Silver and gold and maybe some green: Businesses cash in on holiday light installation

Having upward of 20 voicemails on his phone is commonplace during the holidays for Josh Bailey.

As the owner of a light installation company that serves the Dripping Springs area, Bailey’s business is one of several residents can hire to get the twinkle of holiday lights up on their rooftops.

While his business is starting to peak during this time of year, Bailey believes more and more local landscapers and handymen are also starting to take up the trend of holiday light installation.

However, Bailey believes over saturation in the market could lead to a drop in quality as well.

“It will definitely affect the industry, just like mowing,” Bailey said. “That will happen to Christmas lights. The customer service and quality of lights will have to drop. I hope somehow, there could be some sort of regulation.”

Bailey, who has been in the business for several years, said he has invested $52,000 in holiday light installation in 2017. The expense includes purchasing commercial grade LED lighting, which he said is safer than traditional incandescent. Bailey also purchases liability insurance for his employees.

The investment also extends to the time it takes to properly install holiday lighting on a home. Bailey estimates the average 3,000 square foot home takes roughly an hour-and-a-half to two hours to install.

Those in the industry do face dangers. Bailey said many of his workers often harness themselves in order to avoid falling and injuring themselves.

“It’s outright dangerous,” Bailey said. “They are comfortable putting lights on houses, but they put on harnesses to do some rooftops.”

However, one fear Bailey has is the influx of “guys in pickup trucks” who attempt to install lighting during the holidays.

“One of the big things I see are guys in pickup trucks trying to make money jumping on people’s houses, and they fall,” Bailey said. “Their business is done. It happens every year to some guys.”

For some companies, making sure they have certified workers who can handle the task is priority.

Mike Savely, who owns an area light installation company that also serves Dripping Springs, said he ensures workers who climb on ladders are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certified, and must go through his own training before they go on the job site.

Savely said he also conducts background checks on workers before he hires them. Having workers who are electricians or those who understand wiring also helps avoid any potential issues. The goal is to correctly install lights on a home to avoid having any miscues.

That includes trying to use commercial LED lights and avoid incandescent bulbs, which can pose a fire risk.

“If you don’t do your wiring correctly, you have to go back to the houses and redo it,” Savely said. “I learned how to do it right, so I don’t have to go back to houses and do repairs.”

Another primary issue is underbidding, Bailey said.

On average, Bailey said the cost for installing lights on a 3,000 square foot home is $400 to $450. Part of the cost is based on an average house which has roughly 140 bulbs. Bailey said a realistic price for commercial grade LED bulbs is $2.25 per linear foot.

While Bailey said he receives plenty of emails and calls for quotes, often potential customers back off due to the cost.

“A majority of those never do the service because it costs more than they expect,” he said.

For some lawn care or landscaping businesses, the prospect of installing holiday lights isn’t a feasible option.

Jesse Reyna, owner of a Buda area landscaping company, said the rising cost of liability insurance prevents him from taking the plunge and entering the holiday light installation business.

“When you get on top of a ladder, there is always a risk,” Reyna said.

While Reyna said he hasn’t dabbled in holiday light installs, he is often asked by customers, which leads him to price himself out of the way. However, he believes customers don’t often consider the full cost of installation.

“They have a perception that it costs $100,” Reyna said. “When you give them a price, they just kind of go, ‘Damn, I didn’t think it would be that much.’”

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