Animated Christmas lights add a little more flash and cheer to your holiday decorations. Many have the option of playing your favorite Christmas songs synchronized with a spectacular light show.
Where to Buy Animated Lights
Animated lights typically use the lights themselves to animate a portion of the main figure. However, you can also buy a few light figures that have animated, moving parts, too.
Lori's Lighted D'Lites
Lori's Lighted D'Lites sells and creates wire frame light displays. You can also have a design custom made to your specifications. The options below are all available in M5 LED or mini incandescent lights.
- The 3 Piece Lollipop Train with animated smoke is 28" tall x 66" wide and costs about $245.
- The Fishing Santa Animated light is about $200 and shows Santa pulling up a fish he caught. It's 55" tall by 46" wide.
The Holiday Light Store
The Holiday Light Store features a huge inventory of animated outdoor lighted Christmas decorations. The company occupies over 3,000 square feet of Christmas yard art and outdoor holiday decorations. Some of these include Santa helicopter, star, bell, and many more animated characters and scenes. Price range is large and varied.
- Animated Waving Santa is 70" tall and suited for yard art decoration for about $310.
- Animated Yoyo Elf is 37" tall and comes with a three-channel controller for just under $200.
- Animated Fireplace with Stockings Hung is 47" x 43" and features a flickering fire and candles on top of a decorated fireplace for $340.
Get the most out of your animated light display with a rope lighting solution from Action Lighting. Not only can you find a wealth of other types of animated lights, you can also find all the equipment you need to make it all come together.
- Christmas Ringing Bells can be hung indoors or out. It comes with a controller for the speed at which the bells "ring" for about $15.
- This 19" LED Snowflake can be animated with a "twinkle effect" or changed to have a "steady burn". Suitable for indoors and outdoors, you may wish to display it on your front porch or in a window. It's priced around $30.
- The 3D LED 4 foot Showmotion Tree is available in blue, multi, or white lights. The tree is 24 inches wide at the base, four feet high, and comes pre-programmed with an animated light show for around $90.
Animated Lighting offers several solutions for home owners wishing to have an "awe factor" light show. Most of their products can be purchased on an individual basis or as a complete set with controllers, additional light structures, and music.
- Animated Wreaths start at a four foot diameter and end at a 12 foot size; smaller sizes are best for the sides of homes. Pricing starts around $700 and goes up.
- Animated Candy Canes are over five feet tall and three-dimensional, complete with white and red stripes. They can be bought individually or as a full package with controller. Individual canes are around $300.
Brilliant Christmas Light Show With Music
Additions such as music and synchronized software really amp up outdoor lighting displays.
Control System Options
Purchasing a control system is the best way to get started with creating a full display.
- Mr Christmas Lights and Sounds from HolidayProjectors.com is a mid-range system that provides customers with four remote wireless receivers with a 50' transmission range. There are three modes: multiplex light show, unison, and lights steady on. It's priced less than $200 for the controller from the world-famous brand.
Light-O-Rama's Residential Series 16 Channel Starter Package turns your PC into a command center and provides control and power enough for 9,000 mini-light display. The license starts at about $50 while the equipment runs over $250.
Christmas in a Box from Animation Lighting is an "All In One Model" offering bundle customization with broadcasting abilities on FM transmitter, 16 channel light controller and 10 Christmas songs. It sells for just under $1,000. The Junior Base with four channels and 15 synchronized tunes sells for about $500.
If you aren't going with a complete set and want to DIY, then you can put together the equipment you'll need.
- A computer and specialized lighting software enables you to coordinate light activity and synchronize music.
- A programmable controller will serve as the master for the lighting display. This is like a power strip, so be sure to choose the right size to handle the number of lights and strands you want to use.
- If you want animatronic displays, you'll need a separate controller. Check specifications on products.
- A speaker system or transmitter, so passers-by can hear the show's music or tune in on their car FM radio.
- UL-rated, outdoor-insulated extension cords to plug everything in are necessary.
- Multiple timers are needed, although most control systems have built-in timers. Be sure to check before purchasing additional timers.
Additional Lights and Decorations
A passel of lights and additional decorations, like wreaths and trees, are needed to round out most displays. Regular lights can turn off and on using a controller, but look for some with special features. Items include ropes, icicle strands, and outdoor inflatables.
- Gemmy Lightshow Color Changing Icicle Light String features multiple animated light effects. Pick up a 24 count strand for around $50.
- Crown's chasing multi-color rope light operates on a 1 bulb/circuit for about $115. The "chase" uses one light on, one light off to create the effect.
Whether you want a bit of additional sparkle or a light show extravaganza, pick up design ideas for your animated Christmas lights from these displays.
- Marty Slack of Utah drew thousands of visitors to his suburban home with his giant light show that ended in 2011. His site, Christmas Utah, features a "Where to Buy Stuff" resource guide to help you build a system and has been left up to help fans create their own display.
- The Oakdale Christmas House in St. Petersburg, FL is considered one of the top three home displays in the US and features more than 500,000 lights. Installing the show takes owners Ted and Kim Kresge and a crew of 10 people approximately three months!
- Holdman Lighting in Utah has a gallery of their light creations around the world. Three great residential examples for inspiration are shown in video format so you can get a real sense of their completed displays.
- HiTech Lights design for homes, businesses, and special events in Palms Springs and features four videos with light shows set to different holiday songs.
- Christmas Lights Etc has lots of ideas to decorate your home with lights. Check out the "Animated Grand Cascade Lights and Falling Icicles", which is in the top box of ideas that scrolls, for information on their animated option. There are also helpful hints on the type of bulbs, timers, and light clips to use.
The Gemmy example below shows what one animated set up could look like.
Important Technical Considerations
Safety is the number one concern. EnergyIdeas.org recommends purchasing outdoor-only, weatherproof, UL-rated light decorations. Each circuit should have a grounded fault circuit interrupter, and all electrical connections need to be off the ground and away from metal railings and gutters.
There are a few additional details to finalize before you start building your outdoor festival of lights.
- Plan your wattage carefully. Start by multiplying the amount of watts per bulb, usually 10 watts, with the number of bulbs. Then factor in the amount of power the house is using.
- In rural areas, plan a traffic pattern and make sure people have a safe turnaround and proper exits. Also erect barriers to protect people from falling into ditches.
- In a neighborhood, ask someone to direct traffic so that it flows slowly, giving wide berth to people walking to their cars or on the sidewalk.
- Inform the power company of the potential power draw, discuss possible blackout and power failure issues, and the approximate cost of the lighting the display for a month or so. A holiday lighting calculator may help estimate costs.
- Talk with your neighbors about your plans. If you're going to create a sparkling spectacle, they need to be prepared for the extra traffic, people wandering around snapping pictures, and dealing with the brightness and additional noise.
- Check city ordinances about lighting and noise and obey those laws.
Animated Lights for Christmas Celebrations
Designing and displaying an animated light show in your front lawn or house is a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season. You can always start small and add to your collection every year.