How to Choose the Best Outdoor String Lights - Christmas Lights, Etc (2023)

There's a reason they are so popular. In fact, outdoor patio lights are so popular it can be a little overwhelming to figure out which options are best for you and the space you want to light up.

You can find entry level patio string lights in almost every mass retail store but the selection is extremely limited to a few options. These sets are engineered to be the least expensive because that is a primary goal for mass retail products. For those on a tight budget, this is a good place to start looking. But, you get what you pay for and this guide is intended to give you tips on what to look for in choosing the best outdoor string lights -- whether you buy them from Christmas Lights, Etc or not!

Christmas Lights, Etc sells more than 100 different outdoor string lights with hundreds more bulb and string components available for those wanting custom options. Simply put, we've specialized in outdoor string lighting for over twenty years and we offer more backyard patio lighting products than any retailer on the market. Our team of lighting experts work with every combination of outdoor string lights we have and these lights are also used by thousands of professional light installers across the U.S. There's a reason homeowners turn to us for the best outdoor string lights, and whether you get them from us or somewhere else, we want you to be informed and get something that works for you that you can enjoy.

How to Choose the Best Outdoor String Lights - Christmas Lights, Etc (1)

What makes the best outdoor string lights?

  • Are the string lights durable and safe when used outside?
  • Are the bulbs removable so they can be replaced or customized when needed?
  • Will the lights look good over time?
  • What makes one string light more durable and safe than another?

We'll let this customer picture speak for us. It's an outdoor string light set that unfortunately had a tree fall through it -- all over a rock surface. These lights were Wintergreen Lighting FlexFilament G50 LED Shatterproof bulbs -- and remarkably, not a single bulb broke. We're not implying that everyone will be this lucky in a situation like this, but it certainly helped that this customer started with an outdoor string light set designed to be more durable and safe from the outset. Typically, the least expensive outdoor string light sets with smaller globe shaped bulbs come with glass. If you're on a budget, that could be a good option for you, but had this customer been using glass bulbs, it's highly likely that every bulb would have been shattered. What would you choose?

Shatterproof FlexFilament LED Light Bulbs Not Broken After Tree Falls
(Video) Choosing Outdoor String Lights

Identifying light sets with outdoor rated, shatterproof bulbs is our #1 recommended place to start. If you do find a light set style you like that does have glass bulbs, all is not lost. Many higher-end outdoor string light sets do include glass bulbs because of the aesthetic and optical qualities unique to glass and the light source, especially with larger bulbs. That's ok, but know there's a tradeoff. Glass can be ok for outdoor string lights, but it's simply more prone to breaking. If you live in an area with a lot of bad weather, wind, or trees that can damage your lights, consider shatterproof options first.

Hot vs Cool Patio Bulbs

Another safety consideration with outdoor patio lights is heat. Incandescent string light bulbs get hot to the touch within seconds. Most LED bulbs do not. Look for bulb features like "cool to the touch" in your next set. You may say that outdoor string lights are commonly used overhead and are out of reach for most people so getting burnt by a bulb may be very limited. That's fair. But when trees, leaves, pine needles, or other natural debris touch hot bulbs, there's a higher chance burning could occur.

If you want to avoid the heat risks, cool to the touch bulbs are a solid consideration. The added benefit of cool to the touch LED bulbs is that they also use 80-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs.

How to Choose the Best Outdoor String Lights - Christmas Lights, Etc (3)

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LED Bulbs are Cool To The Touch

What exactly is a stringer?

The unsung hero of backyard string lights is the stringer itself. The stringer is the electrical string of sockets that bulbs get inserted into and there are several types. What makes one stringer better than another? Well, professional light installers use commercial grade stringers that are often hard to find in mass retail because of the cost. Christmas Lights, Etc only sells commercial grade stringers, for example. Commercial grade stringers come with specified insulation types to suit different environmental needs for heat, cold and weathering. Many commercial grade outdoor stringers can also be connected end to end and they come in a variety of sizes and lengths, which means there's far more options for you to get precisely what you need for your space rather than being locked into a common size that's easier for mass retailers to produce.

