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How to Buy Christmas Lights

You’ve seen the dazzling light displays in the neighborhood and want to get in on the competi - um - fun. However, it’s best to curb the impulse to go on a Christmas light buying frenzy. If you run to the nearest store to haphazardly grab whatever lights and decorations are available on the shelves, you may not be happy with the results. 

A little forethought will help you find the best Christmas lights for your holiday decorating needs, saving time and aggravation. Plus, carries everything you need for a fantastic Christmas display online.

What to Consider When Buying Holiday Lighting

There are some important questions to answer before buying Christmas lights.

•  How motivated are you to decorate? Will you spend hours outdoors creating an over-the-top light display, because the word “understated” is not in your Christmas decorating vocabulary? Or will a frigid blast of wind chase you indoors before you finish hanging your first string of lights?

•  What effect are you trying to achieve? For instance, if you envision a serene winter scene, you might want to combine white mini lights with a few wicker reindeer or spiral Christmas trees scattered across the lawn. On the other hand, if you’re looking to light up those dark winter nights like a Christmas carnival, you might want multicolored LED lights to accentuate the fun and whimsy of colorful inflatable lawn decorations.

•  What’s your budget and skill level? If you’re lacking in either category, you may need to start small with your Christmas light display and build your collection of lights and decorations over several years.

Plus, there are other practical considerations. For instance, where do you plan to put your lights? 

Do you have enough available outlets and extension cords? Do you have all the other tools, equipment and accessories you might need, like clips, hooks and a good ladder?

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to think about the decorations themselves.


Right now, we’re focusing on Christmas lights, but there are many other Christmas decorations you can incorporate into your outdoor Christmas display. Plan ahead and use your lights to accent the overall look.

What Kind of Lights Should You Use?

We’ve come a long way since the first electric Christmas tree lights were introduced in the late 1800s. These days, there are more Christmas light colors, styles, bulb types and sizes than ever. 

White lights, multi-colored lights, LEDs and incandescent, even classic bulbs and bubble lights are among the selection for our tree, home and outdoor Christmas light displays.

You’re probably familiar with some of these choices, but let’s take a closer look at your options. 

String Light Styles

Incandescent Mini Lights - Incandescent light bulbs consist of a fine filament enclosed inside a glass casing. Electrical energy passing through the filament heats it until it glows. It also heats the surrounding glass bulb. In general, the larger the bulb, the hotter it will feel to the touch when in use. For instance, mini incandescent bulbs will feel warm to the touch, but traditional C7 and C9 bulbs can get hot enough to burn skin or other materials. Incandescent Christmas lights are available in several sizes and colors. Colored incandescent Christmas lights owe their brilliant hues to the painted or colored glass encasing the filament.  

LED Mini Lights - While LED technology has been in use for several decades, LED Christmas lights have only been around since the early 2000s. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was first completely lit using LED lights in 2007. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, produce light when electricity passes through the diode, which contains semiconducting material. This efficient energy exchange produces little to no heat, so LED bulbs remain cool while lit. LED lights are available in white and a range of colors. The color depends on the alloy used to create the diode.

Wide Angle Lights - All wide angle lights are LED lights, but not all LED lights are wide angle. A wide angle LED light features a distinctive conical lens that is 25% brighter than traditional incandescent lighting. That being said, many Christmas light experts maintain that wide angle LEDs best mimic the glow of a classic incandescent bulb. Popular with commercial decorators, wide angle LEDs are quickly gaining favor among the general public for their aesthetic appeal.

Micro Lights - The diodes in micro LED lights are about one-fifth the size (about .008 inch) of mini LED lights and have many applications, such as creating the images on your LED TV. Strung on thin, flexible wire, you’ll also find them marketed as fairy lights or rice lights. Crafters love micro lights because of their versatility. Typically battery operated, you can see these lights tucked inside Mason jars, wound into decorations and arranged under tablecloths for a magical effect. You might even find micro Christmas lights sewn into your Ugly Christmas Sweater!

