Best Christmas Lights of 2020

Christmas lights give you the opportunity to select from an array of colors and themes when decorating for the holidays. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best Christmas lights for your holiday display.

Let It Glow: Your Guide to the Best Christmas Lights

The most festive way to dress up the inside and outside of your home for Santa's big visit: Christmas lights. You can decorate your Christmas tree or outdoor shrubbery, outline windows, wind Christmas lights around banisters and columns, or string Christmas lights across a room or roof.

With a variety of colors and styles available, you can be as creative as you like with Christmas lights. But finding the right Christmas lights for your holiday decor can be tricky. Incandescent or LED, plug-in or battery, not to mention color—how do you decide?

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If you're ready to decorate, take a look above at our top picks. For everything you need to know about Christmas lights, you've come to the right place.

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Decorating Around a Focal Point Makes for a Festive Display

Design Tip: Find a focal point when constructing your outdoor display of Christmas lights. For example, if your yard has a large tree, make it the center of the display.

Incandescent vs. LED: Types of Christmas Lights

Incandescent Christmas Lights
Incandescent Christmas lights are the classic option and the most budget-friendly. Incandescent Christmas lights use traditional light bulbs, which create light using a filament. Since they require a good deal of energy, incandescent Christmas lights aren't the most energy-efficient option. They don't last as long as LED Christmas lights, and the bulbs can get quite hot during operation.

LED Christmas Lights
LED Christmas lights use light-emitting diodes, a cold process to produce light. LED Christmas lights are energy-efficient, and they have a long service life, between 25,000 and 75,000 hours. LED Christmas lights stay cool to the touch, and they produce true colors for a rich, bright look. However, they are more expensive than incandescent Christmas lights.

LED Christmas lights use approximately 10 percent less electricity than incandescent Christmas lights.

Candles to Globes: Types of Light Bulbs for Christmas Lights

Mini Christmas Lights
Mini Christmas lights are 1/4 of an inch in diameter and 5/8 of an inch in length. Mini Christmas lights resemble small candles with pointed tips.

C6 Bulbs for Christmas Lights
C6 bulbs are 3/4 of an inch in diameter and 1-1/8 inches in length. Classic Christmas lights have C6 bulbs, which are small and cone-shaped.

C7 Bulbs for Christmas Lights
C7 bulbs are similar in shape to C6 bulbs, but they are larger and slightly round. C7 bulbs are 1 inch in diameter and 1-1/2 inches in length.

C9 Bulbs for Christmas Lights
C9 bulbs are large Christmas lights. C9 bulbs are 1-1/4 inches in diameter and 2-1/2 inches in length.

G-Type Bulbs for Christmas Lights

G-type bulbs for Christmas lights are globe-shaped and available in a variety of sizes. For G-type bulbs, the number following the "G" is the size. To determine the bulb's diameter, divide the number by eight. For example, G40 light bulbs have a diameter of 5 inches.

When decorating a Christmas tree, try wrapping Christmas lights around the branches instead of draping them. The wires will be less obvious that way.

Pre-Glow: What to Consider When Buying Christmas Lights

Type
Do you want incandescent Christmas lights or LED Christmas lights for your holiday display? If you're concerned about energy costs and longevity, LED Christmas lights are the best option. LED Christmas lights also provide truer color for multicolor lights. However, incandescent Christmas lights produce a warmer, brighter glow, and they are less expensive. Incandescent Christmas lights are a good option for budget-minded shoppers.

Power Source
Traditional Christmas lights plug into an electrical outlet. When using plug-in Christmas lights outdoors, you'll probably need an extension cord.

Battery-operated Christmas lights often have a built-in timer. While you don't have to worry about extension cords with battery-operated Christmas lights, you will need a place for the battery box in your display. Battery-operated Christmas lights typically work best for designs that are close to the ground.

Style
Christmas lights come in a variety of styles to fit every holiday aesthetic.

