When it’s time to decorate the house for the holidays, picking the best outdoor Christmas lights is important because everyone will see them. Creating a great holiday display involves a bit more than just hanging a string of lights from the front gutter. And, if you’re facing a big knotted ball of old Christmas lights, it’s time to go shopping for some new ones that will make a bigger impact, be more energy-efficient and likely easier to install. Christmas lights have changed over the years so it’s important to do a little research before you go out and buy new lights.
The most important feature of your outdoor Christmas lights is safety. No display is worth risking your home. Make sure that the lights you choose are rated for outdoor use. First, make sure your lights are approved by outdoor use. The tag at the end of the light strong should have a UL Listing and be marked “indoor/outdoor”. Never use light strings outdoors that are marked for indoor use only. Sometimes, the lights are outdoor-safe but the control box is not. In those cases, you’ll have to find a way to protect the controller from the elements. More safety tips are included later in this guide.
What Kind of Lights Should You Use?
Most new Christmas lights use newer LED technology. LED stands for light-emitting diode. The main advantages of LED lighting come in greater durability and safety for these main reasons:
- LED lights use far less energy than traditional incandescent lights – in fact they’re about 90 percent more energy efficient.
- These new lights are much safer because LEDs stay cool to the touch and don’t have nearly the same risk of overloading electrical circuits and causing a fire.
- Lights based on LEDs are more durable too. The bulbs covering the bulbs are plastic and pretty much unbreakable.
Types of Lights
Depending on how you plan to use them, the best outdoor Christmas lights might not be just bulbs on a string. There are many new options for making your holiday lighting display easier to create there’s no excuse for a poorly decorated home. Here are some of the more popular types of lights.
LED net lights are a great choice when you need to cover a larger area more quickly. These lights are ideal for bushes and shrubs or an entire rooftop because the bulbs are spaced out along wire in the form of netting. All you have to do is lay it over a surface for full lighting coverage.
LED icicle lights are super popular for use along the roofline of the house, as well as anywhere else you want the effect of sparkling icicles. There’s also a motion style available that looks like falling snow or dripping ice.
LED rope lights are popular for all kinds of uses, not just for the holidays. This kind of lighting is bright because there’s a bulb each inch along the rope, It’s bendable, so it’s easy to wrap around posts or outline an area.
Battery-operated LED mini lights are a godsend for people who like to use mini lights in trees or areas that might be far from a power outlet. The small battery pack runs the lights and you don’t have to deal with outdoor extension cords dangling from trees or running across large swaths of your lawn.
LED fairy lights. These small but mighty fairy lights feature tiny bulbs, but don’t let their size fool you, they produce incredibly bright, glowing light! Choose both battery-operated and new plugin styles on silver or green wire to wrap around wreaths or small displays. In general, these wire LED strings cannot be joined together.
Size of Lights
Even among mini-lights, the size available varies as does the quality of light they put out. Here it comes down to personal preference. In general, outdoor fir trees look better when you use bigger bulb sizes. And, if you want to cover a lot of shrubs, net lights are your easiest option, no matter the size of the individual bulbs.
M5 Mini Lights and T5 Mini Lights are the new classics that have replaced old-style incandescent lights. These are great for Christmas trees as well as for outdoor columns or other structures.
Wide Angle 5mm LED Mini Lights are smaller than the typical mini lights. They have a concave design that creates a starburst light halo that sends light in all directions. These are commonly used for Christmas trees, garlands and even wreaths.
G12 Raspberry Lights are little faceted bulbs that look a little like a raspberry and create a nice halo. They’re great for Christmas trees, decorating shrubs or wrapping around structures.
C7 & C9 LED Christmas Lights are LED string lights where the bulbs cannot be removed from the wire. They’re inexpensive, ready to hang out of the box and perfect for just about all the uses you might have in mind.
While there are plenty of colorful options, white is one of the most popular lighting colors and even with this one color, you have choices to make. Strings of white lights can have a warm tone or a cool one. The choice depends on the look that you’re going for: More traditional displays look best with lights that emit a warm colored light, while modern décor will likely look best with a cool white light.
