29 Types of Outdoor Christmas Lights for Your House (2018 Holiday Lighting Guide)

Our street goes all out with lights at Christmas. We join the fun too. Here's my ultimate guide to Christmas lights plus tips for the ultimate display. Discover the 29 different types of Christmas lights you can get right here plus much more.
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House with incredible Christmas light display

4 years ago we didn’t own a single strand of Christmas lights.  Then we moved to a new house.  We thought nothing of not owning Christmas lights until the first weekend of December came around.  After the first weekend, 5 houses before ours going up the steep street were lit up like Christmas trees.  The house on the other side of was also lit up.  Ours was the dark, party-pooper house on the street.

We didn’t get the memo that our street goes nuts at Christmas.

We simply could not be the house that rained on the Christmas light parade.  I jumped in the car and went out Christmas light shopping for the first time in my life.  $500 later and a full day of work, our house was part of the light brigade.  It was a good start.

By the next Christmas, I had done more research and discovered better lights.  This was the year we really cranked it up a few notches to be on par with our street.  I bought about 300 more feet of lights on spools and went to town.

Each year we buy more.  We’re now at the point where we’re running out of space to put the lights.  I don’t want to put lights up just for the sake of putting them up.  I want it to be tasteful as well.

Fortunately, our house sits at the top of a hilly street and our house is on the upside which means it stands as a beacon.  Our street is well known for it’s light display so we have many cars driving by all of December checking it out.  It’s an impressive scene.  While we’ve spent well over $1,000 on lights, I was happy to do so because it’s fun putting a big effort into something that really shows.

After 4 years I’m a Christmas light expert having bought all kinds, colors and sizes.  I have my preferences.

My Exterior Christmas Light Preferences:

Color coordination:  At first I focused on white lights, but after putting up red and blue lights strategically throughout the yard, I must admit I love those two colors.  They’re very dramatic.  On the flip side, I do not like multi-colored strings.  I prefer each string to be one color and coordinate those strings around the property.  The one exception is multi-color or two-color strings look okay on the house.

Spools:  Don’t mess around with short strings.  Buy the spools.  You can never have too many lights.  Spools are also much easier to roll out and roll up at the end of the season.

Icicles and other novelty lights:  Use these strategically to add visual interest.  However, don’t go too nuts with them.

Projector lights:  Not my thing.

Size: I like smaller bulbs by far.  The LED lights are bright and so having more smaller bulbs looks much, much better.  We mix mini bulbs with regular C3 bulbs around the yard.  The bulbs on the house are a bit bigger.

Extension cords:  Make sure you have a lot of them.  The most time-consuming part of putting up our light display is coordinating, concealing and ensuring proper safety measures with the extension cords.  My biggest concern is that there is absolutely no tripping hazard anywhere.

Light timer:  This is a must-have accessory.  The first year we had to go out in the cold at night to turn them off and remember to turn on around dinner time.  Now we have timers at both outlets which is a really great luxury.

Clips:  I do not use clips on trees and bushes.  It’s a nightmare to take down and it’s not necessary.  I only use clips for the ones that go on the house (clip to the gutter).

That’s my 2 cents’ on putting up Christmas lights.

Here my in-depth guide setting out all the different types of Christmas lights you can buy for your house exterior.

Power Source

1. Plug-In

I use only plug-in lights.  We have a few battery-powered strings for the interior, but outside, it’s plug-in only.

2. Battery Powered

You can get battery powered lights which may be necessary if you don’t have access to an outside outlet or aren’t putting up much lights, but if you’re serious about a light display, you should get the plug-in powered lights.

3. Solar

There are also solar powered lights, which I’ve not used.  We don’t get enough sun and I don’t want them shutting off or dimming.

Bulb Type

4. LED

LED mini Christmas lights

Source: Home Depot

We use a mix of LED and incandescent.  LED is brighter and they last longer.

5. Incandescent

Incandescent mini Christmas lights

Source: Home Depot

This is old school.  We use incandescent on the tree.  I think Incandescent is the better looking bulb.

TIP:  It’s fine using both types, but ensure you don’t mix the two on the same bush or tree.  This takes some coordination.  You will notice the differences between the two and it will look bad.

6. Projector

UNIFUN Christmas Lights, Decorations Lights Projector Red Blue Star -16 Slides LED Landscape Projection Lights Christmas, Year Holiday Decorations Remote Control Timer

The projector is the easiest and fastest way to get an explosion of light on your house.  This is a Clark Griswald dream.

I don’t like it because it’s too much.  However, one exception is it can be a good way to illuminate a part of your house – such as the side or a large solid part of the wall to add a cool element.  I don’t plan on getting one, but if used strategically, it can look good.

Color

7. White

House with white Christmas lights

You have to admit the all white lights look is pretty fabulous. It’s understated and elegant. It fits well with this house design.

White was always my favorite light color until we added red and blue strings to the mix.  I had to admit, the dramatic red and blue peppered thorughout the yard looks fabulous.  Now we have an equal mix of red, blue and white peppered throughout the yard.  We have multi-colored lights on the house.