Icicle Lights - Icicle lights are LED lights strung with a dangling “fringe” of lights. Varying string lengths give an appearance similar to dripping icicles. They are typically hung from the eaves or gutters of the house, or along the tops of window frames. Icicle light sets made from cool white lights are probably the most popular, but you can find icicle lights in warm white, solid colors and multi-color configurations, too.

Globe Lights - Called globe lights because of their round shape, these have gained popularity for lighting patios and other outdoor spaces. They are available in both incandescent and LED styles, in a variety of colors and white. At 12mm and 10mm, respectively, G12 and G10 “berry” lights are probably the most appropriate globe sizes for Christmas applications like tree lighting. By comparison, G40 bulbs are the size of a ping pong ball.


Retro Lights - Remember the lights on your grandmother’s Christmas tree? Old-fashioned bulbs have never completely gone out of style. Today, they’re considered “vintage” or “retro.” We don’t recommend using grandma’s original Christmas light cords, as the wiring is outdated. However, modern versions of the cords and bulbs can be found in stores and online. Styles include large oval C5, C6, C7 and C9 bulbs, Edison lights and bubble lights. Christmas bubble lights feature small tubes filled with liquid that bubbles when the heat from the bulb causes it to boil.

Rope Lights - Rope lights contain small LED or incandescent bulbs inside a length of plastic tubing. Its flexibility makes rope lighting popular for use on fences, railings, poles and pillars. Rope lights come in a variety of lengths and colors. Depending on the type of rope light, you can achieve certain special effects like chasing lights, twinkling and strobe effects. Some can be connected end-to-end to create longer ropes.

Tape Lights - Also called LED strip lights, tape lights are actually flexible circuit boards with LED lights mounted along the surface. They are very thin and more flexible than rope lights. Some tape lights offer effects like color changing and strobing.

Net Lights - Net lights make it easy to evenly light large features. Connector wires weave lengths of string lights into a rectangular grid or “net” that can be draped over or wrapped around bushes, hedges, tree trunks, fences, porch rails, columns and posts. They come in many colors and sizes and some can be interconnected.

Novelty Lights - A fun alternative to standard string lights, novelty lights can be shaped like Santa, reindeer, snowflakes, stars, snowmen, Christmas trees and many more holiday motifs. There are plug-in and battery-operated versions. Some novelty string lights are rated for indoor use only.

Commercial String Lights - Typically longer and more durable than standard Christmas light strings, commercial Christmas lights are often the choice of homeowners who go all-out with their Christmas light display. You’ll find LED C7 and C9 bulb styles and rope lighting among our line of commercial lights.

24V LED Lights - 24-volt LED lights run on 24 volts of current and require a special transformer to adapt the light sets to standard household 120-volt current. The 24-volt system lets decorators connect more light strands together. A starter kit will connect up to 2,000 LED lights. With a 24-volt system, you also have the flexibility to connect unlike lighting, such as mini LEDs, wide angle LED lights, icicle lights and decorations that use LED lights. A controller adjusts functions like chasing, sequential and flashing lights, enabling you to choreograph your light displays.

Bulb Types

Bulb Variations

In addition to variety in the type of bulb you choose, you’ll notice other design and style choices. For instance, bulbs can be faceted, clear or opaque. Some, especially retro bulbs, may even mix colors or offer graded color intensity.

You’ll find white lights with either a warm (yellowish) or cool (true white or blue-white) tone. Check the product description and photos to determine which you prefer.

So Which Christmas Lights Should You Choose?

If the extent of Christmas light options leaves you a bit overwhelmed, keep two things in mind: practicality and aesthetics. 

First, measure the area you need to cover (or take note of your tree height and profile) and decide how many lights you need. (link here) This alone may eliminate a few options or help you determine how many light strands to purchase and what type. 

The second consideration is this: You probably already have some preferences - white lights vs. multicolor lights, for instance. Go with your gut and buy what you like. The best Christmas lights are the ones that help you achieve the vision you have in your mind of the perfect Christmas light display.