Christmas Mini Lights Buying Guide

Nov 09, 12 Christmas Mini Lights Buying Guide

Walk into any big box store this holiday season and you’ll see two, maybe three, options for Christmas mini lights: Number of bulbs, bulb color, and if you’re lucky, wire color. After all, these are the only choices most people consider.

But “most” people aren’t informed buyers. Any informed buyer craves selection, and that’s why we offer literally hundreds of mini light choices at 1000Bulbs.com.

Of course, with so many choices available, we realize it can be frustrating to find just the right mini lights you need, so to make that process easier, here’s a quick guide to buying mini lights.

Bulb Spacing

Have you ever had to double or triple-wrap a Christmas tree with lights to make it bright enough? The typical set of mini lights has bulb spacing (the amount of wire between individual bulbs) of 12 inches. In almost all cases, that’s too far apart.

The maximum bulb spacing for a Christmas tree, gutter, or house trim should be 6 inches, not 12. To wrap an outdoor tree trunk, pole, or banister, tighter bulb spacing of 4 inches is better. For wreaths, garlands, and other objects with a small diameter, you may even want to go with 2.5 inch spacing.

Wire Gauge

Wire gauge isn’t just a topic for electricians. When it comes to mini lights, the thicker the wire, the longer it lasts and the more end-to-end connections you can make.

The standard wire gauge for mini lights is 22 AWG, but for especially long runs or harsh outdoor conditions, use a thicker wire gauge of 20 or even 18 AWG (the smaller the number, the thicker the gauge).

Lead and Tail Length

Lead length is the distance from the outlet (the male plug) to the first bulb in a set of mini lights. It is typically 3 to 6 inches, but many shorter “craft” lights have longer leads of 2 feet or more.

Longer leads are great for wall-mounted items like wreaths that are usually far away from a wall socket. Having a longer lead means you won’t have lights “floating in space” before they reach their destination.

Tail length is the other end of the string (the female plug) that connects to the next string in the series.

Connection Options

Mentioned earlier in the section on wire gauge, mini lights with a thicker wire gauge are able to handle more end-to-end connections. Though the exact number may vary, most 22 AWG 100 light sets are UL listed for up to three end-to-end (male to female) connections. A 20 AWG set of the same length may be rated for twice that—6 connections. Exceed that recommendation and the fuses within the light string will overload and burn out.

Interestingly, the recommendation for a 50 light set is usually the same. Why? For safety reasons, UL does not recommend more than three end-to-end connections for a 22 AWG string light of any length. If you plan a particularly long run, it is better to use a few 100 or 150 light stands than several shorter strands.

What Are Your Plans?

What are your Christmas lighting plans this year? Let us know what you have in store. Drop us a line in the comments below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. If you have something especially interesting, we may even pin it on Pinterest!

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How to Pick a Christmas Tree

Oct 12, 12 How to Pick a Christmas Tree

Buying a Christmas tree, to many, is a yearly ritual of taking the family to a tree lot and buying a fresh, newly cut evergreen tree. For the more practical, it’s an ever-so-often trip to a store ending in “mart” to buy an artificial tree. There is always a conflict between aesthetics and practicality when it comes to buying a tree. What if you could select an artificial Christmas tree so realistic you would swear it even smelled like a real tree? What if it was also so well constructed you could pass it down for generations?

With today’s designer Christmas trees, like those from Barcana, that’s possible. Hardy branches, lifetime warranties, and quick setup are common to every tree we carry at 1000Bulbs.com. Though quality and durability are a given no matter which of our trees you choose, after you pick the size and the “species” of your tree, you have one decision left, whether to go with PVC or PE branches. Both are great options, but one or the other may be a better fit for your home or business.

The most common type of Christmas tree is made of polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC. At 1000Bulbs.com, we call these “classic” trees because they’re made of the material used to build Christmas trees for the past several decades. The manufacturing process is simple: Thin sheets of flexible PVC are cut into long, flat strips and then attached to a twisted wire shaft. Production of PVC trees is inexpensive, so savings that are passed to you, the customer. Though they aren’t the most exquisite option available, PVC Christmas trees are better constructed than they used to be, making them a good option for any homeowner on a budget.

Despite quality improvements, however, PVC trees barely compare to polyethylene, or PE, trees. Premium quality, ultra realistic PE Christmas trees are produced with the interior designer in mind. Their branches are injection molded and three-dimensional. Because the molds are created from real evergreen needles, PE branches are almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Though PE trees were once quite expensive, their price is now more in line with PVC trees, making them an option for homeowners as well as professional designers.

What both types of trees have in common is easy setup. If you remember tree setup taking an hour or more, you’ll be shocked to find out how quickly and easily you can set up a designer Christmas tree. If you don’t believe us, you can see for yourself in this Christmas tree setup video, where we set up a designer tree in less than 10 minutes! PE trees especially are almost “ready to go” right out of the box. The branches hold their shape well, even in storage, so they need very little “fluffing” and adjusting. Many models are even pre-lit with incandescent or LED lights. Whichever type you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

What kind of Christmas tree are you setting up this year? Let us know in the comments or drop up a line on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. We’d especially like to see your holiday decoration photos on Pinterest!

And one more thing: We’re giving away one of our designer Christmas trees on Facebook. Click here to enter!

