10 Sets of the Best Outdoor String Lights of 2024, Tested

The right outdoor lighting boosts ambience and sets the mood for entertaining. See which popular models fared best in our hands-on testing.

Best Overall

Brightown LED Outdoor String Lights with a blurred background

Brightown LED Outdoor String Lights

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BEST WEATHER-RESISTANT

The Best Outdoor String Lights Option: Lemontec Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights

Lemontec Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights

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BEST COLOR-CHANGING

The Best Outdoor String Lights Option: Enbrighten Color-Changing Vintage Cafe Lights

Enbrighten Color-Changing Vintage String Lights

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Outdoor string lights can brighten a backyard or a patio space and make warm nights more relaxing and festive. 

These lights come in a range of styles, bulb types, and colors. To pinpoint which ones light up the night, we selected a variety of the most popular models, testing them in multiple weather conditions, noting their durability, ease of installation, and whether they were made from quality materials. We also interviewed Rafi Friedman, President of Coastal Luxury Outdoors in Jacksonville, Florida, who shared some expert tips on how to get the most out of your outdoor lighting.

Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for outdoor string lights, and find out why the following models made the cut in our hands-on testing for some of the best string lights for outdoors.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Brightown LED Outdoor String Lights
  2. BEST WEATHER-RESISTANT: Lemontec Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights
  3. BEST COLOR-CHANGING: Enbrighten Color-Changing Vintage String Lights
  4. BEST LANTERN: LampLust Mini Lantern String Lights 
  5. BEST FAIRY: Twinkle Star 300 LED 99 Ft. Copper Wire String Lights
  6. BEST GLOBE: Brightown Solar G40 LED String Lights
  7. BEST SOLAR: Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Outdoor String Lights
  8. BEST FOR LARGE SPACES: Banord 102 Ft. Outdoor String Lights 
  9. BEST DIMMABLE: Feit Electric Heavy-Duty Indoor Outdoor String Lights
  10. BEST BATTERY-POWERED: OxyLED 2-Pack Battery-Operated LED String Lights
The best outdoor string lights option lighting up a garage
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Outdoor String Lights

Our hands-on testing was stringent. We wanted to put these outdoor string lights through their paces to ensure their quality before readers purchase them. We used a testing rubric that followed strict guidelines, including hanging the lights (some models) and leaving them in place for several days. After dark, we attempted to read or perform other activities—such as grilling—with just the illumination from the lights. We scored them on both their brightness and illumination. 

If the string lights were billed as shatterproof, we dropped them on a concrete patio from head height to see if they would crack. For the ones advertised as being waterproof, we left them out in a rainstorm or (for those under the umbrella and covered patio) sprayed them with water. Then, we tested them again after they dried. We noted the length of the cord (in case the use of an extension cord was required), the number of bulb sockets, and how easy it was to hang them on a structure. Plus, some of these top picks come with replacement bulbs.

Testing Stats
Products tested 10
Time spent testing 12+ hours
Tests performed5
Price range$15 to $180

Our Top Picks

We tested a wide variety of string light sets, and the following models all met our high expectations in a range of categories. We didn’t pull any punches, so rest assured, the string lights in this lineup are durable and up to the challenge of lighting up many types of outdoor spaces. From highly weather-resistant outdoor lights to vintage-style Edison bulbs to mystical fairy lights, this list includes a range of options to illuminate most any outdoor space. 

BEST OVERALL

Brightown LED Outdoor String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 5/5;Durability 3/5; Appearance 5/5; Value 5/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: Incandescent
  • Number of sockets: 100
  • String length: 100 feet
  • Connectable: No

Pros

  • Bright, clear lighting; 104 glass bulbs included
  • Gutter-clip installation makes the decorating process a cinch
  • 4 replacement bulbs in case of breakage

Cons

  • The 100-foot cord tangles easily
  • Cannot connect additional sets to extend its reach

We created a warm and inviting ambience in the backyard with these outdoor string lights from Brightown. The long strand suits an elegant, vintage aesthetic with rounded Edison glass bulbs and a 100-foot length. 

This light-string strand is waterproof, energy-saving, and dimmer compatible. With 23 lumens of output and 5 watts of energy use per bulb, these lights made even the darkest hour of the night seem lively. The string light includes 100 G40 incandescent bulbs and four replacement bulbs in case of any accidents. With a 2,700K warm white color, these romantic string lights set the backyard aglow. 

