How to Plan and Hang Patio Lights

Do-It-Yourself Patio Lights: What are the Best Lights for Your Outdoor Space?

You've decided that you want to add patio lights to your outdoor space, but how do you start your new project? What kind of lights will you need, and how long do the strings need to be?

From the experts in all things lighting, our Christmas Lights, Etc go-to guide is here to help you pick the best bulbs and strings for your backyard, patio or deck.

How to Hang Patio Lights
Knowing How to Hang Patio Lights

Hanging and Measuring

It's important to know how long your lights need to be in order for them to hang comfortably. Too much string can look sloppy, but ending up short can look awkward or even compromise an entire project.

To determine how long your patio stringers need to be, first decide on which style that you're going to hang the lights. (See our Outdoor and Patio Lighting Ideas page to help you get started.)

Once you know the general look, consider how exactly the lights are going to dangle. Are the strings going to take the shape of a V or X, have a zigzag pattern or hang straight across an open space or pergola? Do you want them to lay low or have a tighter line? Or are you wrapping the lights around a tree or column?

Line lights straight across a ceiling

Line lights tightly under a pergola

Drape patio lights loosely

Drape patio lights loosely from above

These options are important factors to take into account. To have the best idea of how long the stringers needs to be, take a measuring tape to your outdoor space and mimic the same style you intend to hang the actual lights. If your measuring tape isn't long enough, use a string instead and simply mark where the lights would end. You can measure the string once you take it down.

Use a measuring tape to determine the length of string lights
Use a measuring tape to determine the length of string lights

Remember, extension cords can come in handy if lights are too short or far away from a power outlet. At the same time, picking the right extension cord for your patio lights is crucial in terms of amp capacity. The capacity of the extension cord either has to match the amps of the stringer or hold more: for example, if a 10-amp stringer is connected to a 5-amp extension cord, the patio light string becomes limited to 5 amps.

Using a grounded outdoor medium-duty extension cord is the best bet for outdoor lighting: medium-duty cords can be used safely outside and can accommodate a higher amp. To determine the amount of amps your lights will use, use the following equation:

How Many Bulbs Per String

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After knowing the length of the stringers, the next step is to settle on what kind of bulbs you want. Do you want a strong, bright light or something more subtle? Do you want a brilliant white shade or a more golden yellow tone, or maybe something resembling a glowing rainbow? Do you want a long-lasting bulb that saves energy and stays cool to the touch?

The two kinds of bulb options we carry are incandescent bulbs and LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. In many categories of efficiency and look, LEDs win over incandescents.

S14 T50 Warm White LED Bulb

S14 T50 Warm White LED Bulb

G50 Clear Globe Incandescent Lightbulb

G50 Clear Globe Incandescent Lightbulb

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the bulbs:

LED Lights Incandescent Lights
  • Save 80-90% energy
  • Bright bulbs with extremely low wattage
  • Rated for 50,000-200,000 hours
  • No burn out factor
  • Unbreakable bulbs with plastic construction
  • Color is emitted through diodes, remaining vibrant through the life of the bulb
  • LED bulb colors offer all popular colors from red to green and a variety of whites ranging from warm white to cool white
  • Cool to the touch
  • Uses 80-90% more energy than LEDs
  • Higher wattage than LED
  • Rated for 3,000 hours
  • Bulbs burn out
  • Can break more easily
  • Color is created through painted glass
  • Creates heat
  • Does not come in cool white color; transparent bulb is similar to the LED warm white

While there are many positives for LEDs, there are reasons why incandescents may be the better choice. If youre looking for subtle light, we suggest picking incandescent bulbs with a low wattage since LEDs tend to shine brighter, even though they use a lower wattage. LED bulbs have a faceted pattern on the surface, while the traditional incandescents are smooth.

Also, we suggest sticking with one type of lightbulb for your backyard since mixing LEDs and incandescents in a display can throw off a settings ambiance. If you already have incandescent lighting on your porch and plan on keeping them, the string lights should be incandescent, too.

