How to Spark Holiday Cheer with LED Lights

For many, once the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is over and the dishes are done, it marks the official start of outdoor holiday decorating season.

But for one house in the Chicago area, the elves already have been hard at work since Halloween. Meet Deb and Kevin Nilles, the masterminds behind the magical Believe House who spark cheer for thousands with their holiday LED light displays.

Making Clark Griswold Proud

Clark Griswold of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” would certainly admire the colorful and extravagant displays in the charming Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois.

Dozens and dozens of homes go all out — so much so that there are tour maps of the most decorated homes. And for the past 22 years Naperville Trolley & Tours has offered Holiday Light Tours to take riders to see some of the most spectacular outdoor decorations.

Annette Wehrli, the company’s “Trolley Chick” and holiday light display expert, says that when it comes to homes that make the cut for the Holiday Light Tour, guests are looking for excitement that LED lights offer. “Every year more and more homes are switching to LED, and it just makes the decorations look that much better.”

The Believe House

Located at 630 Vicksburg Court in Naperville is one of the most elaborate — and most visited — homes both on the tour and by those looking for a little holiday cheer: the Believe House.

Deb Nilles explains that she used to drive around with her grandmother during the holiday season to look at decorated homes. A few years ago, when Deb and Kevin’s daughter was feeling under the weather, on a nostalgic whim Deb bought a 9-foot-tall illuminated tin soldier on sale to cheer her up. When their daughter opened the box and Deb saw the sheer delight on her face, she was hooked. “We went from zero to 100 by accident. I never thought we’d turn into the Griswold house,” Deb says.

The Believe House is designed as a traditional, static display. Deb explains that thanks to the new warmer white LEDs, “we can create a warm, nostalgic look like the old-fashioned incandescents.”

She adds that since they’ve embraced going green and energy-efficiency inside their home, it made sense to take the same approach outdoors with LED lights. “Surprisingly, because of the energy-efficiency of LEDs, the electric meter needle doesn’t move nearly as much as you’d think.”

The Nilles haven’t taken the time to count exactly how many lights are part of their display, but some of the elements include:

  • Permanently installed, color-changing LEDs running along the entire roofline.
  • A color-changing candy cane fence lining their property.
  • Large LED lighted trees and color-changing LED globes that add more sparkle around the house.
  • LED icicle strings that hang from all the windows.
  • And a visitor favorite, a virtual Santa who waves to guests from one of the upstairs windows.

Tips for Using LEDs in Holiday Decor

Deb says 85 percent of the Believe House’s lights are LEDs. “Some of our original incandescents have already burned out and had to be replaced, but the LEDs are still going strong.”

If you’re looking to add LEDs to your holiday decor, Deb offers these tips.

LEDs Do Not Like Rain

Deb and Kevin take extra precautions to keep their lights burning bright no matter the Chicago weather. All connections are covered in electrical tape. They also put in a ground stake at every connection point to lift the connections off the ground — and out of potential puddles.

Run a Separate Electrical Box

While this isn’t needed, Deb says having a dedicated electrical box makes it easier to troubleshoot any outages.

Respect Your Neighbors

Once the last Halloween treats are handed out, Deb and Kevin start working on their display. Then once the lights go live on Thanksgiving, on any given night all the way through New Year’s Eve hundreds of passersby plus several trolley tours stop by the Believe House.

Deb says that out of respect for her neighbors, everything comes down on New Year’s Day. “Kevin is like a tornado that day,” she says.

For the Nilles, all of their hard work is worth it. “We love spreading cheer to our community. It’s worth it to see smiles on everyone’s faces and give families a fun night out together.”

Looking for the right LEDs for your holiday decor? Contact

About HitLights

HitLights delivers LED lighting solutions for event exhibits, displays, signs, theater and film productions, and manufacturing. CEO Bin Yu formed the company through the Louisiana State University Business Incubator Program in 2010. Since then HitLights has grown to become a major player the LED industry. Customers come to HitLights for quality products, helpful customer service and creative solutions.

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