They’re effortless to install using the attached gutter clips. Each socket on the string has its own clip, and we hooked them to clotheslines to form an overhead grid pattern. With the grid pattern we selected, we could lounge beneath the outdoor lights long after dark and clearly read our magazines. We did not drop these glass bulbs as we did for the shatterproof bulbs in our tests. 

We plugged them into our dimmer cord and were able to adjust the intensity down to a soft glow. With 100 bulbs spaced just 12 inches apart, these Brightown incandescent string lights are well suited to parties, creating outdoor ambience or even adding a measure of security.

Get the Brightown patio outdoor string lights at Amazon or Brightown.

BEST WEATHER-RESISTANT

Lemontec Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 5/5;Durability 5/5; Appearance 4/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: Incandescent
  • Number of sockets: 15
  • String length: 48 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Bright 11-watt incandescent bulbs provide ample lighting
  • Heavy-duty cord ensures long-lasting durability and usage
  • Expandable cord; can be stretched if necessary

Cons

  • Sockets are spaced widely; may not suit everyone’s tastes
  • Requires hooks or nails installed on the structure for hanging 
  • The glass bulbs are not shatterproof

This weather-resistant set of string lights is made to handle inclement weather. Lemontec’s commercial-grade outdoor string lights kept our driveway lit up—even after a rainstorm. With glass Edison-style bulbs on a black rubber cable, they have a classic look suited to a range of decor styles. 

These string lights stood up remarkably well to wet weather with their waterproof and tear-resistant materials for all-season use. Made with insulating layers, they are safe to hang in a variety of climates and temperatures. The bulbs are incandescent and come with crystal-clear glass globes.

The heavy-duty rubber cord is substantial yet flexible enough to wind around narrow railings or tree branches. Lemontec’s 11-watt incandescent bulbs provided bright light that illuminated the garage front and concrete driveway long after it was completely dark. 

The only downsides—which depend on perspective—are the widely spaced sockets (3 feet apart) and the fact that hooks are needed for hanging the string lights on a structure as we did. However, they could wind around columns or posts without hooks. While we tested just one strand of these lights, connecting a second string for double the illumination is possible.

Get the Lemontec outdoor string lights at Amazon.

BEST COLOR-CHANGING

Enbrighten Color-Changing Vintage String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 4/5;Durability 5/5; Appearance 4/5; Value 5/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 24
  • String length: 48 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Solid acrylic LED bulbs provide ample light
  • Impact-resistant construction withstands heavy-duty use and weather
  • Customizable for different ambiences; dimmable by remote
  • Heavy-duty cord withstands abrasions

Cons

  • Hooks required for hanging are not included

Enhance the mood for any season or holiday with this set of color-changing string lights. The Enbrighten string lights have 16 color choices that create up to 120 possible combinations, adding a pop of color to any outdoor space. 

The 48-foot weatherproof strand features 24 Edison-style bulbs. Each impact-resistant acrylic bulb uses only 1 watt of power and produces a warm glow. The included remote allows users to switch among single solid colors, two-color combinations, and various preset color modes for festivities like Christmas and Saint Patrick’s Day. 

The 2,200K warm glow sets a bright, inviting mood when set to the white-light setting. With the handy remote, we were able to set a 2- or 4-hour timer, choose from 10 dimmable light levels, or select fade and strobe features. We hung the Enbrighten string lights around the inside perimeter of a covered porch—each bulb socket required a small hook inserted in the overhead ceiling to hold the lights. The addition of gutter clips would have been helpful. 

These are impressive solid acrylic LED bulbs, and because they’re billed as “shatterproof,” we tested that claim by dropping them from head height to the concrete patio below. Not only did none of the acrylic bulbs crack or chip, but we couldn’t even find a scuff mark. For those who want to select specific colors to set a mood, the Enbrighten lights do not disappoint. Since we hung them on a covered patio ceiling, they were somewhat protected by a rainstorm that affected most of the other sets we tested. But they still got dripping wet—yet it didn’t seem to affect them at all.

Get the Enbrighten outdoor string lights at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.

