Best String Lights

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best string lights

You may think of string lights strictly as holiday décor, but these beautiful accent lights are more versatile than that. You can use string lights to dress up your home for any reason, whether it’s a holiday, a party, or everyday mood lighting.

There are so many string lights available on the market, in fact, that choosing the right lights can feel challenging. You have lots of decisions to make, from bulb size to color to strand length.

If you’re ready to purchase some string lights, we have five great options for you in the chart above. If you’d like to find out more about your options before settling on a purchase, read on for more information.

Thomas Edison is credited with creating the first string lights in order to showcase his new incandescent light bulb during the 1880 Christmas season.

String lights: year-round versatility

As mentioned above, string lights are great for holiday decorating. You’ll see them on Christmas trees and the windows, doors, and outdoor landscaping of homes and businesses during the holiday season.

You can also use string lights for the following purposes.

  • Landscape lighting: String lights can serve as easy, inexpensive landscape lighting for your yard. Wrap strands around trees that you want to highlight, or use them to outline garden gates.

  • Outdoor party lighting: For barbecues, picnics, and other yard parties, string lights create a festive mood. Drape them across the roof of your deck or between trees in your yard.

  • Indoor lighting: String lights work well as subtle mood lighting inside your home. Bunch them up inside glass jars or lanterns, or scatter them throughout a room as a soft lighting source.

  • Accenting interior features: You can use string lights to highlight interior features of your home such as windows, columns, accent walls, and even furniture.

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Expert Tip
Putting your string lights away for the season? Be sure to store them in a dry location, as unwanted moisture could damage the strands.

Incandescent vs. LED string lights

Incandescent string lights

String lights with incandescent bulbs are the most traditional and budget-friendly option. They have a soft, warm glow, but they use a lot of energy. Incandescent string light bulbs get warm, too, so they’re not the safest choice for interior use.

LED string lights

String lights with LED bulbs consume less energy, last longer, and display brighter colors. They stay cool to the touch during operation, too, so they work well for interior use. However, you’ll usually pay more upfront for LED string lights.

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Did you know?
LED string lights can last up to 100,000 hours, while incandescent string lights usually last only about 3,000 hours.

Classic vs. rope string lights

Two of the most popular string light configurations are the classic string light and the rope light.

  • Classic string lights

These feature individual bulbs that hang off a center strand. The strands can be connected to one another to create longer lengths for larger decorating projects.

  • Rope string lights

These feature LED bulbs that are contained inside a clear or colored rubber tube. They are ideal for outlining features doors and pathways and creating designs and shapes.

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Expert Tip
To avoid leaving your string lights on too long, attach them to a timer. It will automatically turn the lights on and off according to your chosen schedule.

Indoor vs. outdoor use

Most string lights are approved for outdoor use. If you’re going to use your lights outside, however, it’s smart to double-check that it’s safe to do so.

Lights that are outdoor-rated can stand up to the elements and safely maintain their electrical connection, even in rain and snow.

Lights that are approved for outdoor use can also be used inside the home. However, string lights that are only indoor-rated should not be used outdoors.

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For your safety
Carefully read the product specifications for any lights that you’re considering to verify that you can you them outside your home if that’s your intention.

Other features to consider

Power type

String lights use one of three main power sources: electricity, battery power, and solar power.

  • Plug-in string lights require an electrical outlet for power. To use them outside, you’ll likely connect them to an extension cord that you can then plug in inside your garage, shed, or house.

  • Battery-operated string lights have a battery case at the end. Because you don’t have to plug them in, you can use them in locations without a nearby outlet. Some consumers like them because they don’t have to worry about draping an extension cord across their display.

  • Solar string lights gain their power from the sun via a solar sensor. They turn on and off automatically, and like battery-operated string lights, you don’t need an electrical outlet or extension cord to set them up.

Bulb types and sizes

There are a variety of bulbs to choose from when shopping for string lights.

  • Mini bulbs are extremely common. They are usually 1/4-inch around and 5/8-inch tall with a candle-like shape and a point at the tip.

  • C6 bulbs are strawberry-shaped; many people think of this as the classic holiday light shape. They’re typically 3/4-inch around and 1 1/8 inches tall.

  • C7 bulbs are also strawberry-shaped, but they are a bit larger with a round, full look. They typically measure one inch around and 1 ½ inches in height.

  • C9 bulbs are the largest variation on the strawberry-shaped light. They measure 1 1/4 inches around and are usually 2 1/2 inches tall.

