There’s not a lot of specialized equipment necessary to get into holiday lighting, but there is some technical knowledge required. “It’s easy if you’re working on a small home,” says Alan Marchant of A & K Landscaping. “As soon as you start getting into larger installations, then you need to understand electricity and amp loading,” he explains, noting that if the amp load is too much, it can melt cords. Another problem, at least in the rain-prone Oregon environment, is GFCI outlets tripping, Marchant adds. “You really have to know more than just, ‘I plug some lights together and they look pretty.’ You have to know the math behind electricity.”
Oklahoma Landscape has switched to using exclusively LED lighting for its holiday installations, and Aaron Wiltshire says that has removed a lot of the potential for electrical problems. “When we first started, LEDs were just starting to come on the scene, so we were putting up good, old-fashioned, incandescent lights, and you can only run so much of a length of incandescents on one plug-in, so we had to be a lot more careful of code and calculating what our load was.” That’s much less of an issue with low-power-use LED bulbs, and there are other advantages as well; for example, they don’t burn out and aren’t as fragile during installation and handling as incandescents.
No matter what lighting material is being used, there are still technical and safety considerations when installing and removing holiday lighting. “We work off ladders, but we need to get on roofs, including steep roofs. So we tie off using tree climbing gear like harnesses, and we sometimes have to put anti-slip foam down and walk up the valleys of steep roofs,” says Wiltshire. “Certain jobs are pretty precarious and we don’t take any chances.” Crews also must be careful not to damage customers’ houses when installing the lights; he says that his crews typically use multi-use lighting clips designed to attach to gutters or shingles without damage.