Depending on the type of lights you’re purchasing, you might also have a choice of color for the wires connecting all the bulbs. Obviously, if you want to use them on the Christmas tree, green is the best choice, but for other locations, brown or clear wires may be better. If you’re considering the wired mini fairy lights, the plain silver wire is the most common and versatile choice.
Planning Saves Time and Effort
With so many types of string lights available, it’s best to plan your outdoor lighting display. This is especially true if it is large, but also if your plans are more modest. In the long run, it saves time, effort and money, especially when it comes to buying the best outdoor Christmas lights for your yard.
- Plan what you would like to do for your overall display and identify the elements that you have and those you need to purchase.
- Mark where your outdoor outlets are located and then calculate how many outdoor extension cords you will need. For large displays, it’s very important to remember that many string lights have a limit of how many safely can be combined safely into one continuous strand. Don’t string together different types of lights because their wires may not be suitable for a different amperage.
- Measure the lengths you need to decorate and make a list. You can then easily calculate how many strands of a particular type of light you will need for your project.
- To calculate what you need to decorate areas that are not simply linear, like wrapping a tree or a fence, use string. Wrap the area as you like with string, unwrap it, and then measure the string to figure out the length. From there you can calculate the number of strings.
- Step away from the staple gun! Think about how you will attach the strings to the house or other surfaces. All sorts of plastic clips, coated fasteners, zip ties and hooks are available to attach your string lights without damaging your roof or other parts of your house with staples. Investigate what is available for how you plan to use your string lights. If you’ve taken all the necessary measurements, it’ll be easy to calculate how many clips or hangers you need.
- Be sure to plug in and check all your string lights before you begin hanging them. It’s no fun taking apart a display when you find out that a string doesn’t work!
Don’t Overlook General Safety
Even though you’re using LEDs that are safer than incandescent lights, it still involves electricity so safety should be paramount. Following standard safety measures can keep you safe and able to enjoy your holiday display.
- For the safest operation, plug your lights into an outlet that has a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI. If there’s a short or a problem, it will trip the outlet and skirt any potential dangers.
- Overloading electrical outlets or extension cords is a common rout to disaster. Don’t try to run too many lights through a single point.
- If you trip a breaker, be sure to lessen the power load before flipping it back on.
- Manufacturers will typically note the number of strings that you can safety combine into a single length. Don’t exceed the recommended number.
- Don’t string LED lights together with old-school incandescent lights. By the same token, don’t combine different types of LED lights in one string.
- Avoid running electrical cords through high-traffic areas.
Once you find the lights that you like, there might be a few more things that you need for decking out your home. We’ve already mentioned clips and extension cords, but other things can make your holiday display even more spectacular – and convenient.
Timer – If you have the standard plug-in lights, getting a timer is a good idea. It will eliminate any worry about accidentally leaving them on, and makes it convenient to run your lights., If you’re busy, you won’t forget to turn them on either! Some types of lights might even come with a built-in timer and programmable selections for the lighting patterns.
Smart Lights – Some lights can be controlled via smartphone which brings them to a whole new level of convenience.
Cue the Music – Some of the most spectacular outdoor Christmas light displays incorporate music, with the pattern of the lights synchronized to the songs. Your budget will be the limiting factor for how complex your musically synchronized display will be. From modest plug and play systems that typically run around $150 to sophisticated, software-controlled systems, the price can rise quite quickly.
When you’re ready to create – or upgrade – your holiday display, here are the best outdoor Christmas lights.
Whether you live in a cold climate or not, you can get the frosty holiday feeling with these 70 Light LED Icicle Lights. Hang them for the holidays or all through the winter, your eaves or trees will be dripping with sparkling light. Each LED is topped by a special non-removable faceted cap that makes them look like a traditional M5 light, or mini ice light. The icicles on the string vary, with six, five or three bulbs to a drop.
Because they are LED lights, they are far more energy-efficient and durable than traditional incandescent lighting. Their straight-line construction means that if one bulb burns out, the rest will remain lit. Better yet, the bulb life is 100,000 hours. UL-approved, these icicle lights have a fuse-protected, stackable plug and are intended for 90-day seasonal use. Manufacturer The Holiday Aisle covers these lights with a one-year limited warranty. Buyers say the colors are beautiful and the light is bright.
