The 10 Best String Lights
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in March of 2016. You don't have to wait until the holidays to enjoy twinkling string lights in your home. Though they do look awesome on a tree, they're also perfect for adding a decorative touch to your front porch, backyard, dining room or basement recreation room. Our selections for this category come in a variety of colors and shapes, allowing them to complement virtually any decor. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 26, 2021:
Not much has changed in this space since the last time we visited this page, but we did run into a bunch of availability issues surrounding some of our selections, so we stripped them from our list. The options we removed were the Newhouse Lighting Impact Resistant, GDealer WaterDrop, INST Solar Honey Bee and Homeleo Twinkle Star
We added the ShineTech E26 to our list because we liked that it was a replaceable-bulb option (not to mention one that came with a few bulb replacements), and we were fans of the way it supported USB charging as well as solar charging, making it a viable option for indoor use as well as outdoor.
The Sanjicha MLS-D may not be the most breathtaking option on the market, but its price per foot is hard to compete with, which is often a deciding factor for users looking to dress up long lengths of fence. Its 1.8-amp-hour capacity is nothing to write home about, but because these strings feature fewer diodes than other options, it can still keep them running for eight to 10 hours, which seems to be average (or, maybe even a bit better than average) for the category.
The Magictec FD-2 comprises an array of 10, 10-foot strings, and became the first such option to be included on this list. It’s probably not the way to go if you’re looking to add some accent lighting to the top of your fence or eavestrough, but there are alternate applications that they’ll work great for, like dressing up curtains and creating canopies over porches.
The DazzBling Outdoor YJ-312-15 earned its spot with its ability to display two bulb colors simultaneously, enabling you to make them match just right with your decor for the evening. Its Wi-Fi connectivity, Smart Life-app compatibility and shatterproof bulbs didn’t hurt either.
For further simple solutions to help light up your yard, check out our lists of landscape lighting, path lights and outdoor floodlights.
March 03, 2020:
During this round of updates, after removing the Deneve LED Copper, Kekh Photo Clips and Brightown Garden Backyard due to availability issues, we replaced the Oak Leaf Super Bright Rope with the Homestarry Fairy Lights – a similarly designed model with color-changing functionality that helps enhance their whimsical look. We also added several new options to our rankings, including the Room Essentials Clear Globe – an affordably priced choice for users who prefer incandescent light to LED alternatives, the Y Yuegang Outdoor Flame Lamp – a smart-looking set of LED orbs that flicker in a lantern-like manner, and the Newhouse Lighting Impact Resistant – a color-changing string of Edison-like LED bulbs that’s backed by a five year warranty.
Some considerations to string together as you shop:
Length: This consideration is twofold. While the prominent and obvious concern here is making sure that you order a sufficient length of string lights, based on your intended use for the fixtures, it also doesn’t hurt to be mindful of how long each offering’s power cord is.
While offerings like the Y Yuegang Outdoor Flame Lamp are equipped with a 10-foot power cord, allowing users significant reach to the desired start point for their string lights, others like the Room Essentials Clear Globe have only a six-inch lead to their male plug. In situations like this, unless you’re ok with your lighting starting right from an outlet, you’re going to need an extension cord to hook them up, amounting to an extra expense and, often, an eyesore.
Moving back to discussion of total unit length, I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining how to pick a string with a length that exceeds your needs, but for users planning on longer installations, I will mention the value in choosing an option like the Lampat Globe or Newhouse Lighting Impact Resistant that are outfitted with a female outlet at the end of the line, allowing users to daisy chain multiple strings together via end-to-end connections. Solar-powered models like the INST Solar Honey Bee and Vmanoo Flower Blossom also have the advantage of being independently powered, which allows users to decorate their yards with broken sections of lighting, versus one gigantic string.
Control: Although many users will be happy with simple units like the Room Essentials Clear Globe that are limited to turning on and turning off, others will enjoy other options’ fun functionalities that can help add a bit of personality to a space. While models like the Homeleo Twinkle Star and Newhouse Lighting Impact Resistant allow users to adjust their brightness, the Homestarry Fairy Lights and Vmanoo Flower Blossom come with 16 and four color options, respectively. The Y Yuegang Outdoor Flame Lamp can flicker at three different speeds, allowing it to imitate candle light, and is one of several models available with automatic-timed-off functions.
Power Source: While many options in this category are commonly powered by standard, 120-volt wall outlets, others like the INST Solar Honey Bee and GDealer Water Drop depend on solar panels to power their LED bulbs – a nice touch for energy-conscious users and people who don’t have access to many outlets in their backyard. The Homestarry Fairy Lights is powered via USB, which might be fine if you’re planning on powering them with a rechargeable battery pack, for example, but for most people this amounts to a pain and an additional expense in the form of a new USB outlet.
ProLighting Need further help sorting through all the options out there? This company's website lets you filter searches based on length, wattage, luminosity, warranty, color temperature, IP rating, and more. On top of string solutions, they also offer a wide variety of indoor and outdoor light bulbs and fixtures. prolighting.com
Hometown Evolution Whether you're looking for colored, commercial, solar, or Edison-style string lights, this website has a selection for you to browse through. Options look to be priced quite competitively, and shipping is free with most orders. hometownevolutioninc.com
Differences In String Lights
But to get the most from these versatile decorating tools, you’ll need to consider what kind you need, since string lights now come in a range of options.