BEST LANTERN

LampLust Mini Lantern String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 5/5;Durability 3.5/5; Appearance 4.5/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: Incandescent
  • Number of sockets: 12
  • String length: 10.5 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Delicate, paper-lantern look
  • Lightweight design are easy to install in most places
  • Casts a soft, cool light suitable for most spaces

Cons

  • Short string offers limited design options
  • No clips—must be taped or tied up

Lantern string lights can add a decorative flair to an outdoor space. This decorative lighting option is well suited to those who want more than the basic string light. It features 10 glowy 2,700K warm bulbs, each surrounded by a paper-style white lantern. 

This is a short (10.5-foot) string of lights, and it’s suitable for illuminating small areas. We attached it to the underside of a large outdoor umbrella, and its light weight of just 8 ounces didn’t weigh down the umbrella frame. Each bulb emits only 5 lumens of light, not quite enough to read by at night but just the right amount to create a soft glow that allowed us to see our drinks on the table and one another. To light up a larger area, up to 25 strands can be connected together. 

This is a gorgeous set of incandescent string lights. Their delicate 3-inch white nylon spheres give them a formal look. The umbrella protected the lanterns from the rain, so we misted them lightly with water from a spray bottle and tested them again when they dried—no duds; all the lights came back on.

Get the LampLust outdoor string lights at Amazon.

BEST FAIRY

Twinkle Star 300 LED 99 Ft. Copper Wire String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 4.5/5;Durability 5/5; Appearance 4/5; Value 5/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 300 (bulbs)
  • String length: 99 feet
  • Connectable: No

Pros

  • Control by remote; easy to adjust to suit different ambiences
  • Battery operated; can be used anywhere and easy to install
  • Creates a uniquely stunning effect unlike other string lights

Cons

  • Copper wires are delicate and can tangles easily
  • Batteries not included: requires 6 AA batteries to operate

Fairy lights bring an instant warm ambience to a garden or patio space. This 99-foot fairy light strand from Twinkle Star is an excellent pick for decorative accent lighting. 

The long strand includes 300 tiny LED string lights on a copper wire. The copper wiring can be wrapped around trees, bushes, and columns, or strung along walls and ceilings, but we obtained the best effect by concentrating them in a small space.

These are tiny little specks of LED bulbs woven along the surface of a coated copper wire. Some of the other light sets we tested were bright enough to allow reading after dark; this set is not. Its best feature lies in creating a magical effect when the copper string is kept in a compact space. We created a nighttime centerpiece by looping the copper wire inside a glass vase. The result was spectacular—a romantic centerpiece perfect for a memorable outdoor dinner for two. 

The Twinkle Star fairy lights are advertised as water-resistant, so we misted the entire coil with water from a spray bottle and let it dry. Then, we turned on the fairy lights again, and they came right on. While the remote has eight lighting options, a couple of the flashing ones are pretty annoying and distracting. The others, which feature slow on/off fading effects and solid illumination, made the Twinkle Star lights the star of our nighttime table. 

Get the Twinkle Star outdoor string lights at Amazon.

BEST GLOBE

Brightown Solar G40 LED String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 4/5;Durability 4/5; Appearance 5/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 50
  • String length: 50 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Clear, shatterproof acrylic globes withstand weather and long-term use
  • Warm golden light creates a warm glow
  • Compatible with a dimmer; perfect for setting the mood
  • 2 extra bulbs included; ideal for quick replacement 

Cons

  • Cord tangles easily; can be difficult to hang neatly

For a classic cafe or bistro lighting look, choose a strand of globe string lights. These outdoor string lights from Brightown not only look stylish but are also a durable and energy-saving option. 

The 50-foot strand features 50 plastic LED string lights to provide a shatterproof and low-cost outdoor lighting option. Each bulb uses only 1 watt of energy for beautiful outdoor lighting without a huge electric bill. 

Each G40 bulb provides 40 lumens of light with a 2,200K color temperature for a warm wash of light. Users can connect up to seven of these waterproof strands to create a range of pretty outdoor lighting layouts, ideal for outdoor events or entertaining at home. 

This is the second Brightown pick that made it into our lineup. The difference between this set and the Best Overall set is that these are made with shatterproof LED globe lights rather than incandescent glass bulbs. As such, they’re well suited for display even in harsh winds and weather. Dropping the string of lights on the concrete from head height didn’t faze them—no cracks and just one tiny scuff that might have already been there. 

