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How To Pick The Right Christmas Lights

Outdoor lights are a wonderful way to add some joy and brightness to your home and neighborhood! Whether it’s for Christmas, another holiday, or “just because,” adding lights makes your home stand out. But how do you know which lights are best?

We’ll clump all these lights into the title “holiday lighting.” We know these lights don’t have to be limited to holidays, but it sure makes the writing easier! String them along the outside of your house. Hang them in your trees and elsewhere around the property to create a wonderful winter wonderland!

When figuring out how to choose the best lights, we found two general factors: functionality and style. We’re going to include “safety” under functionality because if your lights aren’t safe, they’re not working right.

So let’s look at several points under each of those categories to help you make the right choice in your holiday lighting!

Safety and Function First!

Sure, you want your lights to look great. But if they don’t last – or they endanger your property – they aren’t going to look great for very long! That’s why we’ll make suggestions about choosing lights based on how safe and useful they are first. There are a few factors to consider.

And once you choose your lights, you’ll have to hang them. For heavier lights, you can use our patio light hanging guide!


Be sure that the lights you invest in are rated for indoor and outdoor use! Not all bulbs or wires or equal. Some are just not made to put up with the weather, especially if you live in a place where winter temperatures dip below the mid-40s Fahrenheit.

Packages should be marked “indoor and outdoor use” or “outdoor use.” These have been tested for the environment. Otherwise, they could easily fail – or worse, short circuit and start a fire.

Also, check the wiring every year. Look for spots where connections are frayed or the plastic coating has become brittle. Replace these sections before use.


How many lights you need depends on the style and design you want to create. But you also need to think about how much juice you’ll need to power them all – and whether you can supply it.

Be sure to plan. Study your house and decide how many feet of lights you’ll need. Once you decide on what type of light, read the info about them. Determine how many amps they’ll pull. Will they all plug into one place? If you have multiple outlets available, are they on the same or different circuits? Will your circuit breaker support the load? 

Sure, it’s fun to light up the neighborhood as if it were a car dealership – but you don’t want to be left in the dark when you plug in that beautiful display.

LED or Incandescent

Incandescent light bulbs are cheaper to buy. Despite that, they’re by far the worse investment of the two.

LED costs more at the beginning, but they use much less electricity. They also last much longer. So you’ll quickly be saving money when you opt for them.

LED lights also have some stylistic advantages. They’re easier to program if you want your lights to blink in time to music, for example. Also, many LED lights can change colors. So you can have green and red lights for Christmas. Switch them to white for the rest of winter. Turn them orange and black when Halloween rolls around! And that’s all done with a handy remote control – you won’t be climbing to change bulbs!

Now Let’s Add Some Style

Safety is important, but most of all you want a beautiful display! We’ll leave the design up to you, but here are some elements you’ll want to take into account..

Bulb Size And Style

There are many sizes and shapes of bulbs to choose from. Did you know they are coded by size and shape?

Polka dot lights are little more than tiny points. You barely notice that there’s a bulb there! But when lit up, they’re great for a small space like a stairway railing or door frame.

Holiday lights in size G2 are tiny pillars with a more typical shape.  Mini lights are the next size up, about a quarter-inch tall and a little over a half-inch high. Both of these are great for those smaller areas, and for hanging from trees.

There are also sizes C3, C6, C7, and C9. These have a traditional shape with a wide section that tapers to a point.  C3 are the smallest and C9 are the largest. These are fantastic for covering larger spaces, like along the eaves of your house or around the garage door.

There are also globe lights which are, obviously, round. And there are all sorts of specialty lights shaped like icicles, holiday characters, and more!

The suggestions we’ve made about where to use them are just suggestions. There are no rules. But larger lights will be easier to see when hanging farther away.


There is also a multitude of colors available!

White has been the go-to color for a while now. Far from being “plain”, it provides a soft but strong light that looks and feels great. They’re also not limited to Christmas – white lights go great throughout the year.

But red, green, and blue lights are also Christmas traditions. They haven’t been as popular recently, but seem to be making a comeback.

These traditional colors for the holiday are widely available. As we already mentioned, though, with the development of LED lighting, you can find lights that will display in a variety of colors. That way you can make your house shine all year round!

Icicle Lights

Icicle lights come in two forms. There are solid plastic pieces with a single light inside them. More common, though, are strings of light that hang below the main cord. Each of these hanging sections has multiple small bulbs.

This design helps add some volume to your lights. Rather than being in one dimension (along a straight line), icicle lights are in two dimensions. They add a lot of light and a magnificent look to all your decorating!

Motion Displays

Sure, there have been blinking lights for decades. But with LED lights, it’s easier than ever to have a professional-looking light show for a fraction of the cost!

You can buy sets that include speakers and flash along to the beat. Higher-end ones can be controlled remotely from your laptop or phone!


Christmas lights for your yard add to the great feelings of the holidays. And some sets even change colors so you can match them thematically to the season all year long. Be sure to get lights designed for outdoor use, though. And don’t overload your circuits!

The colors and type of lights depend entirely on your taste. Plan so you buy enough to cover all the area you need, and enjoy the compliments as your home becomes a neighborhood attraction each December!

About Us

Tom and Sarah Greenwood are the dynamic duo behind “Yards Improved,” dedicated to the joys and challenges of gardening, pool maintenance, and lawn and patio care. With Tom’s passion for landscape design and Sarah’s enthusiastic approach to gardening, they share their journey of transforming their backyard into a thriving retreat. We strive to offer practical advice aimed at helping you enhance your outdoor space.