The Best Christmas Lights of 2022

Decorate for the holidays with the sparkling string lights that are just right for your style and your space—indoors and out.

By Michelle Ullman and Shannon Lee | Updated Nov 30, 2021 10:28 AM

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The Best Christmas Lights for Indoors and Out

Photo: Shannon Lee

Decorating with colorful lights is a fun, festive aspect of the holiday season, both indoors and outside the home. For decades, dealing with the same old incandescent bulbs made designing a truly original display a challenge. Now, however, string lights (also called Christmas lights) come in different bulb types and a much wider array of colors, sizes, shapes, and even blinking patterns, from a simple on/off style to dancing motifs set to music.

With so much illumination on the market, choosing perfect products that truly suit your style and space may not be easy. So we did hands-on testing of the lights on this list to provide real-life reviews of their appearance, ease of use, and overall performance. Read on to learn more about the varieties available and check out our picks for the merriest, brightest, and best Christmas lights to bring beauty and joy to your home this season.

  1. BEST LARGE COLORED LIGHTS: Wintergreen Lighting C9 Multicolor Christmas Lights Set
  2. BEST LARGE WHITE LIGHTS: NOMA LED Christmas Lights
  3. BEST MINI WHITE LIGHTS: YULETIME Cool White LED Christmas Lights
  4. BEST INCANDESCENT LIGHTS: Home Accents Holiday 300-Light Incandescent Mini
  5. UNIQUE PICK: Home Accents Holiday Icicle Twinkle String Lights
  6. BEST MINI COLORED LIGHTS: Home Accents Holiday 300-Light Mini Multi Color
  7. BEST LED LIGHTS: Twinkle Star 66ft 200 LED Christmas String Lights
  8. ECO-FRIENDLY PICK: Joomer Solar Christmas Lights Solar String Lights
  9. BEST OUTDOOR LIGHTS: Twinkle Star 360 LEDs Christmas Net Lights
The Best Christmas Lights Options

Photo: Shannon Lee

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Christmas Lights

When selecting the best Christmas lights for your home, first think about whether you’ll be illuminating indoors, outdoors, or both. Then consider preferences for bulb type, shape, and color, as well how you’ll want the lights to be spaced and any bells and whistles you want.

Indoor vs. Outdoor

There are three main options for string light placement: indoor only, indoor/outdoor, and outdoor. Always check the light set’s packaging or online description for its safety rating. While it’s generally fine to use outdoor lights inside the house, the opposite is not safe: Never use indoor-only lights outside, where moisture and weather exposure could cause them to short out, creating a fire hazard. Indoor/outdoor lights are the most versatile option for those who enjoy changing up holiday decor each year or don’t want to be bothered by separating lights by type.

LED vs. Incandescent

Old-fashioned incandescent Christmas lights are still somewhat available, but LED lights have surpassed them in popularity for a number of reasons.

  • Incandescent lights give a warm glow and have retro appeal. They cost less up front than LEDs, but they use more energy, costing more over time. Incandescent bulbs are typically made of glass, which is fragile, and they can become quite hot—likely to burn curious little fingers.
  • LED lights cost a little more than their incandescent counterparts, but they use less energy and so are less expensive to run. In fact, LED bulbs use approximately 10 percent of the amount of electricity as an equal-size incandescent bulb and last two to three times longer. Their appearance tends to be brighter than incandescents, and they also feature plastic shells that are less likely to shatter or have their coloring flake off. They remain cool to the touch, even when left on for hours.

Bulb Shape, Size, and Color

While the traditional teardrop light is still the most popular, closely followed by round or globe bulbs, a wide array of other options is available. Icicles and snowflakes are seasonal staples, while rope lights, which enclose the brilliance in a clear plastic tube, have a more modern look. Choose your favorite shape, or mix and match around your home.

There are several sizes of teardrop and globe lights, the most common being:

  • Mini lights, typically ⅝-inch long, are currently the most popular size. Their delicate appeal works well both on the tree and as small decorating accents indoors and out.
  • C6 bulbs are shaped like strawberries and at 1⅛-inches long are a good size for indoor trees.
  • C7 bulbs are a bit rounder and longer than C6 bulbs. At 1½ inches, they’re a good length on larger trees, when wrapped around stairway banisters, and in various outdoor locations.
  • C9 bulbs are the traditional teardrop shape and size (2½ to 3 inches long). They bring big impact to outdoor displays.
  • G12 bulbs are globe-shaped and 1½ inches in diameter. They often have an etched design similar to the outside of a raspberry and are versatile enough for indoor and outdoor displays.