The acrylic globe lights are as clear as glass, and the LED filaments emit a warm, goldish-yellow luminosity. Like the other Brightown set, these string lights are dimmable—we connected them to a dimmer cord and took them down to barely a glow. Plus, they come with gutter clips for easy hanging on the edge of a rain gutter, cable, wire, or string.

Get the Brightown solar outdoor string lights at Amazon.

BEST SOLAR

Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Outdoor String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 5/5;Durability 5/5; Appearance 4/5; Value 5/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 12
  • String length: 27 feet
  • Connectable: No

Pros

  • No batteries or outlet needed while installing
  • Very bright compared to similar options
  • Shatterproof and weatherproof; suitable for long-lasting use
  • Attractive Edison-shape bulbs

Cons

  • Only 12 bulbs; less suitable for covering large areas
  • No clips for attaching

These waterproof, solar-powered string lights from Brightech ended up being one of our favorites. Not only can they be hung anywhere because they don’t require an electrical outlet, but we also found them still glowing brightly the next morning. The 27-foot strand on these solar string lights features 12 shatterproof plastic LED bulbs. Each G40 bulb gives off a warm 3,000K light. 

These solar-powered string lights are advertised as needing 6 hours of direct sunlight to power the bulbs for 6 hours of illumination, but in our experience, they emitted light for at least 10 hours on a single solar charge.

The solar panel can be installed just about anywhere using the included stake or clip, as long as it receives direct light during the day. The solar string lights come with commercial-grade WeatherTite technology, meaning they can withstand rain, snow, heat, and winds up to 50 miles per hour. 

These solar LED string lights weathered a rainstorm without any problems and then lit up the following evening. They also survived our drop test without any cracks. While some solar-powered lights emit only soft illumination, the Brightech lights were just as bright as any other string of lights we tested—quite an achievement for solar-powered lights. After a sunny day, they emitted sufficient light for us to sit beneath and read our magazines long after the sun went down.

Get the Brightech outdoor string lights at Amazon or Lowe’s.

BEST FOR LARGE SPACES

Banord 102 Ft. Outdoor String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 4.5/5;Durability 5/5; Appearance 4/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 34
  • String length: 102 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Produces a warm, golden light with dimmable bulbs for ample adjusting
  • Shatterproof and waterproof for long-lasting use
  • Cord comes with replaceable fuse and a spare bulb

Cons

  • No clips for attaching; installation could be easier

Measuring 102 feet in length, these dimmable string lights from Banord are well suited to spacious backyards or large events like a wedding or a big barbecue. The heavy-duty strand features 34 S14 Edison-style bulbs, providing an ambient 2,700K warm white light. 

The LED plastic bulbs are shatterproof and energy-saving. They’re also dimmable, so users can adjust the lighting level depending on the occasion. Users can connect up to 12 strands if more length is needed to create a striking lighting layout. With a waterproof and weather-resistant design, these sturdy outdoor string lights are suitable for year-round use. 

We hung the Banord string lights under a metal arch that frames a pathway between cedar trees. With a hefty 102 feet to work with, the Banord lights spanned the length of the arch three entire times and we still had a few feet left over. At full illumination, the three overhead strings lit up the whole walkway so well, that we were able to put lounge chairs out after dark and read our books and magazines with ease. We were also able to dim the lights to a soft golden glow, which created an intimate romantic effect. 

The Banord lights, like other Edison-style bulbs we reviewed, don’t come with clips, but they do feature a hole above each socket where users can attach a wire. We cut 4-inch pieces of baling wire and used those to attach each socket to the metal bars of the arch. The Banord lights were left outdoors for a few nights and were unaffected by a rainstorm. We dropped them on the concrete patio to simulate accidental dropping or being tossed about in strong winds, and all the lights survived without a single crack. Although we tested just one strand, users can connect up to 12 strands of light—enough to illuminate a large area.

Get the Banord outdoor string lights at Amazon.

BEST DIMMABLE

Feit Electric Heavy-Duty Indoor Outdoor String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 5/5;Durability 4.5/5; Appearance 5/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 24
  • String length: 48 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Heavy, durable cord; withstands weather and heavy-duty use
  • Edison-style bulbs create a great atmosphere and features a bright gold color
  • 2 extra bulbs included in case of breakage

Cons

  • Wide space (24 inches) between sockets and no clips for hanging

The first thing we noticed about the Feit Electric String Lights is the box’s weight. It was heavy for containing just a 48-foot string. While it weighs just under 9 pounds, the bulk of that weight comes from its super-duty cord made from thick flexible rubber. 

