How to Choose the Best Outdoor String Lights

Few products instantly transform mundane backyards into spaces that are fun, relaxing, cozy and festive. But that's exactly what the best outdoor string lights do.

By Frank Skinner | Updated Feb 28, 2022
How to Choose The Best Outdoor String Lights for Your Project

What makes the best outdoor string lights?

LED Bulbs are Cool To The Touch & Safer For Outdoor Use
LED Bulbs are Cool To The Touch
Hardwired "Mini Light" Patio Bulb
Removable Patio Light Bulb
Removable Patio Light Bulb

Will the lights look good over time?

Lights made with the least expensive materials don't last as long. If a light burns out and it is not replaceable, you're stuck with dark spots or you have to replace the entire string. Getting outdoor string lights with replaceable bulbs eliminates that scenario immediately. Light output and color quality are also important to many people. Look for light sets that include references to Kelvin temperature ratings for different shades of white. Or, in the case of colored outdoor string light, look for bulbs that have infused color rather than a color coating. Color coating is cheaper to make, but the coating will eventually chip, crack or fade. Infused color bulbs have color injected throughout the entire bulb lens, which means the color cannot chip, crack or fade away like cheaper surface-coated bulbs.

Wire Gauge and Insulation

The best outdoor light strings typically have 18 to 16 gauge wire, with the 16 gauge sets made for heavier duty use. Wire gauge refers to the diameter of the copper within the light string and the SMALLER the number, the BIGGER the gauge, which can be confusing. Good outdoor string lights also include an insulated coating, commonly referred to as SPT1, SPT2 or SJTW. These references help to identify the thickness of the wire insulation. SJTW light strings are rated for heavy outdoor use and are especially recommended for use cases that use a lot of power or for longer-term outdoor lighting where weathering is a concern. If you're shopping for outdoor string lights and you see that they are 22 or 24 gauge, it is most likely a "mini light" set that has been re-created as faux patio lights. Again, if you're on a budget and only need a small set of lights, this could be a good option for you. But, if you're looking for the best outdoor string lights that have more durability, longevity and quality, consider sets that are 18 gauge or larger.

Patio Light String Insulation Types
Patio Light String Insulation Types
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