'I can't believe I didn't know these sooner!' - 6 genius Christmas light hacks you need to know before decorating

'Tis the season for some added sparkle, so try these clever hacks for the brightest lights possible

Christmas living room with blue velvet sofas
(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd)

Christmas wouldn't be the same without beautiful displays of sparkly lights. Their attractive twinkle keeps spirits bright in more ways than one, and they've become an integral part of all of our Christmas decorating ideas, from the tree to the front lawn and beyond.

While some might consider the typical illuminations enough, others will never be satisfied with the amount of Christmassy twinkle on display. Fortunately, if you want the brightest festivities possible, there are plenty of hacks out there to help you get the most out of your Christmas lighting. I can't believe I didn't know them sooner, but I now rely on them every year and guests always compliment my decorations, both inside and out. Here are six Christmas lighting tricks you ought to know about. 

1. Wrap lights around the trunk to add depth

A close up of Christmas tree branches decorated with string lights

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

The Christmas tree wouldn't be complete without lights, but weaving your string of LEDs throughout the foliage only goes so far. For some extra brightness and added depth, try wrapping your lights around the tree's trunk as well. 

Home blogger kellyfitzsimmons__ shows how she adds lights to her artificial tree focusing on the trunk first over the branches for an extra bright lighting display. Starting at the base of the tree, push the lights right back to the trunk instead of resting them on the tips of the branches, working upwards as you wrap them around. This helps the lights to shine outwards, giving the tree a magical glowy appearance. 

To help add even more sparkle, Kelly also uses three sets of cluster lights which give a much fuller look than the usual string lights. According to Mary-Anne Da'marzo, founder and head florist at The Last Bunch, this method is used by florists to create many Christmas installations. 'Doubling up on lights is what makes the tree look so premium,' she says. 'You can create that professional look at home by following this method and opting for warm white lights to channel a classic Christmas look.'


♬ original sound - Kelly Fitzsimons

2. Use the zig-zag method for brighter tree lights

When decorating for Christmas, most of us drape our string lights across our tree's branches, spiraling them around the entire tree for a 360-degree light display. However, in most cases, this isn't necessary. If your tree is positioned in a corner or against a wall, zig-zagging your lights will help make the most of all the bulbs available for a fuller look. 

What I mean by this is that instead of walking around the tree to decorate with lights, you can move left to right, concentrating only on the front of the tree that's on display. It will instantly give your tree a brighter look because the lights are more concentrated. 'It comes as no surprise that this technique of adding extra lights against the trunk can really elevate the look of your Christmas Tree,' says Paula Boston at Festive Lights. 'It creates depth and extra warmth to your home by emitting a prominent glow.'


♬ Rocking Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee

3. Use a bulb tester to fix broken lights

A dressed Christmas tree in a living room

(Image credit: Balsam Hill)

Each year you unearth the Christmas lights there seems to be yet another bulb that's no longer working. Even the best Christmas lights sometimes fail us. This can be especially frustrating when decorating the likes of porch railings or columns where a missing bulb can really ruin the brilliantly bright look you're aiming for. 

This issue is far more common with incandescent bulbs which, unlike LEDs, can undergo an internal bulb failure known as a 'shunt issue'. It's the most common explanation for why your Christmas lights can stop working, but the good news is it can be fixed.

All you need is this clever little battery-operated tool and your entire string of lights will be brought back to life. The so-called LightKeeper Pro, available at The Home Depot, works in two different ways. You can use it to restore power to your string lights by removing individual faulty lightbulbs, inserting the fixture into the gun, and pulling the trigger to restore power. It works by sending a pulse through the light set, finding the bad bulbs, and fixing the shunt. It can also detect other interruptions in the circuit which can typically be fixed with a few spare bulbs or fuses. Overall, it's a much cheaper and more sustainable option than buying a whole new set of lights! 


♬ Up Beat (Married Life) - Kenyi

4. Add flasher bulbs to make your lights twinkle

Be it indoor or outdoor Christmas decorations, there's no denying that some twinkly lights bring an extra bit of magic to your festivities. If you've ever looked closely at a set of lights, you might have noticed some rogue red bulbs among your regular ones, and these special bulbs can offer you that added sparkle you've been craving. 

These red bulbs, known as flasher bulbs, act as a twinkle setting. All it involves is swapping out one of the original light bulbs with a red-tipped one somewhere on your incandescent string lights (bear in mind, this trick won't work with LEDs). From that point onwards, the lights in the string will blink for a twinkly display. 

It's all thanks to an extra strip of metal called a bi-metallic strip which bends as the filament in the bulb heats up from the light current, causing the lights to go out. As the strip cools, it straightens out, reconnecting the circuit for the lights to switch back on again. 


♬ It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Bing Crosby

5. Use your porch light to power your outdoor lights

A front porch decorated with Christmas lights

(Image credit: Solar Centre)

Finding a way to power your outdoor Christmas lights without an external outlet can be a challenge, but you might not need to rely on lengthy extension cords with this hack. If you have a front porch light, the power outlet for your bulb can also be used for your Christmas lights with the help of a small adaptor. 

Essentially, this clever adaptor transforms your light socket into a two-prong polarized outlet for you to plug in your string lights. You can find variations for just a few dollars, and we especially love this adapter that only has two power outlets and no bulb socket, from Amazon, as it allows you to plug in two different sets of lights at once. You can still find others that allow you to use your porch light, too. 


♬ original sound - Paige Brown

6. Use a Christmas-themed extension cord to power your lights

If you want your Christmas front porch decor to extend beyond your doorway, an extension cable is probably still necessary. Rather than worrying about disguising it among your flowerbeds, however, why not try this extension cable from Philips, available at Target, which looks so festive it can be integrated into your front lawn winter wonderland. 

'How?' I hear you ask. Well, this 25-foot-long extension cable has a casing dressed in red and white candy cane stripes to complement your seasonal décor so you won't need to disguise it. Besides turning your lawn into a Lapland-esque landscape, it also offers plenty of length, is super durable, and features a heavy-duty grounded AC outlet with 3-prongs for safe and reliable power. Just trail it across your yard to make your house look extra Christmassy

Whether it’s inflatables on your lawn or twinkling lights on your tree, these hacks will help you to keep spirits extra bright this holiday season. 


♬ original sound - Target Bargains
Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.