  • G series bulbs have a round, globe-like shape and come in a variety of sizes. The number following the G identifies how large the bulbs are in eighths of an inch. Divide the number by eight and round it to the nearest inch to determine the bulb’s diameter. For example, a G15 bulb has a diameter of roughly two inches.

Strand length

String lights are available in a variety of strand lengths.

  • For most outdoor projects, a good strand length for string lights is approximately 60 to 80 feet. If you choose a shorter option, you may wind up needing additional strands.

  • If you’re covering an extremely large area with string lights, though, you may prefer strands that are approximately 100 feet in length.

  • For indoor use, a good strand length for string lights is approximately 15 to 30 feet, depending on how you plan to use them.


String lights are available in a wide variety of colors. White and multicolor styles are the most common, but you can also find strings in single shades such as blue, green, red, purple, yellow, and orange. Some strands feature alternating shades, like red and green for Christmas.

  • White string lights have a classic, elegant look that works well both for holidays and year-round use.

  • Multicolored string lights have a bright, festive look that’s ideal for holiday displays and parties.

  • Colored string lights have a fun, whimsical look that can work well for holiday displays, parties, and interior decorating projects.

"If you’re using an extension cord to hang string lights outside your home, make sure the cord is UL-approved for outdoor use."

Bulb shape

Most string light bulbs are shaped like a classic candle, a strawberry, or a globe. However, some string lights are available with novelty-shaped bulbs that are ideal for parties or interior decorating. During the course of our research, we found string lights in all of the following shapes.

  • Stars

  • Moons

  • Hearts

  • Flowers

  • Pineapples and other fruits

  • Cows and other animals

  • Holiday-themed shapes: pumpkins, ghosts, American flags, shamrocks


Some string light feature a variety of modes so you can customize their appearance even further.

  • Color-changing string lights may change from white to color or another variation.

  • Twinkling string lights have a fun “twinkle” function that allows them to quickly flash on and off.

  • Glistening string lights have a “glisten” function that allows them to slowly flash on and off for a soft effect.

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Expert Tip
At Halloween, curl some white string lights up inside a carved pumpkin to create an easy, glowing jack-o’-lantern.

String light prices

String lights vary in price based on bulb type, strand length, and the type of power they use. Prices generally run from $8 and $75 for one string.


  • For plug-in incandescent string lights with a short strand length, you’ll typically pay between $8 and $16.

  • For solar-powered LED string lights with a medium to long strand length, you’ll typically pay between $10 and $20.


  • For plug-in incandescent string lights with a medium strand length, you’ll typically pay $20 to $30.

  • For battery-operated LED string lights with a short to medium strand length or plug-in LED string lights with short to medium strands, you’ll typically pay between $15 and $30.


  • For plug-in incandescent string lights with a long strand length, you’ll typically pay between $30 and $50.

  • For battery-operated LED string lights with a short to medium strand length or plug-in LED string lights with short to medium strands, you’ll typically pay between $30 and $75.

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For your safety
For safety reasons, never use incandescent string lights and LED string lights together.


  • Wrap your lights carefully so they don’t become tangled. If you’re putting your string lights away for the season, you can use a piece of cardboard or a plastic hanger for this purpose.

  • Always use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet for plug-in string lights. It will turn the lights off if the outlet is overloaded with current to reduce the chance of fire.

  • Consider using magnetic hooks and plastic clips. These can make it easier to hang up string lights both inside and outside your home.

  • Test string lights before you hang them up. There’s nothing worse than discovering the lights are burned out after you’ve gone to the trouble of arranging them.

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If you’re using string lights to decorate the exterior of your home for a holiday, choose a main focal point, such as the front door or a center tree, to keep your yard from looking too busy.


Q. How much electricity do string lights use?

A. It depends on the type of string lights you have. A string of 100 mini incandescent lights typically draws 40 watts of power, while a string of 100 LED lights usually draws about 6.8 watts. In general, it can cost up to 90 times more to run incandescent string lights than LED string lights.

Q. How many strands of string lights can you connect together?

A. For safety reasons, you shouldn’t join more than 210 watts together on a 22-gauge wire or 420 watts together on a 20-gauge wire. Each strand of string lights has a different wattage, so you’ll need to calculate how many strands would safely go together based on the specific strands you’d like to use together. Many manufacturers list the total number of strands that can be used together on the package, which makes it easier to figure out.

Q. Do string lights stop working if a single bulb goes out?

A. Nearly all modern string lights utilize parallel circuits to prevent a single bulb from affecting the entire strand. Each bulb on a parallel circuit serves as its own circuit to the power source. As a result, even if a single bulb goes out, the rest of the lights remain unaffected.

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