Light workload

Landscape companies switch with
the season to install holiday lights
Friday, November 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:11 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Ahhh, the holiday season … when families set out in search of the perfect tree, Christmas cards are written, cookies are baked, and Mom and Dad threaten to divorce each other over the annual ritual of hanging the lights.

What some see as the most irritating ritual of the holiday season is a business opportunity for the increasing number of landscapers who will put up and take down lights in the holiday season.

For three years, Atkins Turf and Tree has been hanging Christmas lights and other decorations during November and December. In January the company’s staff will be out in full force to take down the lights.

The work keeps the company busy during the winter months when lawn care services aren’t needed. Atkins workers come prepared with lights, ladders, wreaths and lawn decorations to trim the home according to the homeowner’s preferences.

Xtreme Lawncare and Christmas Décor of Columbia provide many of the same services in Columbia.

“This is such a stressful time of year,” said Emily Thoroughman, vice president of administration for Atkins. “This is one thing (homeowners) can have someone else do to lighten the load.”

The company can hardly keep up with the demand. Last year the light-installation season started at the beginning of November and continued until the week before Christmas.

When it was all over, the company had decorated 40 houses and expects to add 30 more this year.

People are willing to pay anywhere from $800 to $2,000 to have Atkins supply, install, maintain, take down and store the lights.

Karla Wilcoxson hired Atkins to decorate her house for the first time last year. This year she and her husband, Darrin, decided to add lights around the side of the house instead of just the front.

“My husband did it the year before,” she said. “But we both work and are busy. It is a lot easier than us having to do it all.”

The take-down service is another plus of paying to have the lights put up, Wilcoxson said. “You’re not out in the freezing cold taking them down.”

Storage was important to Chuck Everitt, who hired Atkins the first year the company started the service to hang lights at his home and business.

“My wife is a fanatic about Christmas decorations,” he said. “We didn’t have enough space to store all the decorations.”

Everitt used to hang the lights at his house, but he likes that he doesn’t have to worry about finding the time to do it now. And if something goes wrong the company comes back to fix it.

“I’m not going to climb a ladder to fix a bulb,” said Everitt, who is in his 60s.

Safety is a concern when hanging lights outdoors. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, emergency rooms treat about 12,800 people for injuries related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees each year.

If you are installing lights yourself, the commission offers these tips when installing outdoor lights:

Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.

If using an extension cord, make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.

Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.

Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.

Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).

Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

Be cautious when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights — they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.

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