Outdoor string lights are the perfect, inexpensive way to create beautiful, ambient lighting in your outdoor living area year round. Unlike a permanent outdoor installation, string lights are affordable. String lights also allow for year round use, and they can be installed anywhere from deck railings to pergolas.
Pick from globe lights that cast a warm white glow, or durable plastic string lights built to withstand rain, wind, and the Christmas season.
From solar powered options to led bulbs, rope lights, fairy lights and more, these outdoor string light picks are the best way to add function and interest to your outdoor space.
Key Factors Before Choosing Outdoor String Lights for Your Space
There are a few things you need to consider before you decide on the perfect set of outdoor string lights for your space. Not all lights are great for all people, and what may be the best string lights for one backyard could make very little sense in another.
Before making your pick, think about the type of light output, the size and shape of the light bulbs, the brightness and color of the string lights, and the power source.
Before investing in your set of string lights, consider you power source. Imagine buying what you think is a perfect set of outdoor patio lights. But when you get home, you have nowhere to plug in the lights , and they are not battery operated either.
Outdoor string lights typically have three common power sources to choose from. You can find battery operated string lights, solar powered string lights, or the traditional string lights designed to be plugged into an outdoor outlet.
Why Power Source Matters
The power source for your string lights becomes an important issue when working in spaces that are farther from your home. Patio string lights usually have easy outdoor outlet access, but lights intended to add a warm glow to your back fence will have nowhere to plug in.
If you envision outdoor lights decorating your back fence, or remote gazebo, it may be smart to consider other options. Solar powered string lights charge remotely. They do not need to be plugged in. The same is true of battery operated lights.
Both of these options give you, the homeowner, the freedom to set up your outdoor lighting wherever you want it, without fumbling with an extension cord, or worrying about wire length.
Type of Outdoor String Lights
Heavily related to the power source, understanding the type of outdoor string lights you are buying is critical to whether or not they are right for your space. When it comes to the type of string lights available for outdoor use, you have several options.
When you imagine a lightbulb in your head, this is probably the light bulb you are envisioning. Also known as Edison bulbs, these lights are cheap to buy and give off a comfortable, warm glow in your outdoor space. They can feel very nostalgic and quickly create a great ambience. However, there are many reasons fewer and fewer people are buying incandescent bulbs both for string lights and in general.
This type of light bulbs can become very hot, very fast. This makes them an unsafe choice for outdoor Christmas trees and shrubs. It also means they are made with glass bulbs, as plastic bulbs are likely to melt under the heat. And although they are cheap to buy, they also have a short lifespan.
Incandescent string lights will burn out quickly, leaving you to repurchase every year, depending on frequency of use. They are also not very energy efficient, and require considerable power to run. The more lights you buy of this variety, the higher you can expect your next energy bill to be.
Welcome to the main event, folks. In the last decade, all lighting, including the best outdoor string lights, have all become powered by the LED bulb. LED string lights have a higher upfront cost than incandescent light bulbs. However, their long lifespan and energy saving benefits will actually save you money in the long run.
LED string lights typically have a lifespan of up to 50,000 hours. Contrast that with 1,000 hours in the leading incandescent competitor, and for many people, the choice is a no braining. Additionally, LED lights do not require as much energy to run, allowing them to remain cooler.
LED string lights are safer to hang on wooden fences, Christmas trees, tree branches, and pergolas without worrying about the risk of fire. Because of the lower heat output, they LED string lights are made with shatterproof plastic bulbs, further increasing their safety in your outdoor space.
Solar Powered String Light
As mentioned, solar powered lights are great for homeowners looking to take their string lights into all of the nooks and crannies of their outdoor space. This lighting set up requires no electricity, and is plug free. This makes them great choices for spaces farther from the home, and for small spaces such as apartment balconies or shared patios.
Another bonus? Solar powered lights won’t make a dent on your energy bills. This green, planet friendly lighting solution charges up for free. Simply place in sunlight in your yard, and enjoy 6-8 hours of ambient lighting at no additional cost to you.
It’s good to keep in mind that solar lights may have a lower chance of offering replacement bulbs.
Battery Powered Bulbs
Finally, we should discuss battery operated string lights. Battery powered light bulbs are less powerful than any of the above alternative, but they work great in a pinch. For students looking to add some style to an outdoor space, or those of us without a handy outlet or heaps of direct sunlight, battery powered may be the only option that makes sense.