Once you have the type of bulb you want, decide on the size. Are you looking for a large bulb, or something on the smaller side? The LED patio lights come in 5/8-inch (S14) and 20mm (G20) diameters while the incandescent bulbs range in a variety of sizes, from the small 30mm to 2.25 inches.

G30 Transparent Clear Incandescent Bulb with 30mm Diameter

G30 Transparent Clear Incandescent Bulb with 30mm Diameter

Vintage Antique 40-Watt Incandescent Bulb With 2.25-inch Diameter

Vintage Antique 40-Watt Incandescent Bulb With 2.25-inch Diameter

Our globe lights, which are especially popular for weddings, come in 20mm LEDs (G20) and incandescents in diameter sizes 30mm (G30), 40mm (G40) and 50mm (G50).

Here's a quick guide on different bulbs and their base sizes:

Examples of Bulb and Base Sizes
Examples of Bulb and Base Sizes

Choosing the Best Bulbs and Strings

For breezy and quick shopping, lights sets complete with strings and bulbs together are available in a variety of colors, styles and lengths. If you want a customized look or can't find the specific string-and-light combination you want, the bulbs and strings can be purchased separately.

One important factor to note is to make sure the bulbs bases fit the strings sockets. Most of the patio lights will fit two types of bulb bases: intermediate (E17) and candelabra (E12). The candelabra, which fits bulbs such as the G30 Triple Dipped Transparent Pearl White 5 Watt Bulb, has a 12mm diameter base. The intermediate is 17mm in diameter and can fit the S11 Transparent Clear 10 Watt Bulb, along with other S11s, C9s and some G50s. The size of each socket can be found next to Base Size under the Specifications portion of each product.

Examples of Bulb and String Socket Sizes
Examples of Bulb and String Socket Sizes

We also offer strings for commercial patio lights to benefit large open areas such as pools and restaurant spaces where heavy duty, long-term use is expected. The strings come in a black wire that range from 54 feet to 330 feet and are available with or without suspensions for each bulb. There are also white and green strings that are 1,000 feet in length, and decorative commercial strings with lamp shades included.

Commercial Stringers With and Without Suspensions
Commercial Stringers With and Without Suspensors

Ready to get started? Shop in our top pages for patio and cafe lighting:

One Stop Shop for All Outdoor Lighting

One Stop Shop for All Outdoor Lighting

From globe lights for the backyard to fairy lights for a wedding, we've got you covered on all your outdoor lighting needs.

Shop All Outdoor Lighting
Patio Lightbulbs

Patio Lightbulbs

Get started with your patio lights by selecting your lightbulbs first. Check out our selection of incandescent and LED lights, coming in shades of white, orange, green, blue and more.

Shop for Patio Lightbulbs

Patio Light Strings

White and green stringers for your outdoor lights come in a number of different sizes and fit multiple bulbs for convenience.

Shop Patio Light Strings
Commercial Patio Strings

Commercial Patio Strings

Need to illuminate a restaurant, pool or another large outdoor space? These heavy-duty commercial light strings are perfect for high, open spaces.

Shop Commercial Patio Strings

Do-It-Yourself String Lights

Create your own patio lights! Customize them by picking the type of bulb, the right spacing and the color of your string.

Shop for DIY Lights
Patio and Party Light Sets

Patio and Party Light Sets

Need lights in a flash? We've got pre-lamped sets of lights and stringers combined and ready to go for you right here.

Shop for Outdoor Light Sets

Sign up for our free newsletter for more project tips and other do-it-yourself ideas:

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Outdoor and Patio Lighting Ideas

Outdoor and Patio Lighting Ideas

Illuminate outdoor living spaces and create a festive ambiance on summer nights, for outdoor weddings, and for intimate cafes and large outdoor patio dining rooms by hanging patio lights above.

Outdoor and Patio Lighting Ideas

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Wrapping Trees with Lights

Learn to wrap everything from trunks and branches to bushes and evergreen trees for the ultimate light in your yard.

Read More About Wrapping Trees

Christmas Lights Wattage

Know Your Christmas Lights Wattage

Learn more about wattage and amperage on Christmas lights, including how many lights you can run on a single outlet and how many strings can be connected together.

Christmas Lights Wattage

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