We started by hanging the Feit lights on the gable of an exterior outbuilding, but to get the bulbs close enough together to have a real visual impact, we had to loop the cord in between attachment points. The bulb sockets are 24 inches apart, which is well suited for installing in multiple rows overhead but too far apart for most accent lighting. The light strand uses 24 watts of electricity, and additional sets can be connected if more light is desired. 

For a more concentrated lighting effect, we then coiled the Feit lights over a horizontal bar, arranging the bulbs closely, and the effect was stunning! In this configuration, we were able to read our books and magazines after dark. We were able to dim the string of lights by connecting them to a dimmer cord, and at their lowest illumination, they offer just a hint of light that’s soft and soothing. 

The Feit lights survived both the rainstorm and our drop test and kept working. In addition to evaluating this string of light for this lineup, we chose this particular model for more extensive testing, and it can be read on our Feit Individual String Light Review.

Read our full review: Feit Electric String Lights Review: Do They Work?

Get the Feit outdoor string lights at Amazon or Costco.

BEST BATTERY-POWERED

OxyLED 2-Pack Battery-Operated LED String Lights

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Our Ratings: Light Quality 3/5;Durability 5/5; Appearance 4/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 50 per string (2 strings included)
  • String length: 49 feet each
  • Connectable: No

Pros

  • Soft, white light to create a bright ambient glow
  • Remote control, plus timer for adjustable use
  • No outlet needed (battery operated); runs off of AA batteries
  • Multiple lighting patterns to choose from

Cons

  • Does not come with clips for hanging
  • Not bright enough to illuminate a large area

Battery-powered outdoor string lights are easy to install and maintain. This two-pack of battery-powered LED lights from OxyLED is a versatile option for small apartment balconies or spacious backyards. Using only six AA batteries (three per strand—not included), they provide a gentle glow for any outdoor space.

Each waterproof strand measures 49 feet in length and features 100 LED mini lights. The bulbs give off a warm white glow and are encased in a durable plastic globe. To set the ambience, choose between eight lighting modes. Options like steady lighting, slow fade, and twinkle mode add a fun twist to these basic outdoor string lights. 

We opted to enjoy the OxyLED string lights as a nighttime centerpiece rather than wind them around columns or tree branches. These are small LED lights; each white globe light is just ½-inch in diameter, and the plastic globes mimic white frosted glass. 

We scrolled through the lighting modes using the remote, but we didn’t care for the flashing strobe effect that seemed better suited to a dance party than the calm outdoor ambience we desired. The other modes are soft and soothing. We test-dropped the strings, and none of the globe lights cracked. Then, we misted the lights with water, and they continued shining. These are not super-bright lights, so don’t expect to hang them up and read late at night. They’re better suited as groupings to create a pleasing effect.

Get the OxyLED outdoor string lights at Amazon.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing Outdoor String Lights 

A simple strand of string lights can transform a plain backyard into an inviting outdoor space. Compared with many other types of outdoor and patio lights, string lights are among the most affordable and easiest to install. When choosing the best string lights for your space, consider the light type, the size and shape, brightness, and color. A weather-resistant design, a lengthy cord, and remote or app control features can make outdoor string lights safer and easier to use. 

Type

Most outdoor string lights feature LED, incandescent, solar, or battery-operated bulbs. Each type varies in durability, energy efficiency, and lifespan. When shopping for outdoor string lights, consider which type of lighting is most suitable for the space.

  • LEDlight bulbs use much less electricity (less wattage) than traditional incandescent bulbs and don’t become as hot when they are turned on. Because they are cooler to the touch, there are LED patio lights made with plastic bubs—meaning they won’t easily shatter if dropped. Many LED bulbs can last up to 50,000 hours, which equals up to 10 years of daily use.
  • Incandescentlight bulbs are inexpensive and easy to find. These bulbs are less energy-efficient and have a much shorter lifespan than LED bulbs, usually lasting around 1,000 hours or up to a year of regular use. They can become hot with use, so glass bulbs are the norm for this type. Their warm color and affordable up-front cost make them a popular pick for outdoor lighting. 
  • Solar-poweredlights don’t add to your energy bill or require an outlet, so they’re useful for apartment patios or houses that don’t have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. Simply place the included solar panel in a spot that sees a lot of sunlight during the day, and the bulbs will light up at night. Most solar-powered string lights have a runtime of 6 to 8 hours, which is usually long enough to host a backyard barbecue or a dinner party.
  • Battery-operatedlights are another option that doesn’t need an outdoor outlet. Instead, these light strands usually run on two to six batteries. Since they don’t require an outlet, they are a versatile choice for creative outdoor lighting. 

