Light Up Your Outdoor Space: A Guide to Choosing the Perfect LED String Lights

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Your outdoor living spaces hold so much potential for creating delightful ambiance and precious memories with friends and family. But often, our patios, gardens and walkways remain shrouded in darkness once the sun goes down.

That’s where outdoor string lights come in! Wrapping your outdoor areas in a warm, magical glow is easier than ever with LED string light options. The right set of lights can utterly transform your space from boring to brilliant after dusk.

But if you’ve shopped for outdoor string lights before, you know there are tons of options on the market. How do you determine which set of LED lights is the perfect fit for your needs?

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • The top 5 highest-rated outdoor LED string lights—so you can select from the very best.
  • What to look for when buying outdoor string lights, like brightness, cord length and lighting modes.
  • Creative ideas for illuminating different spaces like your patio, pergola and garden.
  • FAQs to answer your most common questions about safety, installation, maintenance and more.

Let’s get started on choosing your ideal set of outdoor lights!

The Top 5 Outdoor LED String Lights

Outdoor lighting technology has come a long way. Today’s LED string lights are durable, energy-efficient, long-lasting and available in a range of styles to complement your space.

Here are the 5 best-rated options on the market :

1. GKI Bethlehem Copper Wire Lights

These beautiful copper wire lights have a vintage, Edison bulb style that adds a touch of industrial flair.

Key Features:

  • Warm 2700K white LED light color
  • 25 foot cord length with 100 bulbs spaced 3 inches apart
  • Dimmable with 8 brightness levels
  • Shatterproof plastic bulbs shaped like Edison bulbs
  • Commercial-grade copper wiring
  • Outdoor-safe plastic coating over wires

This gorgeous string of lights is versatile enough to use in any space year-round. The ample 25 foot length allows you to get creative with draping and wrapping. With the dimmer, you can customize the mood from a soft glow to fully lit.

Reviewers on Amazon rave about the high quality and durability of these LED lights. They install easily and stand up well to the elements. And the warm tone gives off the perfect inviting ambiance.

2. Brightown Clear Globe String Lights

For those wanting simple and affordable lights to brightly illuminate any space, thisClear Globe string from Brightown is a great pick.

Key Features:

  • Super bright at 1800 lumens total
  • 30 foot length with 150 incandescent style LED bulbs
  • Bulbs are 3.15 inches apart along the cord
  • Daisy chain up to 3 sets together
  • Clear mini globe shaped G40 bulbs
  • Includes 15 spare bulbs

While these lights only have one brightness setting and the bulbs are spaced farther apart, the extreme brightness makes up for it. With 150 bulbs giving off a total of 1800 lumens, these lights will make your space visible and flood it with light.

Use these globe lights to create a festive ambiance anywhere. They’ll shine all night long lasting up to 10,000 hours.

3. Twinkle Star 500 LED Café Lights

Want that charming European café ambiance? These commercial-grade bistro lights are perfect over seating areas.

Key Features:

  • 500 LED bulbs with 10,000 hour lifespan
  • Bulbs have wide 120° beam angle
  • 33 foot length with bulbs 5 cm apart
  • Linkable up to 3 strands max
  • 8 lighting modes – steady on, slow fade, chase, wave and more
  • Dimmable with remote control included

The abundant 500 bulbs on this 33 foot strand mean you can cover large gathering spaces in a warm festive glow. The lights are visible from all angles with the wide 120° angle.

Having 8 modes to switch up the look along with dimming capabilities gives you endless options. Use the remote to turn the lights on and off from a distance too.

Reviewers love using these commercial-grade lights season after season for attractive lighting that’s built to last.

4. Lemontec 200 LED 8 Mode Fairy Lights

Add a whimsical, decorative touch with these versatile LED fairy lights.

Key Features:

  • 200 LED bulbs with 50,000 hour lifespan
  • Bulbs spaced 6 inches apart on 66 foot cord
  • Waterproof silicone seal around each bulb
  • 8 modes – combination, waves, sequential, slo-glow and more
  • Timer function – stays on 6 or 8 hours then automatically turns off
  • Memory function recalls last lighting mode used

The super long 66 foot cord on this set allows you to get very creative wrapping trees, railings, pathways and more. The lights are widely spaced at 6 inches allowing the 200 bulbs to stretch far.

These LED lights are designed to withstand wet weather while illuminating your space with a cozy and magical effect. Use the timer function to automatically turn them on and off for convenience.

