Christmas lighting mistakes – lighting experts reveal 7 errors to avoid

Be confident when setting up your light display by brushing up on the Christmas lighting mistakes to avoid

Christmas lighting mistakes
(Image credit: Furniture And Choice)

Christmas lighting is an integral part of preparing your home for the holiday season, adding festive warmth and creating visual interest. However, without proper planning, you may run into some Christmas lighting mistakes which can undermine the visual appeal of your display, as well as posing a safety hazard. 

It's important to be aware of what not to do when it comes to Christmas lights to ensure your Christmas lighting display is done correctly the first time around. Hanging Christmas lights around the home and outside can be a long and intricate process, so properly planning and ensuring you have all the necessary items will make this a more seamless job.

Below, our lighting experts have explained the mistakes to avoid choosing and displaying Christmas lights and how to steer clear of these, guaranteeing a successful Christmas display.

Christmas lighting mistakes

The best way to avoid any issues when it comes to Christmas lights is to start by devising a lighting plan. 

Outline the areas you want to highlight and ensure you have the correct lights and necessary supplies. Measure the spaces to estimate the number of lights required, ensuring you don't come up short. 

1. Neglecting power source planning

Tree of lights, star on top

(Image credit: Graham & Green)

'In my opinion, the most common mistake that homeowners make when it comes to Christmas lighting is not planning for the power source,' explains Nicole Saunders, interior design specialist, and the founder of The Design Build Vault. 'I can't stress enough the importance of knowing how many outlets you have available and their location.

'Look for nearby outlets and consider investing in extension cords if needed. This will save you a lot of hassle and potential safety hazards down the line.'

Be realistic about setting up lights in a location that is far from a power source, since stretching wires and extension cords across spaces may be a tripping hazard, as well as being difficult to set up. If there is not a power source close by, reconsider the location of your light display.

2. Getting the lighting temperature wrong

Doorway decorated with garland, christmas tree in background

(Image credit: Future / Sarah Kaye Representation Ltd.)

'One of the most common mistakes when buying Christmas lighting is choosing the wrong lighting temperature to suit our home,' says Marlena Kaminska, designer at Value Lights

'To achieve that snug festive glow which is so quintessential to a cosy Christmas, stay away from cool whites which can spread harsh hues.'

Instead, opt for warm white or soft-colored LED lights to create a cozy atmosphere without overpowering the space.

'Or, if you’re looking to add a splash of colour to your Christmas decor, why not try multicoloured string lights in a sophisticated colorway such as greens, orange and purple,' recommends Marlena Kaminska.

'No matter the temperature you choose, the most important thing to remember is to always keep this consistent and cohesive throughout your Christmas lighting in each room.'

Marlena Kaminska
Marlena Kaminska

Marlena Kaminska is the Lead digital designer at Value Lights with a background in interior design. Taking a design role at home lighting brand ValueLights, Marlena merges her interior design expertise with her digital design prowess to bring innovation and style to the world of lighting.

3. Non-cohesive lighting choices

Christmas dining

(Image credit: Annabel James)

Lighting, whether indoor or outdoor, will always be an eye-catching decoration, so it's important to ensure it doesn't stand out for the wrong reasons by choosing lighting that is cohesive with your decor, as well as with other lighting in your home and yard.

'Ensure your lighting aligns with your overall decor theme,' advises Marcus Prieto, CEO of Gonengo Lighting. 'Avoid mixing contrasting styles or colors that clash with your interior design scheme. Choose a cohesive lighting scheme that complements your indoor decor.'

Choose lights with consistent a color temperature to display together and style when combining different types of lights. Mixing warm and cool white lights or varying bulb styles might create a mismatched look

Nicole Saunders also explains, 'Light strands come in various sizes and lengths, so it's important to make sure they match when decorating your home. What people often forget is that the wattage of each strand should also match.

'Mixing different wattages can lead to uneven lighting and potentially cause a fire hazard. It's always better to stick with one type of light strand for a more cohesive look.'

4. Ignoring scale and proportion

Hanging oranges and leaves from branch, fairy lights

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Avoid using an excessive number of lights in a small space, since it can be overwhelming. On the other hand, in a larger space, too few lights may get lost, appearing underwhelming.

