It's autumn in Atlanta, that time of year when temperatures fall and football rivalries heat up. It's also the time when another one of Atlanta's annual competitions gets underway: the battle of the Christmas light displays.
Yes, 'tis the season to blow the neighbors away and some area residents are stepping up their game by hiring professional holiday light installers.
Professional Christmas light installers eliminate the stuff most people hate about holiday displays: the designing, measuring, climbing, untangling, hanging, removing and storing massive amounts of lights and wreaths.
Instead, customers are left with dazzling displays, envious neighbors and bragging rights, what people enjoy most.
"We install them. Everything is custom made for your house to whatever style and color you like. We also install wreaths, garlands, whatever," said Ryan Fox, co-owner of Duluth-based Outback Guttervac services. "We maintain it up to Christmas Eve. Then we take it down after the first of the year. We store it and next year they pay the same rate, with a 10 percent discount and then that's what they pay every year. They never have to buy new equipment or anything."
Outback Guttervac is Fox's regular business. Like many other owners of home improvement service businesses, such as landscape management and roofing companies, Ryan signed on with a Christmas lights installation licensing company to offer these services during the holidays, when business slows. He's licensed with We Hang Christmas Lights.
"We actually own all the lights, so we lease the lights to the customer. The customer doesn't own anything unless they want something up year-round." Fox said. "It gives them more time to spend with their family. They don't have to worry about anything... They know if the lights go out, all they have to do is pick up the phone or text me and we are going to send someone out within two days to fix it."
Fox said they are usually booked by the end of Thanksgiving. "I might take a little job here and there if I can squeeze it in if I get ahead of schedule. But for the most part, by the first of December we usually have to turn people away."
This year, Fox said they began their first installation the first week of October. "The customer is Hindu and they have a holiday coming up later in October and will keep the lights up through Christmas."
The process is pricey. Fox said his company charges a minimum $800 , but has jobs that top $10,000. "The $800 minimum will usually get them a roof outline on the house. If they want anything else it's like a la carte."
He said, the price for an average large house (about 3200-square feet) is about $1200. "It just varies depending on what all they decide to do."
Once customers sign up for an initial install, they can just renew each year. "Some repeat customers, I don't even see them," Fox said. "We put the lights up when they're not home and I never see them. I haven't seen some of them in three years. They just know what they're getting and don't have to worry about it."
The latest in lighting
Customers who hire professional installers can also keep up with trends. Those dangling ice cycles that were once popular are going out of style, said Fox. "We don't do as many of those anymore. We did about two last year."
The hottest new trend is RGBs, lights that can change colors via remote control. "That's just come out in the last couple of years and has become a lot bigger and people that know about it really like it," he said. "Because they can decide I want my house to be this color tonight, or that color the next night."
You can even program RGBs to cycle through different colors on one tree.
According to Fox, homeowners in upscale neighborhoods prefer clutter-free dazzling displays. "We put up a couple of blow ups for people if they have them. We don't supply blow ups, number one, they look tacky and they can get damaged real easy...Everything we do is very tasteful, looks really clean and crisp," Fox said. "We can do color lights, if someone wants that for the kids but most people like the clean look."
Hiring Christmas installers is an investment in convenience. "We put everything on a timer. They don't even have to plug anything in," Fox said. "They don't have to do anything. It's worry free."