5. MiracleLED Cascading Falls Waterproof Lights

For lighting up walls, fences, railings and other vertical spaces, we love these cascading fall lights.

Key Features:

  • Waterproof lights designed for vertical hanging
  • 66 foot power cord with 200 LED bulbs
  • Daisy chain up to 5 strands together
  • Bulbs have wide 120° beam angle
  • Includes 40 linking clips for hanging
  • 8 modes and dimmable with included IR remote
  • 1 year warranty

These versatile lights can be wrapped, strung, clipped or hung vertically with ease. Position them around seating areas to create an “outdoor room” feel. Or line walkways, patios and gardens with the extra bright wide-beam lights.

The linking clips, remote control and 8 lighting modes give you total creative flexibility. And the durable waterproof construction ensures the lights will last.

What to Look for When Buying Outdoor String Lights

Now that you know the top-rated options, let’s go over what features you should consider when choosing outdoor string lights.

Lumens & Brightness

How much brightness do you need for your outdoor space? Consider the size of the area you want to illuminate. More lumens or LED bulbs will provide brighter light coverage.

for smaller patios or porches under 200 square feet, a string with 150-200 LED bulbs or 1000-1500 lumens should suffice. Medium spaces of 200-400 square feet will need 200-500 bulbs and 1500-3000 lumens. For larger areas over 400 square feet, look for 500+ bulbs and 3000+ lumens.

Also think about ambiance. Do you want a soft glow or to fully light up the space? Bulb spacing and dimming capabilities also factor in.

Bulb Spacing

Do you want dense pools of light or a more diffused ambient glow? Bulb spacing along the cord impacts overall light brightness.

Closer spacing like 2 to 4 inches between bulbs creates bright spots while wider spacing like 6 inches or more provides a more diffused effect.

For a compromise, 4-6 inches is ideal. Look at light sample pictures to visualize the spacing before buying.

Cord Length & Gauge

Measure the area you want to illuminate and buy a cord several feet longer to give yourself extra working length.

Outdoor extension cords are available and lights that can daisy chain enable you to extend over longer distances or around multiple structures.

For durability, look for 18 gauge wire thickness or higher. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the cord will be. 14-16 gauge is best for commercial use while 18-22 gauge works for most home use cases.

Weatherproof vs. Waterproof

Outdoor lights need to withstand the elements. Check the product details to understand the rating:

  • Weatherproof means the lights can tolerate some rain and moisture but shouldn’t be immersed in water. Go for IP65 rating.
  • Waterproof lights with silicone sealing can withstand immersion and are safe to use in wet areas. Look for IP67 rating or above.

Timers, Controls & Modes

It’s convenient to have your lights operate on auto timers or have dimming capabilities to set the perfect mood.

String lights with remote controls or wall-mounted timers allow you to turn the lights on/off from a distance. This also deters light theft!

Look for a variety of lighting modes like steady on, chasing, slow fade, sequential or other effects. This keeps the lighting feeling fresh.

Power Source

Most plug-in string lights will need to be within reach of an outdoor outlet which limits placement.

Solar-powered lights absorb sunlight during the day to power the LEDs at night. They provide flexibility for installation anywhere and are eco-friendly.

Solar lights are less bright than outlet-powered but advancing solar technology improves light output each year. Consider your goals.

Additional Features

  • Mounting clips, hooks, poles or zip ties for installing in hard-to-reach spots
  • End-to-end connectors or daisy chaining capabilities to link multiple strands
  • Spare bulbs included for easy replacement
  • Timer for auto shutoff
  • Warranty providing at least 1 year of protection

Get Creative With Your Outdoor Lighting!

The possibilities are endless when decorating your space with string lights! Here are some ideas:

Patio Lighting

Your patio likely has posts, overhangs, railings and seating areas perfect for wrapping with lights.

  • Drape lights above the patio table to create instant ambiance for dining outdoors after dark.
  • Outline the edge of the patio perimeter or along railings and posts with lights.
  • String lights above seating groups, zigzagging between umbrella tops or other anchors.

Garden Lighting

Light up your flower beds, bushes, trees and pathways to make your garden glow.

  • Wrap tree trunks spirally from top to bottom for a magical effect.
  • Line garden pathways to invite visitors to meander through the landscape after hours.
  • Illuminate plants and bushes by stringing lights low through flower beds.

Pergola Lighting

A pergola with lights is perfect for weddings, parties or even just everyday enjoyment.

  • Weave string lights through the pergola rafters in straight or zigzagging patterns.
  • Install light ropes along the tops of each rafter for a bright and uniform look.
  • Allow lights to drape down along the posts for a romantic vibe.