  • String Lights: The most common and traditional option for Christmas lights are string lights. A strand with multiple bulbs, string lights are ideal for winding around trees, columns, and posts. You can also outline windows and doors with string lights.
  • Net Lights: Net lights are many strands of string lights woven together to form a net. Net lights are ideal for draping over bushes or roofs for a uniform look—a quick and easy way to create your display without the hassle of laying out individual strands.
  • Rope Lights: Rope lights are LED bulbs inside clear tubing. Rope lights work well for outlining windows, doors, and walkways. You can also wind rope lights into shapes and designs.
  • Icicle Lights: A long strand of Christmas lights with shorter, hanging strands, icicle lights mimic the look of icicles. Ideal for lining gutters or the tops of windows.
  • Laser Projection: The quickest way to set up a holiday display is laser projection. Laser Christmas lights project a variety of holiday images or brightly colored patterns right onto your home's exterior or the trees in your yard.

Color
Christmas lights also come in a variety of colors. White and multicolor Christmas lights are the most common, but you can also find lights in single shades, such as red, green, or blue.

White Christmas lights are elegant and traditional. Some homeowners find multicolor Christmas lights to be more festive, however. Single-color Christmas lights are ideal for blocking off particular areas to create a dramatic display.

Bulb Spacing
The bulbs on string lights are spaced at different intervals. Christmas lights with wide spaces between the bulbs work well for wrapping around thin trees, poles, columns, and banisters. Christmas lights with smaller gaps between the bulbs are best for draping loosely over trees and bushes or for outlining a roof, window, or door.

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Be Sure Christmas Lights and Extension Cords are Compatible

Christmas lights and extension cords are available in different amps. For safety reasons, always use Christmas lights with extension cords that have the same amp capacity.

Your Wallet: How Much Do Christmas Lights Cost?

Christmas lights vary in price based on the type of light, the bulb style, and the strand length.

  • Incandescent Christmas Lights: $7 to $20 per strand
  • LED Christmas Lights: $10 to $30 per strand
  • Extra-Long Strands: $30 to $60 per strand
  • Laser Projectors: $25 to $80

It's always a good idea to buy a few more strands of Christmas lights than you think you need. The extra Christmas lights will come in handy if you need a replacement for a broken or burned-out strand.

Bright Night: Tips and Tricks for Using Your Christmas Lights

  • Save energy and lower your electricity bills by using timers with your Christmas lights. You can program a timer to turn your Christmas lights on and off at specified times.
  • When you're installing Christmas lights outdoors, be sure to use a sturdy ladder to avoid accidents.
  • For outdoor installations, check that your Christmas lights and extension cords are approved for outdoor use. Your outdoor Christmas lights and extension cords need to be able to weather the cold, rain, and snow.
  • Most Christmas lights can be plugged into one another to create longer strands. However, to avoid a fire hazard, don't plug more than three strands together.
  • Test your Christmas lights before you begin hanging them. Even new Christmas lights should be tested, just to be safe.
  • When creating your light display, take a step back every so often to make sure the design is coming together from a distance.
Always follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure that you're safely using and maintaining your Christmas lights.

FAQ

Q. How many strands of Christmas lights should I buy?
A. The number of strands of Christmas lights you'll need depends on the number of bulbs on each strand. Strands can be the same length but have a different number of bulbs due to the spacing of the bulbs. In general, shoot for approximately 20 bulbs per 1-1/2 feet.

Q. Which type of Christmas lights are the most cost-effective?
A. LED Christmas lights are the most energy-efficient, so despite the initial investment, they'll typically cost less to operate than incandescent Christmas lights. If you're concerned about the cost of operating your holiday display, you may prefer battery-operated Christmas lights.

Q. What's the best way to store my Christmas lights?
A. A reel for storing Christmas lights is your best bet. You can wind your Christmas lights around the reel and never worry about them getting tangled. If you don't want to buy a reel, you can also wind Christmas lights around cardboard cylinders, like an empty paper towel roll, for easy storage.

Energy Star estimates the average cost of running Christmas lights is 11.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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