Can You Really Leave Your Christmas Lights Up All Year?
December 20, 2022
Interior and exterior lighting is an area that Debbie and I are focusing on in our home build project. Thanks to a lot of very compelling and innovative smart lighting options we have the opportunity to leverage a standard home amenity to address specific needs but also add creativity to the mix.
Just to be clear, I am not a fan of putting up and taking down Christmas lights on the exterior of our home. I know it’s fun and festive and all to see the lights at night during the Holidays but getting out there in cold, sometimes inclement weather, twice just doesn’t sound worth it to me. Call me Scrooge but the safety logistics alone are a little frightening. So when the option to incorporate smart lighting into areas of our home for special occasions presented itself I was curious.
If you left your Christmas lights up year-round, they would not only look unsightly, but they’d also wear out quickly. Christmas lights might be weather-resistant, but they aren’t intended to be left on your home for years at a time. Imagine permanent Christmas lights that stayed up all year AND you don’t get nasty looks from your neighbors.
The solution? Permanent Christmas lights are a kind of residential architectural lighting you install once and use at Christmas, as well as other holidays, game days and even day-to-day lighting. Think of it like the smart Christmas lights you might use around your home but scaled up for your entire home and left up all year. There are practical applications also since they’re smart lights — like having them turn red to make your home easily identifiable for first responders in the event of a fire or medical emergency — either automated or via voice assistant command.
The lights are made up of a series of bright LED modules affixed along the soffit, trim work, or both and concealed in specialty plastic or aluminum channels designed to blend in with your home’s color. If you look closely when the lights are turned off, you can see them the same way you can see soffit vents. But they blend in well enough to look like part of the home, not strings of wires tacked down everywhere.
And you’re not limited to just warm white. Not only are permanent Christmas lights customizable with multiple colors, they can also do patterns, light shows, and are individually addressable for as much holiday customization as you can imagine.
You can take three approaches to installing permanent Christmas lights:
- Professional installation
- DIY installation with professional hardware
- DIY installation with consumer-grade off-the-shelf materials.
All things considered, I’d recommend professional installation if you’re serious about permanent Christmas lights. If you want it done quickly, without you risking your neck on a ladder, and you want tech support and help if one of the modules burns out, then using an authorized installer is the way to go.
There are several companies in the market — Gemstone Lights, JellyFish Lighting, TrimLights, and MyEverLights — that are authorized installers across North America. You may find that only a few service your region, like here in Canyon, TX, which can make deciding on who to use a little easier.
Expect to pay about $25–30 per linear foot. Installation for the average American home runs around $4500–5000, and larger homes (or wrap-around jobs on smaller homes with front, sides, and back lighting) can cost upwards of $10,000. As we’re planning exterior accent lighting anyway, it’ll make the cost of Holiday lighting more palatable though we’re not looking for anything to win us awards or to be seen from space.
Several vendors listed above, like Jellyfish Lighting and MyEverLights offer installation kits for handy folks. Jellyfish has great instructions for a DIYer to follow, and if you give them accurate measurements and photos of your home, they’ll help you pick out all the parts you need for a perfect DIY install.
You can drop the cost of a professional installation down to around $3000–3500 if you’re willing to bust out the ladder and spend a weekend looking closely at your roof. On the upside, you save.
On the downside, you need the right ladders, tools, skills, and time. And you won’t have all of the extra stuff you might need like extra channels and modules to ensure installation delays will be minimal to non-existent. Considering the potential lifespan of the installation, going the DIY route does save you money, but averaged over time, you’re saving about $50–100 a year over having a professional do it for you.
Historically, permanent outdoor holiday lighting has been the province of professional installers working for wealthy clients. Not only can you get DIY kits with professional materials, as I’ve highlighted, but the continually falling price of LEDs and consumer electronics has brought permanent Christmas lights to the off-the-shelf consumer market.
This past fall, Govee, who offers a variety of reasonably priced LED landscape lighting, smart LED strips, and other fun lighting accessories, released a very economical permanent outdoor lighting solution. Available in 100-foot, 50-foot, and 16.4-foot extension lengths, the Govee kits bring the cost to install permanent holiday lights down from thousands of dollars to around $500 for the average home.
On the upside, you save a ton of money, and the system ties in smoothly with Govee’s app and solid smart home integration. I’ve ordered other Govee smart lighting kits and found them and the app very easy to work with.
There are a few downsides, though. Other than the general current supply chain issues, not only are you responsible for the installation, but the Govee setup doesn’t come with channels to conceal the wires. If you are an experienced DIYer, you could probably rig something up with common aluminum flashing or channels. Further, complex installs with multiple peaks or other variables are trickier because the system is designed to be plug-and-play versus custom to your home. Still, it’s tough to beat the price.
If you’re not one of those people who lives for Christmas, this may not be worth it to you. Even spending $300–500 on the Govee lights is a lot of money if Christmas lighting just isn’t that important to you.
But let’s say you get out there every year in the cold and string lights on your house, or you pay a local company to get up there and string them for you. It’s easy to drop $300 a year on holiday lighting installation.
Given that permanent Christmas lights should last about ten years, based on 6 hours of use a day (even longer if you’re not using them daily for holiday or general architectural lighting), it suddenly starts to look pretty reasonable. In the case of our build, our plan is to leverage architecture lighting for Holiday effects for Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July, etc.
In either scenario, you’re paying thousands of dollars (or a lot of unpaid labor) over a decade but only in the permanent Christmas light situation do you get year-round utility out of your investment. No doubt about it, dropping a couple of thousand bucks on specialty lighting for your home could be considered extravagant.
All of the above regarding pricing pertains to retrofits on homes. I our case we have yet to run through the final electrical details but we’ve always had the intention to incorporate smart lighting in our exterior lights. Not just with the flexibility around colors or scenes but also incorporating smart switches for easy control from inside the house or automating on/off. I covered the benefits outdoor smart outlets for traditional Holiday out door lights (and other things like inflatables) in my previous post ‘Holiday Decorating Hack: Smart Plugs.’
I’m curious if permanent Holiday lighting, regardless of installation preference, is something you’d consider. You can’t argue the convenience of having lights you don’t have to install or remove and have the ability to control with an app. How would you design your home? Would you use it for all the Holidays or just special occasions? What about the more practical applications, any interest there?
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails about your thoughts around permanent Holiday lighting. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’ Until next week …
In full disclosure, I’m not an affiliate marketer with links to any online retailer on my website. When people read what I’ve written about a particular product and then click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn nothing from the retailer. The links are strictly a convenience for my readers.