Porch Lighting

Your front or back porch is another prime spot for creative light strings.

  • Line the roofline and eaves with lights to highlight architectural details.
  • Outline the porch perimeter by wrapping railings and lining steps.
  • Crisscross lights across the ceiling for a fun geometric design.

Driveway Lighting

Welcome guests with a glow leading up to your home.

  • Line driveway edges with low-lying lights to illuminate the path.
  • Wrap trees or posts at the driveway entrance as eye-catching focal points.
  • Connect lights across the top of a gateway or arbor entrance.

Now that you’re inspired, let’s dive into some common questions about utilizing your new outdoor lights.

Outdoor String Light FAQs

How do I install outdoor string lights?

  1. Plan out where you want to hang the lights and use painters tape to mark the positioning. Measure the area to determine how many lights you need.
  2. For lights without clips, use zip ties, hooks or looping to attach them to posts, beams, railings, etc. For clip-on lights, attach the clips evenly spaced along the string.
  3. Plug in the lights to test and make any adjustments before permanently installing them.
  4. Once positioned as desired, secure the lights by tightening zip ties, screwing hooks into place, or closing the clip clips.
  5. Neatly bundle any excess cord out of the way with zip ties.
  6. Turn on and enjoy your new outdoor lighting!

How should I maintain and store outdoor string lights?

  • When not in use for extended periods, take lights down to prevent damage from weather. Carefully unwind rather than yanking.
  • Thoroughly clean lights with a mild soap and soft cloth before storing to remove dirt and debris. Never use harsh cleaners.
  • Check for any damaged bulbs or cords and repair or replace them before storage.
  • Air dry lights fully before storing so no moisture remains.
  • Neatly coil lights to prevent tangling and knotting. Consider plastic holiday light storage containers.
  • Store in a clean, dry, cool place out of direct sunlight. Avoid attics or garages which get too hot.

Are LED string lights safe to use outside?

LED string lights are safer than older incandescent lights when used outdoors because:

  • LED bulbs run on low voltage power, rarely over 24 volts compared to 120 volts for incandescent. This reduces fire risks.
  • LED lights give off very little heat compared to hot burning incandescent bulbs that can be fire hazards near foliage.
  • Waterproof LED lights prevent electrocution risks around wet areas.
  • LEDs are more durable in outdoor conditions than fragile incandescent bulbs.

To use them safely:

  • Only buy lights rated for outdoor use.
  • Avoid using near flammable materials or in high-traffic areas.
  • Check condition of cords and do not use if frayed or damaged.
  • Always turn lights off when not in use and avoid leaving on overnight.
  • Only light outdoors when someone is home & attentive.

What are the best ways to mount outdoor string lights?

  • Zip ties – Easy to install and movable. Best for attaching to railings, beams, pipes, etc.
  • Light clips – Like mini clothespins, these attach lights to wood, vinyl, and metal easily. Great for pergolas.
  • Adhesive mounting bases – Stick bases anywhere then twist lights in. Hide wires.
  • Eye hooks or S hooks – Screw these into wood surfaces, patios or walls then hang lights.
  • Poles or lighting stands – Use freestanding poles with adjustable hooks in open areas.
  • Fishing line – Inconspicuously attach lights by running transparent line between anchors.

How do I determine the right length of outdoor string lights?

Measure the space:

  • For perimeter lighting, measure the entire area you want to wrap or encircle.
  • For overhead lighting, measure the length and width and multiply (LxW) for total square footage.
  • For pathways, measure the full linear length.

Then allow extra length:

  • For straight perimeter lines, allow 10% more than measured length.
  • For zigzagged draping, allow 25% extra length.
  • For overhead coverage of a 20 x 20 space, allow a 50 foot string minimum.

Consider daisy chaining multiple strands together for very large spaces to avoid gaps in lighting.

Light Up The Night!

Outdoor string lights provide such an easy yet dramatic way to enhance your home’s exterior after dark. We hope this guide gives you the knowledge you need to select the perfect set of string lights for your patio, garden, porch or other spaces.

The five lights we recommend have outstanding reviews and quality construction that ensures they’ll brighten up your spaces for years to come.

Follow the tips above to determine the ideal length, brightness and features that fit your lighting desires. Get creative with unique ways to mount and install your new lights.

We can’t wait for you to see your outdoor spaces transformed with the magic and beauty of lights! Your home will become the neighborhood gathering spot once you light up the night.