Are the bulbs removable so they can be replaced or customized when needed?

Many entry-level patio light sets are actually faux outdoor string lights. They look like they have normal bulbs but they often are bulbs that are hardwired to the string, which means they cannot be replaced if they burn out. This type of light set is easier to produce because it is often a "mini light" set with bigger bulb lenses placed over the light source to give the illusion of bigger outdoor string lights. If you have a small space like a balcony where you only need a small light set, this could be a cost effective option for you. However, if your display area is larger, you'll likely be immediately underwhelmed with less light output from these faux patio lights. They simply don't put off as much light as a typical standalone bulb. The best outdoor string light sets with fully replaceable bulbs gives you the control to make it look exactly how you want, or change it whenever you want. If you like color themes for holidays or backyard events, the ability to swap bulbs out is a big plus.

How to Choose the Best Outdoor String Lights - Christmas Lights, Etc (5)

Hardwired "Mini Light" Patio Bulb

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Will the lights look good over time?

Lights made with the least expensive materials don't last as long. If a light burns out and it is not replaceable, you're stuck with dark spots or you have to replace the entire string. Getting outdoor string lights with replaceable bulbs eliminates that scenario immediately. Light output and color quality are also important to many people. Look for light sets that include references to Kelvin temperature ratings for different shades of white. Or, in the case of colored outdoor string light, look for bulbs that have infused color rather than a color coating. Color coating is cheaper to make, but the coating will eventually chip, crack or fade. Infused color bulbs have color injected throughout the entire bulb lens, which means the color cannot chip, crack or fade away like cheaper surface-coated bulbs.

(Video) Best Christmas Lights for Indoor and Outdoors

Wire Gauge and Insulation

The best outdoor light strings typically have 18 to 16 gauge wire, with the 16 gauge sets made for heavier duty use. Wire gauge refers to the diameter of the copper within the light string and the SMALLER the number, the BIGGER the gauge, which can be confusing. Good outdoor string lights also include an insulated coating, commonly referred to as SPT1, SPT2 or SJTW. These references help to identify the thickness of the wire insulation. SJTW light strings are rated for heavy outdoor use and are especially recommended for use cases that use a lot of power or for longer-term outdoor lighting where weathering is a concern. If you're shopping for outdoor string lights and you see that they are 22 or 24 gauge, it is most likely a "mini light" set that has been re-created as faux patio lights. Again, if you're on a budget and only need a small set of lights, this could be a good option for you. But, if you're looking for the best outdoor string lights that have more durability, longevity and quality, consider sets that are 18 gauge or larger.

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Patio Light String Insulation Types

Hanging Grommets

Larger outdoor string lights often are designed to hold household size (E26 base) bulbs. Bigger stringers and bigger bulbs carry more weight. If you're hanging lights across a large space consider outdoor string lights with hanging grommets. The hanging grommet is a machine-cut hole within a rubber brace above each light. You can thread a support wire, also called a guy or guide wire, through each of these holes to help bear the weight, if needed.

Patio Strings with Hanging Grommets
(Video) Best Outdoor Christmas Decorations to Buy, According to Online Reviews


What type of outdoor string lights are best? ›

We recommend choosing LED Edison-style or globe lights that are shatterproof and waterproof since these will look the best, last the longest and be the safest option for an open outdoor area.

How many lumens do I need for outdoor string lights? ›

Recommended Lumens for Specific Outdoor Needs

Landscape lights: 50-300 lumens. Path lights: 100-200 lumens. Landscape spotlights: 120 lumens. Lamp posts: 120-180 lumens.

How do you calculate how many outdoor Christmas lights you need? ›

Number of Lights Needed for Outdoor Features

Trees: One 32-foot strand (100 lights) for every 1 1/2 vertical feet of an evergreen tree; or, about 500 to 600 lights for an 8-foot tree. Windows: One 16-foot strand per single-width window. Doors: One 16-foot strand per door.

