Best types of Christmas lights – Forbes Advisor

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It’s easy to light your home inside and out for the holidays when you know the best types of holiday lights you need to get every job done. There are many different types of lights and it can be difficult to know which lights to use for each decorating project. To help you get a head start on your holiday decor, here are the most popular types of holiday lights and their best uses.

Types of holiday lights

While Christmas lights come in many different colors, sizes, and shapes, they fall into general categories. However, to select the best light for your needs, it is essential to understand the difference between types, shapes and styles of bulbs.

Bulb type

Bulbs are available in a wide range of sizes, wattages and voltages. For Christmas lights, you have the choice of using incandescent or LED bulbs.

  • Incandescent lights are traditional bulbs that create light by heating a filament. These bulbs are the original form of electric lighting and produce a warm glow. Incandescent bulbs are cheaper than LED bulbs, but they burn hot and use more electricity to operate. Plus, they go out faster than LEDs, which means you’ll be replacing them more often.
  • LED bulb consume about 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also burn cooler and produce a cooler / bluer glow. However, they cost much more than incandescent bulbs. Although they require a higher initial investment, LED lights will glow brighter and last for years with proper handling and storage.

Bulb shapes


Conical or strawberry shaped lights are the most popular and recognized Christmas bulbs. These bulbs will have the letter “C” (which stands for cone) preceding a number for the size. The luminaires are available with smooth, transparent or faceted surfaces.

  • C6 is the smallest light with the traditional Christmas bulb shape. They are about 1 â…› inches tall and are best suited for Christmas trees or smaller trees, shrubs, or other outdoor structures.
  • C7 bulbs are about 1.5 inches tall and are well suited for adorning medium to large outdoor trees. They burn at around five watts per bulb, making them an economical light source for vacation lighting in your property.
  • C9 bulbs are approximately 2.25 inches tall. These are the largest cone-shaped bulbs. The wattage of C9 bulbs can be up to twice as powerful as that of C7 bulbs. Due to their energy consumption, they are commonly used for commercial purposes or used on roofs and larger parts of your landscape.

M5 or Mini Bulb

The M5 style bulb features an elongated shape and offers a “traditional” look. The M5 bulb style is really versatile. It can be used on indoor Christmas trees, garlands, wreaths, bushes, or small to medium sized trees.

5MM or conical

Conical bulbs are small cylinders of uniform shape that allow an even distribution of light in all directions. These lights work best for small applications such as wrapping around small to medium sized tree branches, lighting small bushes, railings or poles, or indoor Christmas trees.

G12 or raspberry bulb style

G12 bulbs are round and smaller than their conical counterparts. Their small round shape allows for even light distribution and can be used for the same applications as the 5MM bulb. G12 bulbs look especially good on garlands or wreaths because they look like lighted berries.


String of characters

String lights are bulbs connected in series on an electrical cord. They are typically used for an area with a long linear expanse (such as a roof edge or porch railing). There are indoor and outdoor varieties in a myriad of bulb colors and styles.

  • Standard string lights feature C6, C7, or C9 bulbs. These lamps are generally intended for outdoor use. You usually use standard fairy lights on the edges of roofs.
  • Mini string lights are smaller versions of the standard string lights. They are the most popular variety of Christmas lights because of their versatility. Mini lights are mainly used to wrap a Christmas tree. These lights also work well wrapped around garlands, wreaths, railings and more.

Icicle lights

String lights are a type of string light designed to mimic icicles hanging from eaves. These are usually mini string lights that start from a central cord. They work best on the edges of the roof.

Sharp lights

String lights are another type of string light as well. The strings interlock to form a net. These lights work best draped across shrubs or structures.

Rope Lights

The light strings feature LED bulbs enclosed in a plastic cover. They are ideal for demarcating doors, windows and aisles.

Specialized lights


These special lights do not require installation and are designed to be a quick alternative to traditional string lights. They can be used indoors or outdoors. You plug them in and point them where you want to project vibrant colors or patterns.

Battery operated

Battery operated lights are perfect for displays that are not near a power source. These are usually string lights with a battery attached.


Smart Christmas lights are all lights wirelessly connected to smart devices. The device allows you to program the light on / off schedule, pattern, color display and more.

Tips for hanging lights

Most people use Christmas lights on the outside of their house, especially on the roof. While pendant lights may seem intuitive, here are some tips to help you hang them effectively and securely.

  • Test the lights: Finding out that the lights don’t work after hanging them up is frustrating and a waste of time. Plug them in before installation and replace bulbs if necessary. If you are using smart lights, make sure they connect properly to the app or smart device.
  • Make sure the lights have access to a power source: You may need to have multiple extension cords to make sure they can reach the area you want to light up.
  • Use clips: Light clips or adhesive hooks make it easy to hang lights up and will not damage your home’s surface (with proper use). They are versatile and can be used on eaves, railings, columns, walls and more. Just make sure you get the correct size / weight for your lights.
  • Use the right tools and equipment: Make sure your ladders are in good condition before use. For hard-to-reach areas, consider investing in a lightweight pole.
  • Use a timer: An automatic timer is perfect for outdoor lights. Get a timer with a light sensor that automatically turns on at dusk and turns off in the morning. This will prevent you from programming a timer and forgetting to turn off the lights in the morning.

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