These string light bulbs run on anywhere from 2-6 batteries. Lifespan will vary on the battery efficiency. Generally speaking, battery powered string lights have small bulbs, that are less powerful and less bright, but are safe for general use throughout your outdoor space.
Depending on where you live, the best outdoor string lights will be the ones that can handle the weather. Weather resistant string lights all have a few things in common.
First, weather resistant string lights will always be outdoor string lights. Users should never bring string lights outside that are not graded to be used outside the home. The same bulbs that can withstand a few months around your indoor Christmas tree are not built to withstand rain.
Weather Resistant String Lights
String lights built for the outdoors are more durable than run of the mill string lights, and can handle exposure to the elements. This includes harsh sunlight, wind, rain, and accumulating heat and moisture. Using indoor lighting as outdoor string lights can be more than just inefficient. It can be dangerous as well.
If not designed to be weather resistant, these string lights can become fire hazards, easily short out, or shock you or your guests. All it takes is a single bulb to create a dangerous situation. And nothing ruins a party faster than calling emergency services!
Style and Shape
The best outdoor string lights are the ones that fit your personal style and space to a T. To determine what the best style and shape of bulb is for your, think about the ambience you are trying to create with your outdoor lighting.
Looking for a warm, industrial vibe? Think about a great set of LED bulbs in an Edison bulb style and shape. Looking for a modern, space age feel? Try a strip of cool toned or color changing LED string lights under the lip of your deck. Twinkling fairy lights add a dream like vibe, and are available in endless styles and colors.
Here are some of the most popular styles and shapes of outdoor string lights on the market today.
Named after their resemblance to the classic Thomas Edison invention, these bulbs cast a warm glow on any space they are added to. The style used to be most commonly found in only incandescent power, but modern invention has made LED bulbs more readily available in this style. Make sure the set you buy comes with a replacement bulb available, as finding one in the exact same style as your set can be a hassle.
Globe Style String Lights
Globe lights get their name from their shape. Their spherical appearance makes a big impact, and the globe style can bring a sense of charm or classic whimsy to your patio or deck. Bulbs in this style can be small or large, but are generally considered timeless. Unlike twinkle lights, globe bulbs are hard to date, and work for all ages.
Fairy lights, or twinkle lights, may be the most common thought of style of outdoor string lights. These are the style of lighting you see most commonly placed on Christmas decorations, wrapped around trees, or lining houses during the holiday season.
Fairy lights have also become popular choices to add a touch of dreaminess or cheery glow to indoor spaces as well. Nowadays, fairy lights are very rarely made with glass bulbs or incandescent bulbs, due to their popularity on flammable objects such as trees and wood siding of homes. Loved for their versatility, these outdoor string lights come readily available using LED bulbs, and can be purchased in any color you can think of.
Color and Tone
All outdoor string lights have their own cast when it comes to color and light temperature or tone. Some bulbs may give off a warm, yellow glow, while others cast a bright white light over the surrounding area.
While it may seem like a small detail, the color cast by your outdoor lighting makes big impact on how they function in your space. If you are trying to create a welcoming and warm atmosphere perfect for relaxing with family and friendly, look for gentler, warm toned lighting.
To give your space a cool, more modern feel, white lighting could be right up your alley.
Color Changing Lighting
Not sold on either variety? With the invention and popularity of LED bulbs, your outdoor lighting can be any color of the rainbow. Find color changing strings, or even set ups that can be hooked up to a remote control to change on a timer.
Small Bulbs, Large Bulbs, and Everything In Between
Outdoor string lights come in many different bulb sizes and outputs. The size of bulb that is right for your space depends on a few factors. These can include your personal style, but also your desired brightness, although the two factors are not mutually exclusive.
As a general rule of thumb, try to match the size of your string lights to the size of the space you are decorating. Larger bulbs will make the proper impact in larger spaces that have extra room to fill. Smaller outdoor string lights will make most sense in smaller outdoor spaces that may be overwhelmed by a set of larger Edison or globe bulbs.
Before we jump into our top picks, there are just a few extra features to think about before picking outdoor string lights for your backyard. From remote control string lights to dimmers that set the mood, today’s options come fully equipped with plenty of bells and whistles.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dimmer switch installed on any of your indoor lighting, you know how nice this feature can be. Add a romantic flair to an outdoor dinner with your partner, or turn the lights up to make your patio more navigable. If customizable lighting is your priority, looking for a set of string lights with a dimmer could be the right answer for your space.