'To achieve a balanced and attractive display, it's essential to consider the size of your home and the area you want to decorate,' explains Nicole Saunders. 'Avoid overdoing it by considering how many lights you have and where they will be placed. 

'Always remember, less is often more. '

Adjust the quantity of lights based on the size of the area you're decorating to find the right balance.

5. Using indoor lights outdoors

Outdoor Christmas lights on tree over lake

(Image credit: Annabel James)

'Indoor lights are not designed to withstand the outdoor elements, especially during the winter season. Using indoor Christmas lights outdoors can lead to electrical issues and pose a safety hazard,' explains Nicole Saunders. 'Always use lights that are specifically labeled for outdoor use.'

'An IP rating is given to lighting to determine how weatherproof it is,' explains Marlena Kaminska. 'When buying outdoor Christmas lighting, it’s really important to check that products are rated IP44 or above to withstand any winter rain, wind and snow it may be subject to.'

We recommend these Ollny outdoor Christmas lights, from Amazon.

'After taking down your decorations, make sure to label lighting before storing it away so you know what can be used outdoors and what is best kept inside,' adds Marlena Kaminska. 

6. Overlooking safety considerations

Tree lights

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

Safety should always be a top priority when it comes to Christmas lighting. Avoid
overloading electrical outlets, secure wires, only use lights outdoors that are rated for exterior use, don't neglect waterproofing measures and and turn off decorations when you're not at home.

To avoid overloading electrical circuits, you can distribute lights across multiple outlets to prevent tripped breakers and potential fire hazards. 

'Ensure your lights are installed securely and safely to prevent them from tangling or being a tripping hazard. Avoid using nails or staples that could damage walls or create safety hazards,' recommends Marcus Prieto. 

Securing your cables can enhance the appearance of your Christmas display while helping to maintain its integrity throughout the holiday season.

As well as using outdoor lights when decorating your yard, you should also use weather-resistant outdoor extension cords, such as this extension cord, from Amazon, and waterproof lights specifically designed for exterior use.

Overlapping lights is another mistake that can lead to overheating issues. Give enough space between strands to prevent overheating and potential safety hazards. You can use LED lights which consume less energy and are less likely to overheat. 

Flemoon Outdoor Extension Cord Safety Cover | Was $19.99, now $14.81

Flemoon Outdoor Extension Cord Safety Cover | Was $19.99, now $14.81

If you are planning to use an extension cord for your outdoor lights to extend the range to which you can display them, use a safety cover to avoid any safety issues. This cover has a waterproof seal.

7. Forgetting to check lights

Christmas lights

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

There is nothing worse than setting up your whole display and having to take it all down due to a few faulty bulbs, so always inspect lights before installation.

Replace any damaged or burnt-out bulbs, and ensure the entire string is in good condition. A few faulty bulbs can cause an entire string of lights to malfunction or pose a safety risk, so it's important to fix broken Christmas lights to save you from having to buy a new set. Declutter any lights that are broken beyond repair.


What are good features to look for when choosing Christmas lights?

Choosing quality Christmas lights with customizable features can improve your lighting displays, enhancing the seasonal atmosphere. Some good smart lighting features to look for when choosing Christmas lights include:  

1. Timers to automate lighting schedules. This not only conserves energy but also ensures your display is consistently lit during the desired hours without the hassle of manual operation. You can set the lights to turn on for sunset or to turn off when you leave the house. 

2. 'Install dimmer switches to control the intensity of your lights. This allows for versatile ambiance settings, especially during gatherings or quieter evenings,' explains Marcus Prieto, CEO of Gonengo Lighting. 'Consider smart lighting systems or dimmers to adjust brightness and create various moods. This flexibility enhances the overall atmosphere.'

When storing your Christmas lights after the holidays, consider labelling the different lights according to their length, color, whether they need fixing, indoor or outdoor use, etc. This can save you time when deciding which lights to use where next year. You can use this label maker, from Amazon.

Christmas lighting it's about creating depth and layers to add visual interest. Incorporate various types of lighting, from string lights, candles and decorative lamps, to animal figurine lights to create a dynamic display.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.