Choosing Christmas Lights for Sparkle and Glow
Whether you'd like to go for a classic holiday lighting layout or you've decided to go all out with a big Christmas light display, there are a few basic things to keep in mind when shopping for lights. Here's a quick primer to get you started.
What are my options for Christmas lights?
It's important to decide what type of lights you want and where you plan on using them. Christmas lights are always a win on indoor trees - we even have a helpful guide on how to decorate a Christmas tree if you need extra inspiration. Maybe you want to brighten up your outdoor space by weaving your lights around porch bannisters and columns? Or infusing your outdoor shrubbery with illuminated Christmas cheer? Knowing where you want to use your lights will help you determine which lights are right for you. Common Christmas light types include:
- String lights are the most traditional style. The bulbs are set at even intervals along an electrical cord and come in a wide range of lengths. These are the most versatile lights; you can wrap them around just about anything. String lights are an iconic must-have item especially when incorporated into any Christmas garland ideas.
- Net lights come in a grid shape that's similar to a fishing net with small light bulbs interspersed across the net. Simply drape them over bushes and shrubs for a uniform look that couldn't be easier to install.
- Icicle lights have short sections of light strands dangling from their main cord. These are meant to look like suspended icicles and look great hanging from roof eaves or cascading down an interior Christmas tree.
Next, consider what type of glow you want your lights to give off. Different bulbs can dictate the ambiance in your space.
- Incandescent Christmas lights are electric light bulbs with a wire filament that heats up and produces light. Incandescent bulbs are the classic Christmas lights we all know and love and available in a wide variety of shapes and colors.
- More and more people are replacing traditional incandescent lights with LED Christmas lights. While LED lights are much more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they have a number of distinct advantages: they last much longer, they consume less energy, and stay cooler to the touch than traditional incandescents.
Do I need indoor or outdoor Christmas lights?
Generally speaking, you can bring your outdoor lights inside with no problem. However the reverse, using indoor lights outside, isn’t recommended. Outdoor lights are designed to resist moisture intrusion and are often labeled as "water resistant." This means they can get rain and snow on them without creating a safety hazard. Bulbs and other components of outdoor lights have extensive, protective sealing. Indoor lights, on the other hand, don't have this level of protection. If indoor lights get wet, water can leak inside and reach the electrical components which may cause issues. Before you purchase, be sure to double check the product description for safe indoor or outdoor use.
Find more wintry inspiration with our easy Outdoor Christmas Decorating Ideas.
What should I know about replacing bulbs?
No matter what kind of lights you choose, you'll inevitably need to replace a bulb now and then. Most light sets come with extras, but in case you need to purchase extras to replace one that has gone out on a string of lights, be sure to replace the bulb with a bulb of the same voltage and type. Check the original packaging for this information.
Decorating with Christmas lights is an easy way to turn your home into a winter wonderland. Consider where you're planning to put lights up, and purchase the types you need accordingly. And, be sure to have fun choosing the colors and shapes that bring holiday delight to your home.
Related: Learn more about different Christmas light sizes with our helpful guide!