String lights have come a long way from those green strands of colored lights many people put on their Christmas trees. Now available in a dazzling variety, they’ll add to any holiday glitz, from New Year’s to Halloween, as well as to the décor in your home, all the year round. But to get the most from these versatile decorating tools, you’ll need to consider what kind you need, since string lights now come in a range of options.
First, string lights are available in many lengths, starting at just a few feet long and ranging up to 50 feet and beyond. In most cases, it’s better to have too much length than too little, so you might opt for lights that are a bit longer than your needs. And while you’re thinking about the length, consider whether you want the lights close together or spaced widely apart, which helps make a difference in how bright the strand will be. Most manufacturers list the measurement between bulbs on the package or product page.
Second, you’ll need to think about whether you’d like incandescent or LED bulbs. The former are what we usually think of as typical (or perhaps nowadays, old-fashioned) light bulbs; they tend to be cheaper but burn out faster than LEDs. Generally, incandescent string lights also take more energy to power. LED lights, then, will cost you more initially but save you money in the long run. They’ll also give you a brighter range of colors.
Next, consider whether you want string lights or rope lights. With string lights, the bulbs will be exposed, while with rope-style models, the lights will be enclosed, usually in some type of durable and flexible plastic. The latter are often weatherproof, making them excellent for outdoor applications. They don’t, however, give you the option of fancy and unique shades or covers for each bulb.
Finally, there is the important matter of power source. Some string lights, especially the shorter strands, are battery or solar powered. If you’re having a party and need to quickly toss up some decorations, then these might work perfectly. If, on the other hand, you’re creating a permanent display, you’ll probably want a plug-in strand for the sake of efficiency and long-term convenience. For both types, you’ll find models that offer programmable, blinking bulbs that let you customize the lighting experience.
String lights are sometimes called fairy lights, which comes from “fairy lamps,” the term for small, candle-based lamps popular in the 1800s. Nevertheless, it’s easy to imagine that string lights resemble fairies dancing with their whimsical, twinkling glow. You can use this charm to your advantage by integrating string lights into decorating projects, both in the home and outdoors. You’ll not only get visually pleasing pieces, you’ll also avoid having to resort to harsh overhead lights. The following ideas should get you started.
String lights are sometimes called fairy lights, which comes from “fairy lamps,” the term for small, candle-based lamps popular in the 1800s.
Consider integrating string lights into pieces that match the décor of your home. For example, if you have a rustic living room, then use branches or twigs with string lights. You might create a chandelier from branches or use the twigs to help create a light-up tree pattern on the wall. Or, if you have a nautical scheme, then use chunky rope with the lights to make a sailboat wall pattern. The key is to integrate the lights with a material that adds to the overall theme.
If you don’t necessarily have a theme and just want soft, pretty lighting options, try putting the lights into jars, vases, wine bottles, or any other attractive glass vessel. To light up a larger area, drape your lights over a bookshelf or arrange them above your bed as a canopy. Outdoors, try placing rope lights along garden paths and walkways. You can use landscape staples to keep them in place.
String lights with exposed bulbs make great blank canvases. There are any number of ways to jazz these up by adding some type of shade; try doilies, cupcake wrappers, origami boxes, construction paper, or papier-mâché. To make a statement with rope lights, pin them to the wall in the shape of a word, perhaps “love” or “joy.”
A Very Brief History Of The String Light
Although string lights today have many applications that aren’t all related to holidays, the history of the string light does indeed start with Christmas. Before the late 1800s, and the invention of the lightbulb, Christmas trees were decorated with candles, which, while pretty, weren’t exactly what you’d call safe. Then, in 1882, one of Thomas Edison’s close associates, Edward H. Johnson, had the idea to replace the candles on his tree with a string of lights, which he hand-wired with red, white, and blue bulbs.
General Electric made available the first pre-wired set of Christmas lights in 1903, although these too were a bit pricey.
Of course, most homes were not yet wired for electricity, so electric tree lights didn't flourish immediately. It wasn’t until 1894, when President Grover Cleveland had the White House tree covered in string lights, that they began to catch on. Wealthy families first took up this decorating practice, as these string lights had to be hand-wired, which was expensive and required the services of an expert. General Electric made available the first pre-wired set of Christmas lights in 1903, although these too were a bit pricey.
The ubiquity of string lights was finally cemented in the years leading up to 1920, when Albert Sadacca convinced his parents, who owned a novelty business, to begin selling electric Christmas tree lights. The successful sales of this product allowed Sadacca and his brothers to create the National Outfit Manufacturers Association, which eventually became the NOMA Electric Company. Wildly successful, the company was the leading seller of Christmas lights until the 1960s, when it was dethroned by competition from cheaper imports.
Today, new and interesting developments in string lights have become more and more common, thanks to improved technologies and materials, including LEDs and flexible plastics. Perhaps best of all, today’s lights are no longer wired in series, which means that only one bulb stops working at a time — instead of a whole string of them, as in yesteryear.