When it comes to colors, the spectrum is vast and the choice is yours! Keep it traditional with red and green or cheery primary colors, aim for monochromatic elegance (pure white is popular for the holidays), or go for a rainbow of hues. These days you’ll find string lights in colors unheard of in years past, such as pink, purple, and turquoise—even pastel bulbs.

String Length and Spacing

Obviously, the longer the string, the more area you can cover with lights, but bulb number and spacing along the string also impact the overall look of the display. Check the packaging or online description to ascertain string length, bulb number, and distance between bulbs.

  • String length. While strings of specialty shapes are often less than 15 feet long, more traditional bulb shapes generally run longer, up to 100 feet. Keep in mind that longer strings can be more difficult to wind neatly for storage after the holidays.
  • Bulb number and spacing. As a rough rule, mini lights are spaced 4 to 6 inches apart on the wire. You’ll mostly find mini bulbs in 50-bulb/25-foot strings and 100-bulb/50-foot strings, although longer and shorter lengths are available. Larger bulbs are spaced farther apart: C9 bulbs are often one per foot and span between 25 and 50 feet long.

To determine which options best meet your needs, use these rules of thumb for decorating indoors and out:

  • Measure the tree. Aim to string up 100 lights per foot of tree height.
  • Round up in length. Measure the length of the surface to be decorated. Then, when shopping for string lights, factor in the stretch of bare wire at the plug end (this length will be stated on the packaging) and go a bit extra in length. You don’t want to wind up with 2 feet left to cover and only 1 foot of lights remaining.
  • Combine string lights carefully. Typically, you can plug strings of lights together to get the length you need, but heed package guidelines, which should state how many strings can safely be plugged together. When combining strings, always stick with the same type. Plugging strings of different lengths or with different bulb sizes together can overload the wire and create a fire hazard.
  • Use string light nets for outdoor foliage. Rather than wrapping separate strings around shrubbery, try net lights: sheets of mesh with bulbs interspersed throughout, which can easily be draped over foliage. Most nets come in 4-foot by 6-foot sizes and contain 150 bulbs, but as with most holiday lights, you’ll find other size options as well.

Power Source

While most string lights plug into a standard electrical outlet, battery-powered strings and even solar-powered options are available. These are ideal in areas where there’s no socket nearby—no more running extension cords across the lawn!

Extra Special Features

Christmas lights these days can let you make a seasonal splash beyond just light and color. Some include control boxes for various light pattern settings, including blinking, slow or fast fade, sequential single colors, waves, and sequential on/off patterns. You’ll even find string lights that play music and “dance” to the beat of the tune.

One bonus feature nearly everyone can get behind is remote control. It is so convenient to operate string lights via remote from the comfort of the sofa rather than reaching for a toggle switch along the cord.

Our Top Picks

We’ve narrowed the field to a selection of fan-favorite holiday string lights for all kinds of displays, indoors or out.

Best Large Colored Lights

The Best Christmas Lights for Indoors and Out
Photo: amazon.com

Laden with 3-inch-tall C9 LED bulbs, these indoor/outdoor 17-foot strings really dazzle when used to frame the roof, highlight a tall tree, or jazz up the front porch. The multicolored bulbs boast an etched diamond design on the plastic shell for a little extra pizzazz. Up to 90 strings can be plugged together to wind around the entire house.

The large showstopping bulbs are a plus for a house that sits back a bit from the road, as they help the display get noticed. But because these strings are somewhat heavy, it took considerable time during our testing to position them properly on trees and garland. We also found them a bit tricky to remove from the packaging. Once arranged, however, the lights looked great and the LED bulbs stayed cool to the touch hour after hour—no worries of accidental burns.

Product Specs

  • Length: 17-foot string
  • Connect: Up to 90 strings
  • Style: Indoor/Outdoor

Pros

  • Very bright and sparkly
  • Etched design on each bulb housing
  • Can connect up to 80 strings together

Cons

  • Large bulbs unsuitable for smaller trees
  • Difficult to remove from packaging
  • Heavy

Best Large White Lights

Best Christmas Lights: NOMA
Photo: amazon.com

These diamond-cut NOMA C6 LED bulbs are an ideal size for the front of the house: easy to spot on posts from the driveway yet still small enough for door wreaths and staircase garlands. The pure white light evokes a traditional Christmas while imparting understated sophistication. Plus, white light won’t fight for attention on a tree full of different ornaments the way bright-colored bulbs can.

Each 23.8-foot strand of 70 high-efficiency bulbs can be connected to up to 44 additional strings for ample decor options, indoors and out. Just take care when working with them on faux foliage: We found the plastic at the base of each light liable to catch and pull at a delicate artificial tree, such as one made of feathers.