Not planning on being outside all night? Bad at remembering to hit the patio lights? Concerned about energy saving lighting? Timers for your outdoor string lights allow them to stay on when you need them, and turn off without a second thought. Enjoy a few hours of ambience, and then trust that your bulbs will stop burning shortly after the party dies down.
On and Off with Remote Control
First came TVs, now come string lights! In today’s modern age of outdoor lighting, there’s no reason to hit a switch when you need to hit the lights. Many of the best outdoor string lights on the market today use remote control to turn on and off, whether it be with a physical remote or an app on your smartphone.
Our Top 5 Picks for Your Outdoor Living Space
Hampton Bay 24 Light Indoor/Outdoor 48 ft. String Light
These Edison style string lights are weather resistant, and graded for indoor outdoor use. We love the warm, white light and the adaptability. A single string includes 24 bulbs, and homeowners can connect a string light set of up to 11 wires. With each string reaching 48 ft. in length, that’s a whole lot of outdoor string light potential!
Despite the old-fashioned Edison style, these are LED bulbs, which means your patio lights can stay on all night if they have to. Hang string lights like these from your pergola, fencing, or around your outdoor seating area for maximum impact.
When it comes to price, these are fairly typical for what is seen on the market today. At around 50 bucks, these are readily available for purchase on Home Depot.
OxyLED 2 Pack 100 LED Globe String Lights
This set of outdoor string lights incorporates aspects from across the board to come together in one pretty incredible final product. Battery powered lighting allows these mini globe style lights to be strung up anywhere on your property, while the remote control flicks them on and off with the touch of a button.
The shatterproof plastic bulbs make this set a great choice for windy weather or households with children. Battery power means you won’t see the impact of these LED lights on your electric bill, and they will last a while despite the smaller power source.
Even better? These outdoor string lights come with eight different lighting modes, making them a no brainer for people who want to keep their options open. Get the party started, or turn them down to relax and have a drink. The power of creativity is in your hands with this pick.
Addlon Outdoor String Lights
Over 16,000 Amazon reviewers agree– the Addlon Outdoor String Lights are pretty awesome. This well-loved set of lights is popular with consumers for a good reason. Not only is the Edison style of these LED bulbs great for both modern and traditional spaces, but these bulbs are durable. Like, very durable.
The Addlon Outdoor String Lights set is made with a heavy duty, weatherproof insulation. This means come rain, shine, heat, or cold, your lighting isn’t about to fail you now. All of this durability comes with the same warm yellow glow of traditional incandescent bulbs.
At 48 ft long, attach up to three strands, or more, and make your entire backyard glow.
Sanjicha Solar Fairy String Lights
Bring the whimsy back into your string light bulbs, with an energy saving twist. For such pretty string lights, this set packs a serious punch. One pack is 72 ft long, and features 100 LED bulbs running along a copper wire. The best part? These fairy lights are Earth-friendly, charging using a solar panel that is integrated into the set.
Leave the solar panel in direct sunlight, and enjoy up to 10-12 hours of lighting on a single charge. Reviewers state that these lights are durable, lightweight, easy to hang, and a great choice for spaces big or small. These lights can be programmed and set to a timer, so you don’t have to worry about wasting a charge while you sleep.
To maintain, wipe the solar panel clean and store for months when they are not in use. The copper wire is fray resistant, and stores well. Grab yourself a set of the best fairy lights for under 30 bucks on Amazon, and enjoy the warm white glow.
Enbrighten LED Color Changing Cafe String Lights
Get out of your lighting comfort zone with this string light set. The look of glass bulbs without any of the worry over shattering, these color changing beauties let your imagination run wild. Use the remote control to shift from a softer glow in yellow light, to green and red Christmas vibes in a flash.
Love throwing holiday parties year round? This is the perfect set of patio string lights for your backyard space. A single string light strand features 24 bulbs, and is 48 feat long. This product does require electricity, so it is not green for use far from the home.
Enlighten boasts that this LED set offers up to 120 different color combinations and lighting modes. If you’re anything like us, we doubt you’ll need that many options, but go ahead and give it your best attempt.
Consider Your Options
There are hundreds of different models of string lights on the market today. But not all of models are created equal. Make sure you get the best set for your space by knowing what you need before you begin your hunt.
Having a good idea of the right power source, style, size, and ensuring your selection is all-weather compatible is critical to ensuring your money is money well spent. Go with one of our top five picks, or find your own hidden gem.