What is the best wattage for outdoor lighting? ›

The best watts for outdoor lights are 80 and lower. You can use 40-watt bulbs for paths, gardens, and other low-level areas. 40 to 80-watt bulbs are ideal for driveways and lighting up larger areas of your yard. 80-watt bulbs and lower are dark sky lighting approved too.

What should shoppers look for when buying outdoor string lights? ›

What to Look for When Buying Outdoor String Lights
  • Power Source. There are a few different power sources that outdoor string lights can use and you definitely don't want to get stuck with the wrong type. ...
  • Style. ...
  • Weatherproofing. ...
  • Wattage/Energy Usage.
11 Oct 2022

What type of Christmas lights do professionals use? ›

Commercial LED light strings with co-axial connectors are one of the most popular styles of commercial Christmas lights among professional installers due to their exceptional durability.

Which is better for outdoor lighting LED or incandescent? ›

Excess heat thrown by outdoor lighting can be dangerous. Not only can overheating lights cause outages, but they also run the risk of catching dryer foliage on fire. LED lighting stays cool to the touch, making it a much safer option for outdoor lights.

Is 2000 lumens bright enough for outdoor lighting? ›

The best range of lumens for outdoor lighting is 12 to 1,300 lumens. How many lumens you need for outdoor landscape lighting is between 50 and 700.

Is 5000 lumens too bright? ›

A 5000-lumen LED bulb is a very bright light source, and if you are using it in a relatively small room, it can be very harsh. In this case, it is recommended that you use a 1000-lumen LED bulb. Under normal circumstances, garages, utility rooms, and warehouses are more suitable for 5000-lumen bulbs.

Is 1500 lumens bright enough? ›

If you use candles to light your space, you will save lots of money on electricity, but you won't be able to see much. For general space lighting, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests you shop for light that is in the range of 450 to 1,600 lumens per bulb.

How many outdoor Christmas lights can I string together? ›

You can typically connect 8 to 10 times more LED light strings together end to end while only using one plug outlet. Most traditional Christmas mini lights allow you to connect only 4 or 5 sets end to end, but with many LED mini light strings you can connect 40 to 50+ together depending on the light count.

How many outside Christmas lights can you string together? ›

But, the connected strands should never exceed 210 watts when combined. 210 watts divided by 10 watts per strand is 21 strands (the total number of strings of these Christmas lights that could be plugged together safely).

How do I know how many string lights I need? ›

You need to measure the length and width of your patio space, add those together, and multiply by 2. What is this? That will give you the total perimeter and total length of lights you need. Simple.

Which is better 40 watts or 60 watts? ›

The main difference between a 40 and 60-watt bulb is the 40-watt bulb is going to require less energy to power. For a traditional incandescent bulb, this also means a difference in lumens; the higher wattage will yield more light.

Do more watts equal brighter? ›

More Watts doesn't always mean a brighter light bulb. To choose a light bulb with the right brightness, think lumens, not Watts. In the past, if you wanted a brighter bulb you'd simply choose one with more Watts. For example, most 75 W bulbs – irrespective of brand – put out about the same amount light.

What rating should an outside light be? ›

If you're looking for standard garden lights such as path lights, uplights and tree lights you should aim for a minimum rating of IP44 or higher.

What color lights are best for outside? ›

Warm White (2700K).

Similar to halogen-type landscape lighting, it is the most preferred color temperature for landscape lighting. Psychologically, it is thought to be more welcoming and soothing compared to higher color temperatures.

How do I choose patio string lights? ›

Light output and color quality are also important to many people. Look for light sets that include references to Kelvin temperature ratings for different shades of white. Or, in the case of colored outdoor string light, look for bulbs that have infused color rather than a color coating.