Weather Resistance

Since outdoor string lights are exposed to the elements, selecting a set that stands up to rainy conditions and heavy gusts of wind is important. It’s inconvenient to take the string lights down every time there’s inclement weather in the forecast.

First, check the product description to determine if the lights are intended for outdoor use. Using indoor lighting outside creates a potential fire hazard. Second, make sure the product is water-resistant (or waterproof—even spots under a porch or gazebo roof can grow damp in bad weather). Weather-resistant lights can handle direct exposure to water and feature watertight seals to protect their interior parts from accumulating moisture and causing safety issues. 

Style and Bulb Shape

String light bulbs are available in a variety of styles and shapes, which can give the strands a unique aesthetic. For example, tiny circle fairy lights make an outdoor area feel whimsical, while larger oval-shaped Edison bulbs add a vintage look. Globe bulbs, Edison bulbs, lantern bulbs, fairy lights, and rope lights are among the most popular styles. 

  • Globe bulbs are typically for decorative purposes. These spherical bulbs come in a range of sizes and are commonly seen in hanging pendants, modern chandeliers, and outdoor string lights. Their classic style is timeless and suits a range of outdoor decor setups, from angular modern seating areas to cozy bohemian patios. Globe bulbs can add a touch of glamour and charm to an outdoor space. 
  • Edison bulbs are designed to look like Thomas Edison’s original invention. These traditional incandescent bulbs feature a warm, glowing appearance, thanks to their visible internal filaments. The oval-like shape and ambient, warm glow can give an outdoor space a vintage look. Modern LED Edison-style bulbs feature this classic light bulb look but with an energy-saving LED design. 
  • Lantern bulbs usually feature standard outdoor string lights covered with a lantern made of paper, plastic, nylon, or tarpaulin (a durable and waterproof material that resembles canvas). Lanterns come in different colors, patterns, and shapes. These fun patio light options can help create a themed or festive atmosphere. 
  • Fairy lights can make a backyard look like a magical escape. The tiny bulbs are usually no larger than a grain of rice and resemble fireflies shimmering on a wire. These are ideal for background lighting, and users can create a pretty effect by draping strands of fairy lights over tree branches, in bushes, or along a fence. 
  • Rope lights are essentially mini bulbs encased in a transparent cover to protect them from the elements. Often made with LED bulbs, rope lights are great for winding between deck posts, hanging from fences, or illuminating garden spaces.

According to Friedman, “you’ll also want to look for shatter-proof bulbs, ideally LED, since they’re cooler and more efficient.”

Bulb Size

When choosing a bulb size, consider the available outdoor space, ease of installation, and desired look. 

Small bulbs are a good pick for small outdoor spaces; they won’t overpower a space or other outdoor decorations. These bulbs are generally more subtle, providing gentle background lighting. They provide less light and are commonly chosen for decorative purposes. 

Large bulbs are more striking and offer a bolder look. Their larger size can provide more direct illumination. They are generally brighter and are well suited for larger spaces that need more lighting. Large decorative bulbs, like globe bulbs and Edison bulbs, can make a style statement. 

Keep in mind that bulb size can affect installation. String lights with small bulbs are generally lightweight and easier to maneuver. They may be easier to install than string lights with larger, heavier, and bulkier bulbs. 

Most globe outdoor string light bulbs come in one of three bulb sizes: 

  • G30: The smallest size at 30 millimeters (close to 1.25 inches) in diameter.
  • G40: A medium size that’s 40 millimeters (just over 1.5 inches) in diameter.
  • G50: The largest size is 50 millimeters (just under 2 inches) in diameter.

Most Edison-style string light bulbs are an S14 bulb size, which is a medium-size, oval-shaped bulb that’s 32 millimeters (just over 1.25 inches) in diameter. 

Brightness and Color Temperature

Brightness and color temperature are two of the most important factors to consider when it comes to the appearance of outdoor string lights. 

