The Menorah that is used on Chanukkah should have branches that are of equal height and should be arranged in a straight row. Like all mitzvos, there is significance in making the mitzvah beautiful and one should therefore endeavor to have a beautiful Menorah. If no Menorah is available one can still fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Chanukkah candles by placing candles/ cups of oil in a row.
It is ideal to use oil for lighting the Menorah. One can fulfill the mitzvah using candles. One cannot fulfill the mitzvah using an electric Menorah. If one is using oil there is an argument about using previously used wicks. Some prefer to use new wicks every night as it is more respectful while others maintain that a used wick actually burns better and is therefore preferable. Used wicks should not be disposed of in the regular fashion that one disposes waste. Because it was used for a mitzvah they should be disposed of with care. One can either burn the wicks or put them in a bag and then place the bag in the trash.
Once the time of lighting arrives, one should not have a meal.
The prevalent custom outside of Israel is to light the Menorah indoors. The Menorah should be lit by the window that can be seen by the most people possible (this is not always the most convenient window). When lighting at one’s window one should light on the right side of the window (right side from the perspective of the one lighting the Menorah). If there is more than one person lighting the Menorah then it is best to place a space between each Menorah so that those outside can see clearly which night of Chanukkah is being celebrated.
One should light by their window even if they live in a high rise apartment. The assumption is that people from the street or people in other tall buildings will see the Menorah. When staying at a hotel on Chanukkah one’s lighting options become limited. To light at the window would be pointless because [most] hotels have blacked out windows. To light inside near the doorway, which is the next best place, is usually very difficult as most hotel rooms open up to a narrow hallway with a bathroom on one side (can’t light there) and a closet on the other (safety hazard to light there). The best place to put the Menorah is in the area where the hall opens into the main room on the right side. If that is not feasible then lighting the Menorah anywhere in the room is fine.
If one is traveling on Chanukkah but some members of the family stay at home, one technically fulfills their obligation by having those at home light. The widespread custom is that even in such a scenario, one lights wherever they are staying. In such a case, one must light before the members of one’s home are lighting. If one lights afterward one does not say the regular blessings on lighting.
A husband and wife are considered one unit and only one Menorah is lit for both. That being the case, if one of the spouses will be arriving at a later time in the evening, there are two options. 1) The spouse can wait up for the other and light together. 2) The spouse who is at home can light at the appropriate time, thus fulfilling the obligation of both spouses. (In such a case, the spouse who is not at home should attempt, if possible, to hear someone else make the blessings over their own lighting.)
The appropriate time to light the Menorah is a matter of dispute. Some state that is should be lit at sunset, others argue that it should be lit at nightfall, and others suggest that a compromise be made and the candles should be lit in between, approximately 25 minutes after sunset. The most prevalent custom outside of Israel is to light at nightfall. The latest time to light the Menorah is at dawn. One may say a Bracha when lighting as long as it not yet dawn (even if no one in the home is awake). If one missed a night of lighting, one can light the next night with a Bracha.
If one wants to join others for a Chanukah celebration not at one’s home, they should light at home at sunset with enough oil/ wax for the candle to last for a half hour after nightfall. They should not light at their host’s home as it is not their residence. Not lighting until later in the evening poses a challenge as one is not supposed to eat a meal until after lighting. However, if one is afraid to leave their home with candles burning, there is what to rely upon to light when they return from the festivities provided that an alarm is put on to remind them to light when they return home.
Even after the candles have burned for a half hour one should not extinguish them. However, if one is in a situation where there is a concern for a possible fire etc. they are allowed to extinguish the lights after 30 minutes.
The lights of the Menorah must burn for at least a half hour after nightfall. This is especially important to keep in mind on Friday afternoon when one lights the candles before candle lighting. Thus for example, in Baltimore on Friday, December 3rd, 2021, Shabbos candle lighting time is 4:25 and nightfall is 5:28 PM, so one’s candles should be able to last for a little over an hour and a half (from before 4:25 PM through 5:58 PM).