What should I look for in an outdoor light? ›

Considerations to Make When Choosing Outdoor Lighting
  • Durability.
  • Size.
  • Intended Location.
  • Types. Post lights. Wall lights. Hanging and ceiling lights. Landscape lights. Security lights.
  • Style and Color.
3 Feb 2021

Which are brighter LED or regular Christmas lights? ›

Standard Christmas Lights Pros:

Incandescent lights are unarguably brighter than LED lights. There are also typically more bulbs per strand, which contributes to the overall intensity.

What are the most popular kind of Christmas lights? ›

Mini lights — your quintessential Christmas tree lights — are the most popular. C6, C7 and C9 bulbs are strawberry-shaped and the most traditional of Christmas lights.

How do you pick out lights? ›

Measure Your Space

"To be sure a ceiling fixture is large enough for your space, especially a chandelier, a quick guideline is to measure the length and width of the room," he said. "Then add them together and convert to inches, and that will give a starting point for the ideal size for a light fixture.

What are the most energy-efficient Christmas lights? ›

Most energy-efficient string lights are LEDs, which use a fraction of the energy of traditional Christmas lights. The best outdoor LED Christmas lights are cool to the touch, can last through forty holiday seasons and use 75 percent less energy than incandescent string lights.

What color Christmas lights are most popular? ›

Warm White LED Christmas Lights

Warm white is the most popular color of LED Christmas lights. It has a slight yellow hue giving it a warmer look that is closer to what most people are familiar with when using traditional incandescent Christmas lights.

What LED light is best for outdoors? ›

Outdoor Living and Entertainment Areas

Warm lights, such as 2000K-3000K, tend to work best for these purposes. They are not too harsh on the eyes but still give enough light for everyone to be able to move around safely and see what is around them.

Is there anything better than LED for lighting? ›

XED lights are better in terms of spectral contents, power consumption as well as total running life hours. They produce less glares and are clearer under foggy weather. Moreover, the XED lights don't have excess blue emissions like LED lights.

Are LED outdoor Christmas lights better? ›

Wondering which is better – LED or incandescent Christmas lights? In terms of power consumption and longevity, LEDs are consistently the more popular choice. They may cost more upfront, but they are more energy-efficient as they don't need heat to product light.

How many lumens is considered high? ›

1000 Lumens

You can also use it for recreational activities on a large property. A 1000 lumen flashlight is extremely powerful. These flashlights are also used in search and rescue operations.

How many lumens is considered bright? ›

80 lumens is considered bright enough for most walkways — including commercial properties. For garden lights used as accent lighting, 50 lumens is generally sufficient to add safety, dimension, color and interest in your yard.

Is 3000 lumens good for outdoor use? ›

After you have done your best to control the outdoor conditions, use a bright outdoor projector! The more lumens the better. We recommend: 9x5 ft screen - 2500 lumens minimum, 3000 lumens are ideal.

Which lumen is strongest? ›

Brightest flashlight overall

The brightest flashlight you can currently get is the IMALENT MS18. Its maximum output gets up to 100,000 lumens That highest brightness level will last about a minute before it dims to 25,000 lumens, which it can sustain for an hour.

What is the highest LED lumen? ›

300 watt E39 Bulb: This is the brightest Light bulb made. It has almost 40,000 lumens with a high efficiency of 130 lumen/watt. It also provides 360 degree lighting and is ideal for replacement of 1000 watt HID/HPS/Metal halide or CFL fixtures.

What does LM mean in lighting? ›

Lumens measure how much light you are getting from a bulb. More lumens means it's a brighter light; fewer lumens means it's a dimmer light.

Is 8000 lumens too bright? ›

A level between 4,000 and 8,000 lumens is ideal. This is a wide spread so you can choose the amount that is right for your bathroom size.

How many lumens is a daylight bulb? ›

Such a bulb will have anywhere between 650 and 800 lumens. Daylight LED light bulbs are usually between 5,000 – 6,500 Kelvins.

Is 3000 lumens too much? ›

In other words, 3,000 lumens is meant to give a room a brighter light. This is not ideal if you have a small room and it's a bedroom. You don't want to blind your eyes when you're about to go to bed. On the other hand, 2,000 lumens is ideal if you wish to light up a 200 square-foot living room.

