circuit: Figure out what devices are running on that circuit, such as overhead lights, appliances, or televisions. Anything that turns off when you turn off the breaker is on the circuit.
  3. Calculate the Total Wattage: Check the wattage rating on bulbs or appliances on the circuit. Add these watts together. Then, add the wattage of the decorations you plan to connect to the outlet. Divide the total by 120 to get the amps used.
  4. Stay Within Limitations: Use the formula Watts ÷ Volts = Amps to ensure that your circuit doesn’t become overloaded. For instance, if your breaker box states that the circuit has a 15 amp capacity, avoid going over 15 amps with your connected devices and decorations.

By paying attention to wattage and following these steps, we can keep our home safe this festive season!

Remember to Turn Your Lights Off

We should:

  • Turn display lights off when not home
  • Switch them off before sleep


  • Reduces fire risk
  • Lowers power bills

Check for Heat

We should always keep an eye on light strands, outlets, and cords to ensure they don’t overheat. Choosing LED lights is a great idea, as they stay cool and use 98% – 99% less electricity compared to older lights. For those using older lights, remember to:

  • Inspect cords for damage
  • Look for loose or missing bulbs
  • Replace any missing bulbs before hanging

Keeping these tips in mind will help us maintain a safe and enjoyable space.

You Can Power Outdoor Christmas Lights

We can brighten our outdoor spaces this holiday season with various power options. Going off-grid is possible by using solar and batteries. Choosing LED lights and timers can minimize power consumption and save on electrical costs. Don’t forget to explore our creative ideas for Christmas tree lights and our top outdoor Christmas lights picks.

Safety Precautions for Outdoor Christmas Lights

When it comes to decorating for the holidays, outdoor Christmas lights are a popular choice. However, it’s important to keep safety in mind when installing and using them. Here are some tips to ensure your outdoor Christmas lights are installed and used safely:

  1. Use weather-resistant lights: Make sure the lights you use are rated for outdoor use and are designed to withstand the elements. Look for lights that have been tested and certified by a recognized safety organization such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  2. Inspect your lights: Before installing your lights, inspect them for any signs of damage such as frayed wires, broken bulbs, or cracked sockets. Discard any damaged lights and replace them with new ones.
  3. Use outdoor-rated extension cords: If you need to use an extension cord, make sure it is rated for outdoor use and is the correct gauge for the length of cord you need. Do not use indoor extension cords outdoors as they are not designed to withstand the elements.
  4. Don’t overload circuits: Avoid overloading circuits by using no more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum number of sets of lights that can be connected together.
  5. Use a timer: To save energy and reduce the risk of fire, use a timer to turn your lights on and off automatically. This will also ensure that your lights are not left on all night.

By following these safety precautions, you can enjoy your outdoor Christmas lights while ensuring the safety of your home and family.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Replacing Burnt Out Bulbs

One of the most common issues with outdoor Christmas lights is a burnt out bulb. A single burnt out bulb can cause an entire strand of lights to go out. To identify which bulb is causing the issue, start by unplugging the lights and examining each bulb for any signs of damage. If you find a burnt out bulb, replace it with a new one of the same wattage and type.

It’s important to note that different types of bulbs require different wattages, so be sure to check the packaging or manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you are using the correct replacement bulb. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to keep a few spare bulbs on hand in case of any future issues.

Dealing with Power Outages

Another common issue with outdoor Christmas lights is power outages. If your lights suddenly go out, the first step is to check if the outlet or circuit breaker has tripped. If the outlet or circuit breaker is functioning properly, the issue may be with the lights themselves.

One way to check if the lights are the issue is to plug them into a different outlet or circuit. If the lights work in a different location, the issue is likely with the original outlet or circuit. If the lights still don’t work, the issue may be with the wiring or the lights themselves.

In this case, it may be best to consult a professional electrician to identify and fix the issue. It’s important to never attempt to repair electrical issues yourself, as it can be dangerous and potentially cause further damage.

Maintaining Outdoor Christmas Lights

To ensure that your outdoor Christmas lights remain in good condition and last for many years, it is important to properly maintain them. Here are a few tips to help you keep your lights shining bright throughout the holiday season:

  1. Check for Damaged Bulbs: Before installing your lights, inspect each bulb for any damages such as cracks or broken filaments. Damaged bulbs should be replaced to prevent electrical issues and ensure that the entire string of lights stays lit.
  2. Clean the Lights: Over time, outdoor Christmas lights can become dirty due to exposure to the elements. Use a soft cloth or sponge to gently clean the lights and remove any dirt or debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the bulbs or wiring.
  3. Store the Lights Properly: Once the holiday season is over, it is important to store your outdoor Christmas lights properly to prevent damage and ensure they are ready for use next year. Remove any debris or dirt from the lights before storing them in a dry, cool place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to plug in outdoor lights?

The best way to plug in outdoor lights is to use weatherproof outdoor power outlets with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). These outlets can help prevent electric shock and are safe for outdoor use. Make sure to use outdoor-rated extension cords and plug your lights into a circuit that has enough capacity to handle the wattage of your lights.

How can I hang Christmas lights outside without nails?

There are several alternatives to using nails when hanging Christmas lights outside:

  • Use outdoor light clips that can attach to gutters, shingles, or siding
  • Utilize adhesive hooks that are designed for outdoor use
  • Obtain magnetic clips for metal surfaces
  • Use zip ties for securing lights around railings or posts

Are there battery powered outdoor Christmas lights?

Yes, there are battery-powered outdoor Christmas lights available. These lights are usually LED and can be operated with standard AA or AAA batteries. They often come with built-in timers and remote controls for convenient operation. Battery-powered lights are perfect for decorating areas where power outlets are not readily accessible.

What is an outdoor power strip for Christmas lights?

An outdoor power strip for Christmas lights is a weatherproof power strip designed specifically for powering multiple strands of outdoor lights. These power strips come with built-in GFCI protection and multiple outlets to make connecting all your outdoor lights easier and safer.

How can you power string lights without an outlet?

If you don’t have an outdoor power outlet, there are a few alternative ways to power your string lights:

  • Utilize battery-powered string lights
  • Invest in solar-powered string lights with an attached solar panel
  • Use a weatherproof extension cord to connect your string lights to an indoor outlet
  • Consider hiring an electrician to install an outdoor outlet in a suitable location

Where is the best place to plug in outdoor Christmas lights?

The best place to plug in your outdoor Christmas lights is into a weatherproof, GFCI-protected outdoor power outlet. These outlets will help prevent electrical shock and ensure the safety of your holiday decorations. Be sure to use outdoor-rated extension cords and run them along the ground or along structures like fences to minimize trip hazards and keep your cords out of sight.

There are a few ways to power your outdoor Christmas light display.

  • Use existing external outlets
  • Use solar
  • Use battery power

By following these simple maintenance tips, you can keep your outdoor Christmas lights shining bright for many years to come.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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