Let there be light: Your guide to illuminating your home this holiday

Nothing shouts "Happy Holidays" like a house covered in twinkling lights. But even the best illumination intentions can lead to an expensive, gaudy mess without proper planning. Unless you want an "anything goes" look with half-strung trees, mismatched plastic lawn ornaments and lop-sided icicles, your probably shouldn't just throw a Christmas bonus' worth of decorations on your front lawn.

This year, make your house a traffic-stopper by taking a few of these holiday lighting tips to heart:

Keep it simpleSure, you were inspired by those professionally developed lighting displays at Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Callaway Gardens or Stone Mountain, but if you're new to hanging holiday lights, less can be more. Start out with a few simple, thoughtfully placed displays and lights, which can add festive charm and seasonal elegance without looking overdone.

Practice proper safety

Always use lights designed specifically for outdoor use. These lights will display the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label, which means you can safely use and leave the lights outside without risk of fire or other hazards. And don't go it alone: always put up holiday lighting with a helper, especially when attempting to hang lights on tall trees or roof overhangs.

Choose newer hanging tools

Although your parents used to use nails, hooks and staples to put up strings of lights, these old-fashioned tools could end up causing damage to roofing, siding and window frames. Instead, try out a few of the newer hanging tools available, including Velcro and plastic clips designed specifically for use with outdoor holiday lights.

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Understand what you're buying

Not all holiday lights are created equal, so it's important to carefully read the box to understand exactly what you're buying. From LEDs to incandescent bulbs, rope lights to net lights, you'll get the most out of your holiday lighting budget by locating products that are right for your particular house and yard.

Enlist the professionals

Feeling a little unsure about climbing up on that rickety ladder to string lights around windows or reach the top of a tree? If you're not confident about your balance, feel inexperienced or just don't want to put in the physical effort, consider hiring a pro to hang holiday lights for you. Many roofers, landscapers, handymen and carpenters offer to hang holiday lights seasonally.

Credit: Contributed by Grand Forks Air Force Base

Credit: Contributed by Grand Forks Air Force Base

Check lights before hanging

Always test each string of lights before hanging them or you could end up wasting your time and effort. LED lights usually work even if some of them are dysfunctional, but a burned-out incandescent light will typically drain the power from the entire string.

Map out your yard

Plan before you hang. Don't go out in your yard and start throwing ornaments around or hanging up strings of lights in random locations. If you start with a solid plan, your yard will have that organized, classic look you're going for.

Work from bottom to top

When hanging holiday lights, save yourself a lot of headache and stress by starting at the bottom and working your way up. For example, when wrapping a tree, start at the base of the tree and wrap the string of lights around the tree in a spiral, adding on additional lights as needed.

Deck out the ordinary

Take a look around your yard to find additional objects you can deck out for the holidays. Birdbaths, garden sheds - even your lawn mower! - might enjoy a few lights to celebrate the season!

Looking for some inspiration this holiday season? Check out 9 of the most delightful holiday displays in Georgia.