What happens if I string together too many Christmas lights? ›

Because light strings have a maximum wattage capacity, which is why many string lights come with a little fuse just in case you connect too many together at once. The fuse is designed to blow so you don't overload and damage your Christmas lights.

Is it better to have Christmas lights connected in series or parallel? ›

These are the reasons why new Christmas light strands are wired in parallel. Parallel wiring allows for several paths that electricity can take to get from the energy source to where the power is grounded. Even with several strings of lights connected, each string functions in parallel, not in a series.

How far apart should outdoor string lights be? ›

The average spacing between sockets on a patio light string is at least 12 inches. However, spacing can range from 12 inches to 3 feet wide.

What are the brightest outdoor Christmas lights? ›

Conical 5mm Wide-Angle LEDs are the most durable and brightest Christmas lights available. Almost every professional Christmas light installer uses conical LEDs for their displays.

How many lights should be on a string of Christmas lights? ›

The right amount tends to be 150 lights per strand, but you can buy Christmas lights with more lights per strand—so 200 lights per strand would work best if you want a very bright tree, while you'd want to opt for 100 lights per strand if you wanted a less twinkly look.

How many lumens do you need for string lights? ›

Here are some general guidelines: Step lights: 12-100 lumens. Hardscape lights (on walls): 50-185 lumens. Landscape lights: 50-300 lumens.

How many feet of string lights do I need for a 7.5 foot tree? ›

A general rule is to use 100 lights for every 1.5 feet of tree. However, if you love lights, you may want to double or even triple that amount.

How long is a 100 count string of lights? ›

GE String-A-Long incandescent 5-mm miniature 100-count gold light set. 3-Inch lead wire, 2.5-inch lamp spacing, 3-inch end connector, 20.6-feet lighted length, and green cord with fused plug. Available only at Lowe's.

Which is better incandescent or LED string lights? ›

Average bulb life varies, but as shown in the graph above, the LED bulb versions vastly outperform the incandescent. Efficiency. Lower energy usage is another distinct advantage with LED bulbs. For example with string lights, a 25 watt incandescent bulb can be replaced by a 1 to 2 watt LED bulb.

Which is better strip light or rope light? ›

Rope lights, though bendable, don't do well at large bending angles. The rope has internal wiring, which can be damaged if turned too much. LED Strip lights are more flexible, allowing you to bend them over 90 degrees without breaking. You can attach them even at sharp 90 degree turns, such as wall corners.

Are outdoor string lights OK in the rain? ›

While they can be exposed to water to some degree, they are not fully waterproof. Electric shock can occur, so use caution. Not all LED lights are damp-rated. LED bulbs that have neither of these ratings are not totally enclosed, and therefore, are not suitable for use around wet conditions or water.

Is there a downside to LED lights? ›

What are the cons of LED lighting? Higher initial cost: LED bulbs are generally more expensive to buy and replace than traditional incandescent bulbs, and the fittings required to install them are also often more costly to manufacture. This cost is, however, largely offset by the long term benefits mentioned above.

Why do rope lights fail? ›

Low bend angle: Due to the internal wiring of the rope light, bending the light too much in any direction can cause the lighting to fail.

What color light is best for outdoors? ›

Warm White (2700K).

Similar to halogen-type landscape lighting, it is the most preferred color temperature for landscape lighting. Psychologically, it is thought to be more welcoming and soothing compared to higher color temperatures.

What color lights are best for rain? ›

Early studies showed that yellow light was less dazzling to other drivers, making it a safer colour for headlights. Yellow light also cuts through rain, snow and fog better than white or blue light.

What should you not do with string lights? ›

Never string up a human or animal with the lights that you plug in, even if it's just for a photo -- they could get an electric shock or burns if the lights are too hot.

What lights are better in rain or dark? ›

Lights. You must have your headlights, tail-lights and number plate lights on when you drive at night or in bad weather that causes reduced visibility (such as heavy rain).


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