How to Set Up a Christmas Tree Like a Pro

Nov 16, 12 How to Set Up a Christmas Tree Like a Pro

You’ve set up your Christmas tree and gathered the family around, Clark Griswold-style. You plug in the lights and voilà!

A second goes by before you hear a collective groan. Your tree is so gnarled and lopsided it looks like it’s being slowly eaten away by moths. Half of the lights don’t work, and the other half only flicker. In short, your Christmas tree doesn’t look anything like the picture on the box.

Professional interior designers know setting up an artificial Christmas tree isn’t as easy as it looks. They know just how to adjust, test, and tweak until a Christmas tree looks bright and full, virtually oozing holiday cheer. Fortunately, you can do the same. Use these 4 professional tips for a problem-free tree this year!

Tip #1: Set Up the Stand the Right Way

First, set up your tree stand. Though this may not require the touch of an interior designer, it is literally the foundation to everything that comes after.

For two-piece steel or plastic stands, simply slide the two pieces together and apply slight pressure to the center hub until it clicks. For one-piece fold-up stands, open the legs to their locking position and tighten the bottom thumbscrew to secure. If you have a one-piece stand, no assembly is required.

If your stand is wobbly or flimsy, throw it away and get a real Christmas tree stand made with sturdy materials, superior craftsmanship, and wheels to make the tree easier to move and store.

Christmas Tree Bases

Christmas Tree Bases

Tip# 2: Assemble the Tree Once Piece at a Time

Second, assemble the tree, taking time to adjust and level as you do so. Patience is key.

Insert the bottom section of the tree into the stand. Secure the tree by tightening the thumbscrews and allow the hinged branches to fall into their natural, horizontal position.

If you have a multi-section tree, add the other sections, taking care to lubricate the pole ends for easy insertion and removal at the end of the holiday season.

Tip #3: Shape the Tree Like a Pro

There are two basic ways to shape a tree: The traditional “V” shape and the “upswept” shape.

For a traditional shape, separate all the small limbs from the main branch, then work from the trunk outward, moving one limb up and one limb down, forming a “V” shape. Also form a “V” with the second set of limbs, but instead of up and down, angle one to the left and one to the right.

For an upswept tree shape, simply angle the limbs outward and upward, as if wind were blowing from the bottom of the tree.

Christmas Tree Shaping

Traditional Shaping (Top) and Upswept Shaping (Bottom)

Tip #4: Test Lights and Apply them Section-by-Section

Unless you have a pre-lit Christmas tree, the next step is to add your Christmas lights. Before you start, however, plug in each set of lights to make sure they work. Test for burned out bulbs and partially dead strings with a light tester and avoid the hassle and embarrassment of having to redecorate your tree halfway through Christmas dinner.

Now start lighting the tree, but not all at once. Make sure your tree is evenly lighted by hanging lights section-by-section and making corrections as you go.

Share Your Ideas

For more Christmas tips and tricks, check out previous articles on how to buy a Christmas tree, how to select mini lights, and how to throw a non-traditional Christmas celebration. Share your own tips in the comments, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, and Pinterest.

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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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LED Christmas Light String Guide

Oct 05, 12 LED Christmas Light String Guide

1000Bulbs.com now carries hundreds of LED Christmas lights. Far from only reserved for the tech-savvy, these products are now mainstream holiday lighting. Last year alone we saw LED Christmas light adoption up 25%, and we expect that trend to continue.

To make your Christmas decorating as easy as possible, here are all the different types of LED Christmas light strings currently available, along with a brief description and application ideas for each type.

LED Mini LightsLED Mini Light Strings: Also known as M5 LED lights, these emulate the look of incandescent mini lights. Most have faceted caps that disperse the light from the LED, though some newer LED mini lights look identical to their incandescent counterparts.

LED Wide Angle LightsLED Wide Angle Mini Lights: Though these do not directly emulate the look of mini lights, they serve the same function. Wide angle LED lights (sometimes called “Polka Dot” lights) use a 5 mm concave lens to disperse light in a wide, circular pattern. See this graphic to better understand how Wide Angle lights work.

LED Versaline LightsLED Commercial Light Sets: New this year, these special low-voltage light sets are meant for commercial applications. Also known by the brand name “Versaline,” these low-voltage lights use proprietary, daisy-chained controllers and connectors for amazing effects in large civic, business, and theme park displays.

LED C6 LightsLED C6 Light Strings: Sometimes called “strawberry” lights, these strings feature 3/4 inch diameter faceted bulbs permanently affixed to wire. Slightly larger and brighter than LED mini lights, C6 strings are popular for indoor applications including garlands and Christmas trees.

LED C7 LightsLED C7 Light Strings: These strings feature 7/8 inch diameter smooth or faceted bulbs permanently affixed to wire. Though typically used outdoors, they are sometimes seen indoors where they create a strong, richly-colored “pop.”

 

LED C9 LightsLED C9 Light Strings: These strings feature 1-1/8 inch diameter smooth or faceted bulbs permanently affixed to wire. Unlike C7 strings, these large, bright bulbs are visible from large distances and are almost exclusively used outdoors to line everything from rooftops to sidewalks.

LED G12 Globe LightsLED G12 “Berry” Light Strings: These strings feature 12 mm (about 1/2 in.) diameter berry-shaped globes permanently affixed to wire. Their unique “berry” shape is sometimes preferred to the cone shape of C6 strings and makes them a popular choice for wreaths and garlands.

 

LED Programmable LightsProgrammable LED Light Strings: Not to be confused with commercial light sets, programmable LED light strings feature built-in, multi-function controllers and large lights in creative shapes like icicles and oversized C7 bulbs. The controllers on these lights are deceptively simple, with just a few buttons able to create a unique light show.

LED InvisiLiteInvisiLite LED Light Strings: Great for centerpieces and small wreaths, these strings feature tiny LED bulbs set on bendable and formable wire that virtually disappears against a green background. The wire is slightly rigid, so it holds its shape and affixes well to any type of artificial greenery.

 

What is your choice for Christmas lights this year? Will you be using LED or sticking with old-fashioned incandescent? Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to share your project ideas on our Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest pages. We especially like to see your pictures!

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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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