Lumens measure the amount of light output from a bulb—the more lumens, the brighter the bulb. When deciding on bulb brightness, take into account the desired lighting effect. String light bulbs can range from 5 to more than 100 lumens per bulb. Users often choose string lights for their glowy appearance rather than their brightness, so lower lumens often do just fine to set the mood. Lumens are different from wattage, as wattage measures how much power a bulb consumes and not necessarily how bright a light appears.

Lighting color temperature is measured using the Kelvin (K) temperature scale. This scale measures how warm or cool the light appears. Lower numbers on the Kelvin scale look warmer, and higher numbers look cooler. 

Most home lighting falls between 2,000K and 6,000K. Bulbs around 2,700K have a cozy, warm white color with a yellow hue, while bulbs over 5,000K offer stark, crisp lighting with a blue hue. Warm lighting makes a space look more cozy and inviting, while cool lighting can often appear harsh, especially at night. For this reason, warmer bulbs are generally preferred for ambient outdoor lighting. 

Wire Length

Outdoor string lights typically come in lengths of 10, 25, 35, 50, and 100 feet. Consider the size of the outdoor space and the lighting layout when choosing the ideal wire length.

Patio string lights can outline garden borders, wrap around banisters and trees, or suspend over seating spaces. The best way to determine the necessary wire length is to use a piece of twine to measure where the lights will go. Make sure to include enough length to reach the outlet if it requires corded power, or keep an extension cord handy. 

For lining one side of an average balcony or small porch, a 10-foot string of outdoor patio lights may do the trick. A small 6-by-8-foot patio space typically requires 25 to 50 feet of string lighting. A medium 12-by-12-foot outdoor space may need 50 to 100 feet of string lighting, depending on the desired layout. For more spacious areas or to illuminate a large event, more than 100 feet of string lighting is usually necessary. 

In terms of wire strength, Friedman recommends commercial-grade stringers with heavy-gauge wire. “This will hold tension much better and the extra insulation will provide safety and durability.” He adds that “these stringers are much heavier than your average consumer string lights, so make sure you mount them securely.”

Additional Features

For those who want to upgrade from basic string lights, consider a product with extra features like color-changing bulbs, dimming options, and remote control or app operation. As we found in our tests, by selecting different bulb colors, we could create entirely different moods.

  • Color-changing bulbs: For a fun pop of color, look for patio string lights with color-changing bulbs. These string-light options can set the mood for events, seasons, and holidays.
  • Dimming options: Whether for a romantic outdoor dinner or patio drinks with friends, dimming the lights can add to a cozy ambience. Some outdoor string lights include built-in dimmers, while others are dimmer compatible and can be attached to external dimming devices.
  • Remote/app controls: A remote control allows for the operation of different lighting settings within a certain vicinity of the lights. App controls add even more convenience—there is no need to store or find an easy-to-lose remote. WiFi-enabled options make it easy to switch lights on and off, even when away from home. Some lights can also integrate with smart-home devices, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice assistants. 

FAQs

String lights can instantly transform a typical yard or patio into a warm and inviting space, but choosing the right set of lights is a must for creating the desired ambience. Still considering the best outdoor string lights for your space? Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions about selecting and installing outdoor string lights. 

Q. What color of light is best for outdoors?

White light is the most effective lighting color since it is closest to natural light. Warm white lights have a glowy yellow tinge that is cozy and inviting, making them a popular pick for outdoor lighting. Colorful bulbs, such as the Enbrighten LED Color Changing String Lights, are often chosen for their ambience rather than their lighting ability. These lights add a decorative flair and can be a fun addition for different seasons and holidays. 

Q. What are the brightest outdoor string lights?

Lemontec Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights offer fifteen 11-watt incandescent bulbs and are one of the best options in the lineup for those seeking a brighter set of outdoor string lights. Plus, additional sets can be connected for even more illumination.

Q. Can string lights be left outdoors?

Yes, some weather-resistant and weatherproof string lights can be left outdoors. Be sure to check their specifications to make sure the lights can handle changing weather and temperature conditions year-round. 

Q. How do you hang string lights on a patio?

The easiest way to hang lights is to use existing fixtures or wrap them around columns and railings that surround a patio. If necessary, create hanging options by using heavy-duty sticky hooks, metal hooks, or nails where needed.

Meet the Tester

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.

Additional research provided by Jamie Birdwell-Branson and Jasmine Harding.

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Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

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