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How to Choose Under Cabinet Lights

Sep 28, 12 How to Choose Under Cabinet Lights

Halogen, Xenon, Fluorescent, or LED: What is the best type of under cabinet lighting? If you’ve ever asked yourself that question, you were asking the wrong question. There is no “good, better, best” with under cabinet lights. Choosing the right light is a matter of personal preference, and it depends on how much you value dimming, heat reduction, color accuracy, and energy savings.

Xenon Light Bulb

Xenon Light Bulb

Xenon under cabinet lights are an update of older Halogen lights. Halogen under cabinet lights, especially the light “pucks” you see in hardware stores, are cheap and provide perfect color accuracy (color rendering index), but they use tons of energy and waste most of it as heat. Xenon keeps the benefits of Halogen, but burns brighter and cooler. Their color rendering makes granite countertops or trinkets in display cabinets look their absolute best, and because they are brighter than Halogens, Xenon bulbs save energy by using fewer watts than a Halogen bulb.

Fluorescent under cabinet lights are a great choice for bright, energy-efficient lighting that burns cool. They’re a popular choice in kitchen cabinets and pantries because they don’t add extra heat to their surroundings, which can increase the likelihood of food spoilage. Unfortunately, there are a number of trade-offs. Fluorescent lights have relatively poor color rendering — 80 CRI to Xenon’s 100 CRI — so they distort colors and make granite and marble countertops and backsplashes appear washed out. Furthermore, while they use much less energy than Halogen or even Xenon, they are not dimmable and some models are slow to reach full brightness.

LED Under Cabinet Light Bar

LED Under Cabinet Light

LED is the newest, most energy saving option for under cabinet lighting. To many, LED under cabinet lights are the perfect option. Unlike fluorescent, they are instant on and many models are dimmable. Unlike Halogen and Xenon, they also create very little heat. However, they do have two drawbacks: Color rendering and cost. Like fluorescent lights, their CRI is in the 80-90 range, so they aren’t the best choice when color accuracy is highly valued. They also have the highest up-front cost of any under cabinet choice. On the other hand, they will save the most in the long-term. LEDs use only a fraction of the energy consumed by other types of under cabinet lights. Even better, they last 20,000 to 60,000 hours,  so you’ll never have to replace them and will save on bulb replacement costs.

Again, your choice of under cabinet lights will depend on your specific needs. In general, however, if you prize color accuracy and don’t mind the heat, choose Xenon, but if you prefer energy savings and cool operation, go with fluorescent or LED. Of course, that’s only what we think. Let us know which under cabinet lighting option you prefer in the comments, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.

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Halloween Lighting Ideas

Sep 21, 12 Halloween Lighting Ideas

Halloween is just around the corner, and if you’re looking to have the spookiest haunted house on the block, we’re here to help! You can take a look at our Halloween lights page and even our brand-new lighted Halloween decorations for some quick ideas, but to go all-out, you’ll need to check out our Christmas lights.

If you find yourself asking why anyone in their right mind would use Christmas lights anytime outside of well…Christmas, put the incredulous tone aside for a minute and consider this: Though typically associated with the winter holidays, Christmas lights have all kinds of other uses, from weddings to birthday parties, so why not Halloween?

Looking for inspiration? Try these creepy Halloween ideas for colored light strings and bulbs: Use purple lights to create an eerie glow reminiscent of the full moon in a cemetery, or use orange lights to emulate the smoky flicker of a candle. Don’t stop there! Green lights emit the sickly pallor of toxic sludge while red lights ooze the unmistakable curdle…I mean, color…of blood. Another idea for light strings is to fit medium base patio light stringers with antique light bulbs for an efficient and portable “Addams Family” vibe.

Keep in mind, however, the idea is to scare the neighbors, not yourself. To avoid those spine-chilling energy bills this fall, you can go green with LED wide-angle lights or LED M5 lights for your Halloween display. You can also save on energy bills with battery-operated lights. A string of battery-operated LED Christmas lights, for example, is an energy-saving (and much safer) alternative to candles in your Jack O’Lanterns.

You might also consider a black Christmas tree or wreath covered in spider webs or a scarecrow mounted on a rotating Christmas tree stand. You could even follow the lead of other 1000Bulbs.com customers by using our plastic street lamp globes in an astronaut or Deadmau5 costume (see the video below). Whatever you do, we would love you to share your ideas. Drop us a line in comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. And if you’re really proud of your creation, be sure to share it on our Pinterest Halloween pinboard!

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Check Out Our New DIY Page!

Sep 19, 12 Check Out Our New DIY Page!

Today we’re announcing an exciting new addition to our website.

In your comments on this blog and especially in our Wednesday Lighting Q&A on our Facebook page, we’re often asked how to install or troubleshoot a product. Our customers love our products and our low prices, but they want to know how to use them. Responding to that, we’ve just launched our brand new DIY page on 1000Bulbs.com.

Our DIY page currently features four step-by-step guides: How to Install a Recessed Light Fixture, How to Install a Pendant Light, How to Install a Step Light, and the fan-favorite, How to Make an Antique Pendant or Swag Light. Every guide features photos to show each step of the process, and videos are coming soon via the 1000Bulbs.com YouTube channel.

Check back often for new updates. Our goal is to be the go-to source for any lighting-related DIY or How-To. Have suggestions? Our blog comments area is always open, as are our Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter pages. Bring out your inner Bob Vila and have fun!

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