How many Christmas lights do I need for house?

Determining how many Christmas lights you need to decorate your house is an important part of holiday planning. The right amount of lights can create a festive and cheery display that delights your family and impresses your neighbors. Too few lights may leave your home looking dull and uninspired, while too many can appear cluttered and overwhelming. Follow this guide to find the perfect number of Christmas lights for your home.

Calculate the Square Footage of Your Home

The first step is to measure the exterior square footage of your home. This includes all sides of the house that you plan to decorate with lights. Use a measuring tape to determine the length and height of each section where you will hang lights. Multiply the length by the height to calculate the square footage of each facade. Add up the square footage of all decorated sides of the house to get your total.

For example, if your front facade is 50 feet wide by 20 feet tall, that section is 50 x 20 = 1,000 square feet. Add the same calculations for the other sides of your home to get the total decorated square footage.

Tips for Measuring

  • For multi-story homes, calculate each level separately.
  • Remember to include garage doors, overhangs, and dormers.
  • Round up to the nearest whole number for convenience.

Choose a Lighting Density

The next step is to decide on your desired lighting density. Lighting density refers to how full and intense you want the light display to appear. Recommended lighting densities include:

  • Light: 200-400 lights per 100 square feet
  • Medium: 400-600 lights per 100 square feet
  • Heavy: 600-1000 lights per 100 square feet

Light density creates a nice glow with room between bulbs. It works well for highlighting architectural details. Medium density completely covers the space for a fuller look. Heavy density has lights packed tightly together for maximum sparkle.

Factors for Lighting Density

  • Architectural style and features
  • Personal preference for dazzle
  • Landscaping that may obscure lights

Do the Math

Use your square footage and desired density to calculate the total lights needed. Take your total decorated square footage and divide by 100. Then multiply that number by your desired density range to get your total lights.

For example:

  • Total decorated square footage: 1,500
  • Lighting density: Medium (400-600 lights per 100 square feet)
  • 1,500/100 = 15
  • 15 * 400 to 600 = 6,000 to 9,000 lights

So for a 1,500 square foot house with medium density, you’ll need 6,000 to 9,000 total lights.

Lighting Math Formulas

  • Total square feet / 100 = X
  • X * (density per 100 square feet) = Total lights needed

Choose Bulb Types and Styles

Once you know approximately how many lights you need, it’s time to pick the bulb styles. Basic options include:

  • Mini lights: Small bulbs on a wire spaced 2-3 inches apart. Provide uniform coverage.
  • C7 lights: Medium round bulbs spaced 4-6 inches apart. Retro look.
  • C9 lights: Large bulbs with 2.5 inch spacing. Make a bold statement.

You’ll also need to choose between bulb colors like clear, solid colors, RGB, etc. Multiply your total by the number of colors used to account for any extra needed.

Consider mixing styles on different parts of your display for visual interest. For example, mini lights across roof edges with C9 lights lining columns and garages.

Tips for Choosing Bulb Types

  • Use mini lights for a consistent and classic look.
  • C7 and C9 lights make great accents on columns, dormers, etc.
  • Choose one main color like all white or multicolor.
  • Accent with RGB sections to create visual focal points.

Factor In Extra Lights

It’s a good idea to buy 5-10% more lights than your calculations to account for any errors or breakages. Extra lights allow you to fill in dark spots, expand your display in future years, and make quick replacements if needed.

When buying lights:

  • Round total up to the nearest package size.
  • Check string lengths to estimate how many you need.
  • Purchase some backups and extras.

Create a Lighting Plan

A lighting plan will help you organize the setup and placement of your display. Sketch out a simple layout of your home including measurements. Use this to indicate the number and type of lights planned for each area. This allows you to buy the correct amount of each bulb style and split them up per section. Reference the plan when installing.

Maps out items like:

  • Outlining roof edges
  • Wrapping columns and posts
  • Framing windows and doors
  • Accenting shrubs and trees

You may need to refine your plan during installation, but it provides an excellent starting point.

Tips for Lighting Plans

  • Make it simple – just basic shapes and measurements.
  • Note which sections will be mini, C7, C9, etc.
  • Mark how many strings needed per section.
  • Call out any special features to accent.

