Hey there, festive folks! When the holidays roll around each year, many homeowners find themselves contemplating the idea of installing permanent Christmas lights. These lights, as the name suggests, remain in place year-round and eliminate the hassle of putting them up and taking them down each year. They are highly customizable, allowing you to use them for any holiday or event throughout the year. But is it possible to install your own permanent Christmas lights?
Multiple Options to Choose From
Permanent Christmas lights are a popular trend among homeowners who want to enjoy the festive ambiance all year long. There are several options available to install permanent Christmas lights ranging from paying someone to do it for you to doing it completely yourself from scratch.
The most common option people use is to have a company install the lights for them. There are dozens of companies out there that do this, each with their own pros and cons depending on what you like. This is also the most expensive option by far. You can usually expect to pay anywhere from $18-30 per linear foot of lights. The nice thing about this option is that you don’t need to stress about installing it and everything should work when the installers are finished. So if you’ve got plenty of money and don’t mind spending several thousand dollars, this is probably the best option for you.
Do It Yourself
The cheapest option at $2-10 per linear foot, but also the most complicated, is to do everything yourself. You will need to do a lot of research on different LED controllers, power supplies, LEDs, how to wire everything together, etc. After you’ve done all the research, you then need to buy all the different parts and install it, hoping that you did it correctly. Luckily, there is a pretty large community of LED enthusiasts online that are more than glad to help you out if you have questions or run into any issues! If you’re on a tight budget and willing to put in the time, this could be a great option for you.
A middle-of-the-road option is to purchase a DIY kit. These kits come with the majority of what you need to do it yourself such as the hardware and instructions. These kits can vary from $6-18 per linear foot of lights. They are usually not too complicated to install, but can take quite a bit of your time. This is the option we recommend for most people because it is significantly cheaper than professional installation, but not as complicated as doing it all yourself because the research has been done for you. Our DIY Kits come with everything you need except the channel, and have some of the best instructions out there available for DIY kits.
What Do I Need to DIY it?
So you want to DIY it all yourself? Here are some things that you will need. We recommend doing further research on all of these things, because there is a lot of information out there. There are resources you can go to to learn more about these things if you go down to the bottom of the post.
- LEDs – The two option for LEDs are strips and strings. If you like a higher density of LEDs, you will want to use strips. If you want more space between each LED so it looks a bit more like traditional Christmas lights, you will want to use pixels. There are different voltages that LEDs come in, but the most common are 5V and 12V. For larger houses, we recommend using 12V because it makes power management a lot easier.
- LED Controller – This is the brains of the system. There are several out there, but one of the most popular is the Dig-Uno. It is fairly inexpensive and runs on WLED, an open-source LED control software that has some of the best customization available.
- Power Supply – The power supply you need depends on the voltage and how many LEDs you are using. The data sheet on the LEDs you get should tell you how many power each LED consumes, so you will want to calculate how big of a power supply you need using Watts = Voltage * Amperage. We also recommend doing a bit of research on reputable power supply brands. We always recommend using Mean Well, as they are among the best.
- Electrical Enclosure – You will want to put your power supply and LED controller inside an enclosure of some sort. Most people will use an inexpensive sprinkler box because they are usually big enough and designed to have cables coming out of them.
- 18 AWG / 3 Conductor Cable – This is the cable you will use to connect your LED controller to the LEDs. It’s also the cable used to make jumps between LEDs if you have a spot where you don’t want them or if you’re jumping to a different part of your roof. MaxBrite makes some cable specifically for LEDs that you can get for about $0.40 per foot on Amazon.
- 18 AWG / 2 Conductor Cable – This is cable you will use to provide additional power to the LEDs. Part of what makes installation tricky is power management. The farther you go with LEDs, the more the voltage will drop. Eventually the voltage will drop too low and the LEDs won’t produce the correct colors. To fix this, you run this 18/2 cable directly from your power supply or LED controller to different points on your run of LEDs.
- Wire Splices – You need something to connect and splice wires together. We recommend using heat shrink butt connectors or solder seal connectors. It doesn’t really matter what you use, but you do want to make sure it’s water proof.
- Channel / Trim – The channel you use will vary a lot depending on whether you decide to use LED strips or strings. If using strips, most people will use LED strip diffusers which is a small channel that holds the strips and diffuses the light from them. If you’re using strings, a very common option is to use vinyl J-channel from Home Depot or Lowe’s. You then drill holes into it (usually 12mm) and pop in each individual LED.
- Screws – Use these to attach the channel to your house
- Wire Strippers – You can get these very cheap. You’ll be stripping a lot of wires.
- Drill Bit – If you are needing to drill holes for your LEDs, you will need a drill bit. We’ve found that using a step drill bit makes very clean holes in vinyl J-channel.
- Tin Snips – We recommend using tin snips to cut the channel because it cuts through it like butter, but if you have another tool readily available that can cut it you can use that.
- Measuring Tape
How do I install The Lights?
Now that you’ve done all the research and purchased everything you need to install permanent Christmas lights yourself, it’s time to install it! We recommend grabbing a friend of family member to help you out, because having two people makes the job significantly easier. You will want to plan on it taking at least 8 hours, but it might take a lot longer than that.
Giving step-by-step instructions will make this post extremely long, as there is so much information out there and it’s hard to put it all in one post. So instead we’ll refer you to some great resources. A really good resource is The Hookup on YouTube. He has multiple videos on installing LEDs, but this one does a very good job of giving a good overview of options and things you need to consider. If you’re using LED strings, take a look at our DIY Kit Instructions. They will give you a good idea of how to install your own, but be aware that you will need to change some things such as power injection. We also have another post that has a tad more info on installation. You will definitely want to do research on power injection because that will vary a lot depending on what you are using and how many LEDs you need. If you need help with troubleshooting and are using WLED, they have a discord server with plenty of people willing to help out.
After writing all of this, I realized it’s not exactly what I was going for and might not be what you hoped for, but I still think it will be helpful and a good starting point to give you an idea of everything you need to install permanent Christmas lights on your own.