Product Specs

  • Length: 23.8 feet
  • Connect: Up to 45 strings
  • Style: Indoor/outdoor

Pros

  • Delicate, pure white light
  • Diamond-cut design for sparkle

Cons

  • Plastic is a bit sharp at the base

Best Mini White Lights

The Best Christmas Lights Option: YULETIME Cool White LED Christmas Lights
Photo: amazon.com

Set on a 66-foot-long strand, this set of cool white LED bulbs is versatile enough to complement many decorating schemes. They’re especially suited to trees and other foliage, thanks to green strings that blend right in. And despite being long-running LEDs, they emit a glow that very much resembles traditional incandescent lights—a plus for those aiming for old-school holiday style.

In testing, we found these lightweight strands a breeze to loop around greenery and drape along rails. We were surprised to see how bright these little bulbs shine—an asset for outdoors but perhaps a bit too bright for close quarters inside. Connect up to 10 strands for 660 feet of tiny seasonal twinkle!

Product Specs

  • Length: 66 feet
  • Connect: Up to 10 strands
  • Style: Indoor/Outdoor

Pros

  • Resembles traditional incandescent bulbs
  • Very cool white
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Might be too bright for indoor use

Best Incandescent Lights

The Best Christmas Lights Option: Home Accents Holiday 300-Light Incandescent Mini
Photo: homedepot.com

The warm light of this 300 mini white light set from Home Accents Holiday makes for a welcoming atmosphere ideal for the living room tree. Simple and subtle, these string lights prove that you don’t need splashy colors or blinking patterns to create holiday ambience. Yet while they are technically indoor/outdoor lights, they may be a bit too understated for an exterior display.

In testing we found the strands to be lightweight and easy to handle. Though the bulbs are incandescent, we did not find them overly hot to the touch after hours of use. The set includes replacement bulbs in case of premature burn out. The strands are 68.5 feet long and three sets can be safely connected, providing plenty of coverage for a large indoor tree. Although we applaud the minimal packaging from an environmental standpoint, we recommend avoiding use of a sharp instrument to open the box, as it could cause damage.

Product Specs

  • Length: 68.5 feet
  • Connect: Up to 3 sets
  • Style: Indoor/outdoor

Pros

  • Warm, inviting light
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Minimal packaging could be prone to damage
  • Steady mode is the only option

Unique Pick

The Best Christmas Lights Option: Home Home Accents Holiday Icicle Twinkle String Lights
Photo: homedepot.com

Design a charming winter-scape with this set of 200 white LED dome icicle lights. Thanks to the lights’ random blinking, they truly resemble real icicles—without the wet, frigid mess!—so they’re ideal for a dainty arrangement from the roof, eaves, and porch rail. String up to 15 sets together to cover the entire home in the fanciful effect.

Despite the extra wire that creates the dangling icicles, these lights are very lightweight, and though the appearance is delicate, they proved to be quite durable in our testing. Unfortunately, the wires tend to tangle and the icicles themselves aren’t very flexible, so positioning them takes time. Also, the icicles start right at the plug; use an extension cord rated for outdoor use to gain some icicle-less leeway when hanging the strands. And as we’ve found with Home Accents Holiday products, minimal packaging requires care upon opening to avoid damage.

Product Specs

  • Length: 17.5 feet
  • Connect: Up to 15 sets
  • Style: Indoor/outdoor

Pros

  • Twinkle effect resembles real icicles
  • Sturdy yet lightweight strands
  • Energy-saving LEDs

Cons

  • Minimal packaging requires care upon opening
  • Takes time to position properly
  • Icicles start very close to the plug

Best Mini Colored Lights

The Best Christmas Lights Option: Home Accents Holiday 300-Light Mini Multi Color
Photo: homedepot.com

The five vivid light colors of these mini string lights from Home Accents Holiday add a dash of holiday cheer. The affordable incandescent bulbs have a traditional shape that recalls Christmases past, and the dense bulb spacing of 2.75 inches is ideal for creating a bright, bold look on small trees and door wreaths. There are 300 lights in all, and three sets can be connected for eye-popping color.

Replaceable fuses in the plugs allow for longer life, but if one light should burn out during the holiday season, the others will stay lit for uninterrupted illumination. The simple cardboard box, a hallmark of Home Accents Holiday products, requires care when opening to avoid damaging the lights; avoid using a sharp implement.

Product Specs

  • Length: 68.5 feet
  • Connect: Up to 3 sets
  • Style: Indoor/outdoor

Pros

  • Nice variety of colors
  • Replaceable fuses
  • Dense light spacing

Cons

  • Lights only in “steady” mode
  • Packaging could be better

Best LED Lights

The Best Christmas Lights Option: Twinkle Star 66ft 200 LED Christmas String Lights
Photo: amazon.com

With this one set of warm white lights, users can achieve a host of different blinking modes to express the Christmas spirit in sparkling style. There are eight settings: combination, waves, slo-glo, sequential, chasing/flash, slow fade, twinkle/flash, and steady on. In testing, we found the rubber button easy to grasp and use—just take care not to get it wet, as it isn’t waterproof.