For a glowing wreath or sparkly lanterns along the walkway, these 50 Light LED Battery String Lights are ideal because you don’t need to plug them in. Running off of three batteries, they are totally portable and will light up any decor piece you want. High-quality micro-LED bulbs provide continuous light and consume up to 70% less power than other light sources, making them more eco-friendly than incandescent lights.
Crafted from very thin, silver copper wires 192 inches long, you can shape the string any way you like and the thin wire virtually disappears when they are lit. The copper wire string lights are waterproof, however, the small battery pack is not and will need to be protected. Otherwise, it is small and easy to hide in your display or decor. These tiny lights look really magical, resembling fireflies and creating an indescribable feeling. Happy reviewers say that they bring such warmth and cheerfulness to any décor!
Despite the advantages of LED lights, there are those who still prefer the look of old-school incandescent bulbs, especially outdoors. These 10 Light Luminary & Pathway Lights are one of the sets that feature incandescent bulbs and create a very festive route to your front door. The 10 lights attach to an anchor stake and are spaced out along the 360-inch electrical cord. Use these along the walkway or driveway for the holiday season — or for any special event you might be planning.
Weather-resistant, these plastic pathway lights have a UL-listed electrical cord outfitted with end-to-end connectors so that you can string up to four of them together. Reviewers note that these are the perfect lights to line a walkway and. that they are easy to put together and stake down.
For the ultimate in convenience, this Extendable 204 Light Net Lighting is it. Buyers say these indoor/outdoor net lights are a breeze to lay out and look great. The cool, white light they emit enhances all kinds of decorative styles. There’s a compact controller on the string that allows you to select from any one of eight different lighting patterns or a combination of them: steady on, waves, sequential, slow glow, chasing/flash, slow fade, or twinkling. One set covers an area of 9.8ft by 6.6ft and the end-to-end plug design means that you can connect up to five sets.
While these lights are waterproof, the power adapter is not so it will need to be protected. Also, if one bulb goes out, never fear– all the rest will stay lit. Wide-angle LED bulbs stay cool to the touch so they’re safe and energy-efficient. Net lighting is a quick way to create a starry wonderland, especially if you use it under a canopy or on the ceiling of an enclosed patio or porch.
Add some small lighted trees to your decor with minimal effort and no cords to plug in with these Merrylite LED Christmas 70 Light Lighted Tree & Branches. Solar power means that you can place these two-foot-tall pre-lit trees anywhere. Each one features a spiral structure that is adorned with 70 bright LED lights. You have your choice of a warm white or a multicolor lighting style, topped with a glow-in-the-dark star. This tree comes on automatically every night and will be on for up to 10 hours — now plugs, cords or batteries required!
The reinforced, waterproof frame stands up to weather and the lights can run on a steady or flashing mode. The tree comes with the attached lights, a ground stake, a metal support pole for the tree, and a ground stake for the solar panel. It’s the perfect decoration for a flower bed or to be placed along the driveway or sidewalk. Reviewers say that these are the perfect small tree to add to your holiday decor and that assembly is very simple.
Glowing spheres hanging in front of the window or sprinkled among tree branches are a magical way to decorate your yard and these Fairy 128 Light LED Lighted Window Décor pieces make it easy. The 128 lights are wrapped around the wires of a fold-flat frame that pops open in seconds. A built-in hook means that all you have to do is hang it and plug it in, which is very easy with the 13-foot-long lead. Better yet, you can hook together as many as six of these spheres for a more spectacular display.
Because the 24-gauge wire frame folds flat, it’s easy to store these at the end of the season, although some buyers say they will also use them in backyard trees during the summer months. These LED lighted spheres also make it easy to be creative with your holiday decor by hanging them in different places or by filling the middle with greenery or ornaments. The water-resistant decor globes are rated for outdoor use and are very bright.
Decorating the porch or patio can be a challenge if you want more than just a single string, but net lights make it much easier. This 100 Light LED Net Light adds plenty of festive white light to your home very easily. The 4-foot by 6-foot net makes quick work of covering a larger area and you can connect up to 18 of these sets for massive coverage of a rooftop or long border of shrubs or fencing. The white light is beautiful for the holidays but is also a great addition to other celebrations.