Calculate Cord and Extension Needs

It’s important to have enough electrical cords and extensions on hand so you can run power to all areas you wish to light. Take note of available outlets and plot out how you’ll connect everything.

Estimating guidelines per 100 feet of lights:

  • Cords: 100 bulb mini light strand = 17 feet of cord
  • Extensions: 50-75 feet to connect between house and outlet

Measure total distances from your lighting plan and calculate total cord and extension lengths. Remember that timers, splitters, and stakes also take up cord length.

Tips for Cords and Extensions

  • Buy more than calculated – extra is handy for tricky spots
  • Use heavy duty grounded and outdoor-rated products
  • Split displays into sections with separate outlets
  • Minimize daisy-chaining with power strips and short extensions

Shop Early and Buy in Bulk

The best way to get all the lights and accessories you need at the lowest prices is to shop early and buy in bulk. Look for the following types of deals:

  • End of season clearances in January
  • Pre-season sales in October
  • Big box retailer bulk packs
  • Online wholesaler cases with free shipping

For the biggest savings:

  • Make a detailed list with exact product names and SKUs
  • Split items into separate online orders for discounts
  • Use coupon codes and loyalty programs
  • Shop with a credit card that offers cash back bonuses

Early Bird Shopping Tips

  • Buy lights right after Christmas for 75% off
  • Create reminders to shop summer and fall sales
  • Watch for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals
  • Buy enough for this year plus extra marked down lights

Factor In Extras and Accents

While lights are the foundation of your display, extras and accents can really make it stand out. Estimate about 10-20% more lights than your basic total to allow for these decorative touches. Extras to consider include:

  • Lighted greenery, wreaths, and garlands
  • Lighted decorations like trees, candles, and stars
  • RGB spotlights, flood lights, and projection lights
  • Flickering flame bulbs for lanterns and luminaries
  • Lighted wire frames, backdrops, and shapes

Also think about easier extras like ribbon, bows, ornaments, and signage to embellish your lights.

Tips for Enhancing with Extras

  • Wrap columns, railings, and posts with garlands
  • Use RGB lights to make focal point objects like trees
  • Backlight wreaths, shapes, and silhouettes
  • Project patterns on garage doors, walls, and sidewalks
  • Decorate entryways with arches, pom poms, and wreaths

Test and Troubleshoot Your Lights

It’s important to test out your entire light display before officially turning it on each season. As you unpack and set up each section:

  • Ensure all bulbs are working and screwed in tightly
  • Check for loose, broken, or exposed wires
  • Confirm extensions are grounded and rated for outdoor use
  • Plug in and walk through the display to catch any issues
  • Replace non-working strands to maintain even coverage

It’s much easier to identify and correct any problems now versus when it’s fully dark outside after you’ve officially switched them on.

Tips for Testing and Troubleshooting

  • Coil wires neatly to avoid tangles, snags, and trips
  • Use tie wraps, clips, and staples to secure wires in place
  • Check GFCI outlet function and circuit breakers
  • Keep spare fuses, bulbs, clips, and ties on hand
  • Note locations of any issues to recheck or repair

Have a Party to Turn Them On!

Once all the lights are ready, it’s time for the big reveal. Invite family, friends, and neighbors over to oooh and aaah as you officially switch on the display for the first time. This makes for a fun community event and kickoff to the holiday season.

Tips for a great lighting party:

  • Send written invitations 2-3 weeks in advance
  • Offer festive snacks, cookies, and warm beverages
  • Play holiday music over speakers
  • Have kids count down to the big lighting moment
  • Take group photos in front of the display after dark

Light up your home with pride and spread the holiday cheer!

Lighting Density Lights per 100 Sq Ft Description
Light 200-400 Nice glow with space between bulbs
Medium 400-600 Fuller look with lights fully covering space
Heavy 600-1000 Dense and dazzling display
Bulb Type Spacing Uses
Mini Lights 2-3 inches All-over uniform coverage
C7 Lights 4-6 inches Retro look on columns, dormers, etc.
C9 Lights 2.5 inches Bold display on edges, framing windows
Cord Type Estimate per 100 ft of Lights
Light Strand Cord 100 bulb mini strand = 17 ft cord
Extension Cord 50-75 ft to outlet

Leave a Comment