Putting up and taking down Christmas lights is the pits. It’s dangerous. It’s time consuming. It’s frustrating. It sucks the Christmas spirit out of you. But… I love Christmas lights. I love the look of them and (once they’re up) the Christmas spirit they do bring. Christmas is my favorite season of the year but the lights… bleh.
Below you’ll find a complete tutorial on what I have found to be the least expensive commercial option for what are called permanent holiday lights. The concept is really simple – put up smart, easily controlled Christmas lights that are programmable with any smartphone and never take them down. They’re nearly invisible during the day or night but when you turn them on they look amazing.
And you never have to take them down. Ever.
After researching all of the major brands out there that sell these, I found that EverLights was the best choice. They were the least expensive, they have a DIY option (as well as professional installers all across North America), they have the most up to date app with tons of features and they run a backup data line to every light so that if something happens to one, it doesn’t affect the rest.
Calculating the Cost
Interested? I’ve put together an Everlights Permanent Holiday Light Calculator where you can punch in your roof measurements and get a quote for all needed materials.
Because I have installed these myself, I can tell you exactly what is involved. As you can imagine, this isn’t something you can do in a couple of hours. Plan on spending a full day on the install, more if you have a complicated elevation of your roofline or if you run into complications but before you despair – I promise you the feeling of being completely done with Christmas lights (and other holiday lights) FOREVER is nothing short of incredible. My wife asked me what I thought of the installation process and I replied “It was time consuming but I’M DONE! FOREVER! NEVER AGAIN!”. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
OK – here’s how to install these bad boys, including the tips I learned along the way.
First things first. You need to get measurements of each of the sections of roofline, gutter, eve or other areas that you want to put lights on, as well as the rough distance of any open areas between them where you’ll need to run unlit wires. You can see in the example below, that this house has a total of 99′ (30 meters) of lighted area and will require about 19′ (5.8 meters) of unlit lines.
You’ll notice that I have divided the measurements into those that need channels (a metal track that has predrilled holes for the lights to pop into) and those that do not. You can install your EverLights into several trims – into the top lip of a gutter, into your drip edge, or into purchased channels that can then be fastened onto your soffits, fascia or drip edge. I’ll show examples of this so you can decide what works best for your application.
As you can see, there are tons of options for installing this and you can choose what works best for you. Keep in mind that you can always use the included o-rings to seal the lights as you install them, so you choose whichever installation option(s) work best for you. For my home, I decided to install directly into the gutter for some and then I tucked channel into the drip edge for the rest. If you want the lights to shine on the exterior of your home as well, consider pointing the lights down, like in the last two options shown above.
Once you have determined whether or not to use channel and how to install it, you’ll need to measure each area of your roof and eves where lights will be installed. I found it easiest to take a photo of the house, and write down the measurements of each section. Then, you need to count the areas where the lighting will split into two or more directions. Keep in mind that all of the lights need to flow in one direction the entire time. As you can see in the illustration above, some of the eves are split from the main line, and then they just end at the end of the eve.
Wherever you have a split, you’ll need to purchase Y-Split Connectors. You’ll also need to purchase a data buffer for every section of unlit wire that is 5 or more feet long. The data buffer can be installed directly after the Y-split, if needed. Another thing to consider is that you’ll need an additional power supply for every 75 feet of lighting. This can be a tricky one if you don’t have an outlet near the 75 foot mark. You may need to run an extension plug in that case.
You’ll need to identify where your power from the beginning of the line will come from. It’s common to run the power from an outlet in the garage and drill a hole in your garage wall through the exterior of your home near where the line will start. This may sound intimidating, but it’s actually simpler than you might think.
As far as tools required for this job, you’ll need the following:
- Cordless Drill
- Butane torch (pocket-sized torches cost $10-15 – a lighter could work but I wouldn’t recommend a cheap one – the butane torches worked great)
- Tin snips
- Exterior screws for fastening the channel to the house
- Longer 3/8″ drill bit (in case you need to run a line from the inside of your garage to the outside of your house)
- Exterior caulk and caulking gun
- Wire strippers
- Color matched spray paint (optional),
- Needle nose pliers or crimpers
Getting Started with the Installation
Three Must Follow Rules for a Proper Install:
1. Never cut any wires with the lights powered on.
2. Connect like-to-like wires. Always check the labels.
3. Keep the direction of the lights constant. Look for the arrows on the back of each light.
With the tools on hand and your plan in place, it’s time to get started. The first thing to do is to connect the Network Bridge to your ethernet, with the included ethernet cable. You’ll also need to connect it to power via the included 5 volt adapter.
Next, you will wire together the power adapter to the bridge, and then the bridge to a length of unlit wire. The unlit wire should be long enough to reach the first light in your run. You can use regular wire caps for this, if these connections are inside the garage or house. Otherwise, use the heat shrink butt splices.
If needed, feed the unlit wire through the hole that you drill in the garage to get the line outside. If you do have to drill a hole, be sure to seal it with exterior-grade caulk to weather proof.
Now, depending on the whether you’re using channel or not, you can either connect the lights directly, or prepare your first section or channel. If you’re running the lights directly, apply the template tape to the area you’ll be lighting. Following the template, drill holes in the gutter or drip edge as indicated. Once the holes are drilled, you can install the lights into the holes and then use the provided caps to secure the light into place. Optionally, install the O-rings to seal off the holes.
Splicing Lines Together
When you need to splice two or more lines together, it’s important to match up the lines with one another, as well as the direction indicated on the back of each light. Insert one end of the wire into a heat shrink butt splice, and crimp it with needle nose pliers or crimpers. Insert the other end into the butt splice and crimp as well. Once you’ve done this with all four wires, you’ll need to seal them using the torch. For this, be sure to start from the center of the splice, and work your way outward to get a proper seal. I always recommend giving a small tug on the line before sealing them, just to make sure that the connection is strong. The goal is to see a full seal on both ends of every wire connection.
Working with Channel
When I talked to the professional installer about how they handle sealing the ends of the channels, they replied “Origami”. In other words, you make several cuts to the ends of each channel, and then fold it in a way that it seals up the end. Below you’ll find some illustrations of how this can be done. If you’re new to cutting metal channel, I’ve found that a pair of $7 tin snips and a pencil are all you’ll really need.
- Mark the channel as shown, leaving at least 2 inches on either side of the pre-drilled hole.
- Cut on the indicated lines.
- Fold as shown.
With channel, whenever possible, tuck the lines underneath the channel or other trim that can be used to hide it.
When running lights for 75 or more feet, you’ll need to add a power booster to your line before the 75 foot mark. This helps to ensure fully lit, bright lights the entire way. The power booster has only a positive and ground wire. These two wires need to be connected to the existing line, and the data and back up data wires don’t need to be touched.
Finishing the Job
When you’re at the very end of your line, cut two of your wires one length, and the other two wires a few inches shorter. You can cap these off with either liquid electrical tape, or water proof wire caps.
With your control unit connected to your internet, download and install the Everlights app for IOS or Android and follow the setup instructions.
Congratulations! You never have to put up Christmas lights again! FREEEEEEEEDOM.
DURING THE DAY:
In case you’re interested, this is what the lights look like during the day. They’re practically invisible.