UL Listed for safety, these net lights have wide-angle LED bulbs that shine brightly but also come with a dimming controller. Rated for outdoor use, they are water-resistant too. Happy buyers say that the net is even and the spacing of lights is uniform, praising the great look and durability of the lights.
Liven up your winter holiday celebration with icicles that are festive and not frozen. This 70 Light LED Icicle Light will make your home shine throughout the season, thanks to the quality of the set. Moreover, these are super convenient for outlining the whole house or a long fence because you can connect up to 43 of these 7-foot-long sets together in one long string — which means just one plug! The icicles have drop lengths of 18, 15 and 9 inches, and they are spaced 6 inches apart. The lights themselves are spaced just 3 inches apart.
The shatterproof LED bulbs on these icicle lights are the mini candle-shaped bulbs. Water-resistant and made for outdoor use, the lights also come with a dimming function for more control of your lighting scheme. Reviewers praise the weightiness of the cord, which helps the drops hang straight right away, rather than having to wait for them to stretch out.
Some projects call for a simple string of lights and this Prextex 100-Count Clear Green Wire Christmas Light Set is among the best outdoor Christmas lights. Wrap them around a tree, fence or deck railing. Or, use them to light up a first tree growing in the yard. Traditional incandescent bulbs are spaced two inches apart along a 20-foot-long string. An 18-inch led wire and 3-inch end connector make it simple to connect up to five strings together. The set also comes with two flasher bulbs and two extra bulbs and replacement fuses.
Green wires make this set blend in with your outdoor shrubbery. Buyers say that the lights give off a warmer tone and are really beautiful. While they are ideal for is indoors as well as outdoors for the holidays, some say that they are also perfect for year-round use on the deck or in other areas where you entertain outdoors.
Another one of the best outdoor Christmas lights is the AmazonBasics 100 LED Commercial Grade Outdoor Christmas String Lights. These are sturdy, commercial-grade LED lights that will hold up to weather and many holiday seasons of use. Ideal for any application where you’d typically use regular string lights, the two 33-foot-long white ropes have 100 lights each creating great illumination. Create a festive display inside your home or outdoors with these UL and wet-rated light strings.
These heavy-duty lights are available in warm white, bright white, or multi-color options, and are great for other festive celebrations as well as for the Christmas season. The bulbs feature rounded tips that have a more efficient light output and a brighter appearance. Best of all, you can join together three of these light strings. Byers looking for a soft, warm glow will like these lights, however, some buyers felt they were a little too pinkish for their tastes. Otherwise, buyers praise the quality for the price.
Wrap your tree trunks, light up a fence or trim a front yard fir tree with these Fairy 100 Light Solar String Lights. It’s so easy to do without worrying about extension cords, plugs and power. The solar panel can be positioned as needed atop its stake in order to power up the lights, which run for 6 to 8 hours after a day of recharging.
Stay-cool LED bulbs are energy-efficient and stay lit. The strings can be connected end-to-end for a longer continuous string. Available in a number of festive colors, these solar lights are water-resistant and designed for outdoor use. Buyers say that these are very bright and garner lots of compliments. And, while they are not quite as bright as the plug-in types, they are fuss-free and reviewers love that they are super easy to use. The solar charging is said to work well, even on a gloomy day.
For those who like extra bling and brightness in holiday decor, these 216″ Garland Lights will deliver. Multiple strands are bundled into a garland that sports 600 mini candle lights that make them some of the best outdoor Christmas lights. The incandescent bulbs are clear and emit a steady light. the garland has a contemporary look and really makes a bright statement, so if you want to have just a few lighted elements, this is the one to use.
UL Certified and rated for the outdoors, these garland lights are also appropriate for indoor use. Not only are they great on a porch or fence, but they will also really light up a Christmas tree with heavy swags of illumination. That said, these garlands cannot be connected together in multiples. The strings come with replacement bulbs in case any go out. Happy reviewers praise the brightness of these lights and how dramatically they frame any outdoor setting.
There are so many different types of lights available that you can find some to fit your needs. Whether your holiday display is minimalist and modern or large and over the top, there are lots of options among the best outdoor Christmas lights.