These strands proved to be a breeze to arrange neatly, straightening out with ease to full length for placement around a tree. Though small enough to be considered “fairy lights,” the fairly close spacing of one bulb every 3.9 inches makes for a filled-out display. We were also impressed by the sturdiness of the strings, which seem likely to last for many years of use—for the holidays and other special occasions.

Product Specs

  • Length: 66 feet
  • Connect: Up to 5 sets
  • Style: Indoor/outdoor

Pros

  • Sturdy strands with very lightweight bulbs
  • Easy to unpack with no snags

Cons

  • Lighting control isn’t waterproof

Eco-Friendly Pick

The Best Christmas Lights Option: Joomer Solar Christmas Lights Solar String Lights
Photo: amazon.com

Those looking for a more sustainable way to light up the season—without the bother of plugs and cords—should check out Joomer Solar Christmas Lights. They stay lit for up to 8 hours on a full charge, and leaving the switch on allows the light-sensing technology to turn on at dusk and off during the day automatically without draining the battery. Place the solar panel in full sun with the included easy-to-install stakes; let it charge fully for 6 hours before the first use.

The handy control has one button for powering on the lights and another for choosing from the eight blinking modes: continuous, in wave, sequential, slo-glo, chasing/flash, twinkle/flash, slow fade, and steady on. Though weatherproof and water resistant, the control is not submersible, so take care to protect it during heavy downpours. The sturdy 72-foot strand of lights glows brightly even on a less-than-optimal charge, and the battery pack is user-replaceable—a rarity among solar lights.

Product Specs

  • Length: 72 feet
  • Connect: Single set; doesn’t connect with other lights
  • Style: Indoor/Outdoor

Pros

  • User-replaceable batteries
  • Saves on energy
  • Doesn’t need an outlet

Cons

  • Takes 4 to 8 hours to charge
  • Tough to charge indoors

Best Outdoor Lights

The Best Christmas Lights Option: Twinkle Star 360 LEDs Christmas Net Lights
Photo: amazon.com

Lessen holiday stress with this super-simple decorating solution: Just pop open this box of Twinkle Star net lights, drape them over a bush or tree, and enjoy the lovely glow. There’s even a 16.5-foot lead cable that helps ensure that the lights can reach desired shrubbery without an extension cord.

The tiny LED lights have eight blinking modes: combination, in waves, sequential, slow glow, chasing/flash, slow fade, twinkle/flash, and steady on. (The control is not submersible, so protect it from water.) In our tests, we appreciated the ultra-lightweight bulbs and thin wires, which won’t damage delicate plants. Connect up to three sets for a spectacular display.

Product Specs

  • Length: 12 feet by 5 feet
  • Connect: Up to 3 sets
  • Style: Outdoor

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight with thin wires
  • Virtually instant decor
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Lights are very tiny

Our Verdict

Though all the lights described in this guide are great for home use during the holidays, the Wintergreen Lighting Multicolor Christmas Lights Set earned its place as our top pick for its big 3-inch bulbs and stay-cool design. Those looking for bulbs that can make a statement on a house set a ways back from the road should consider the NOMA LED Christmas Lights.

How We Tested the Best Christmas Lights

In testing the Christmas lights for this list, we judged each contender’s ease of installation, brightness, versatility, durability, and appearance. We also factored in such options as replaceable fuses or extra bulbs and the various ways they could enhance holiday decor. We tested them indoors and outdoors, if applicable, and evaluated the overall look from close up and from farther away.

Finally, for safety reasons, we did not include any indoor-only lights among our selections; all are indoor/outdoor except for one pick that is outdoor only.

FAQs

Those who still want more info on choosing and using Christmas lights may find what they need here among the answers to some commonly asked questions.

Q. What kind of Christmas lights are the brightest?

Though incandescent bulbs offer a warm glow, if you want the brightest house on the block, LED lights are the way to go.

Q. How many feet of Christmas lights do I need?

The rule of thumb is 100 lights per every foot of tree. Add more strands as necessary, but do not exceed the number of strings that can safely be connected together.

Q. Do LED lights save energy?

Yes, absolutely. In some cases, they use up to 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights do. And LEDs don’t generate heat either, which is an added bonus.

Q. What does the “C” mean as it pertains to Christmas lights?

The “C” stands for “cone,” which denotes the shape of the lights. The numeral after the C refers to the size of the bulb when dividing that number by eight. For instance, C6 bulbs are 3/4 inches in diameter.