8. Red

House with red Christmas Lights

Check out the large tree loaded with red lights… it’s very effective. I love that look contrasting with white lights on the house.

A dark red light is spectacular.  I recommend incorporating it into the mix.

9. Blue

Cool blue Christmas light display

The blue lights is a very dramatic, cool, icy look that’s effective.

Blue is surprisingly impressive.  I never would have bought blue lights until I saw them on a neighbor’s house which looked amazing.

10. Green

I don’t use green lights, but they are definitely a Christmas color.  Check out the house with lights below to see an example of green lights on the front yard posts.

11. Multi

House with white and red Christmas lights

Actually the white and red combination looks very good on this house.


I’m not a fan of multi-colored strings despite that’s what we have on the house.  It’s okay on the house, but for the yard, I think uni-colored strings look best on various bushes etc.

Bulb Size

12. Mini

XTF2015 105ft 300 LED Christmas String Lights, End-to-End Plug 8 Modes Christmas Lights - UL Certified - Outdoor Indoor Fairy Lights Christmas Tree, Patio, Garden, Party, Wedding, Holiday, Warm White

I love these mini lights inside and outside.  We put an insane number of these outside and inside our house.  We really do all out.  These are super easy to put up and take down.

The following are regular light sizes ranging from C3 (smaller) to C9 (bigger).  I prefer smaller, except a bit bigger for the house lights.  Also check out our light bulb guide here.

All examples C3 through C9 below courtesy of Home Depot.

13. C3

C3 Christmas lights

14. C5

C5 Christmas Lights

15. C6

C6 Christmas Lights


16. C7

C7 Christmas light bulbs

17. C9

C9 Christmas light bulbs

Light Type

18. Icicle

I love the icicle lights.  I’m going to buy a lot of them this year for the top of the garage doors.  Here’s what I’m talking about.

Kringle Traditions 9 ft 150 Clear Icicle Lights with Long Drops - White Wire, Indoor/Outdoor Christmas Lights, Outdoor Holiday Icicle Lights

19. Net

Christmas light net for bush outside

Source: Home Depot

I love the nets.  We only have one, but I want more.  They’re super easy to put on bushes and look amazing.  I strongly recommend a few nets if you have bushes in your hard.

20. String


String of Christmas Lights

Source: Home Depot

Nothing unusual here.  Most lights are on a string.  Fortunately, they come in very long strings spooled up.  Don’t mess around with anyting other than spools.  I made that mistake before.

21. Novelty

There are all kinds of novelty lights and lighted objects you can get for your house.  Here’s just one example of many.

Illuminated Christmas object for house

Source: Home Depot

22. Rope

Brizled 18ft 216 LED Rope Lights, 120V UL Listed Plugin Rope Lights Connectable Daylight White Indoor Outdoor Rope Lights Flexible LED Tube Lights for Holiday, Garden, Yard, Corridor and Patio Decor

I don’t have any rope lights because I prefer the mini strings and webs.  I think the rope lights work great on walkway railings, but our walkway is a series of stairs so it’s not that easy to put on  (no railing either).

23. Mini

Mini LED outdoor Christmas lights

These are my favorite lights for both inside and outside.  They look fabulous on trees.  Yes, we have plenty of the C3 lights on very long strands, but the mini lights are great for small bushes and trees.

24. Dome

Dome outdoor Christmas Lights

25. Wreath

You can buy wreaths that are essentially a big ball of lights.  Here’s an example.


Christmas wreath made from strands of light strings

26. Pathway Christmas Lights

Pathway Christmas lights

27. Twigs and Branches

We have one set of these and they look great.  We place it at the top of the stairs leading to the front door.  They’re a little finicky, but have lasted 3 years so far.

Lightshare Upgraded 36Inch 16LED Natural Willow Twig Lighted Branch for Home Decoration, USB Plug-in and Battery Powered

28. Scenes

Massive lit up Santa for the yard with Merry Christmas sign

You can also get all kinds of large scenes for your yard that light up.  The above is just one of many examples.  This isn’t my thing – I prefer sticking with lights only but I imagine our young kids may talk us into some crazy big scene because kids love these things.

29. Tree Trunk Web

If you have a large tree in your yard, get a trunk web. I think it looks fabulous.  We don’t have such a tree so this is not necessary.

Tree trunk Christmas light web

21 Outdoor Christmas Decorations and Light Examples (Photos)

There’s nothing like real-life examples of spectacular outdoor Christmas decorations and lighting displays to get inspiration for your own house.  Here’s an extensive gallery of ideas.

This house is in North Vancouver and is one of the most decorated houses in the Vancouver area.  It's incredible.

This house is in North Vancouver and is one of the most decorated houses in the Vancouver area. It has a huge array of non-light decorations such as various characters in the gardens, candy canes, gingerbred people, stars, snow persons and more.

Here's another example of a spectacularly decorated house in North Vancouver.  It's an old Victorian style home totally decked out with Christmas lights from top to bottom.  The wrap-around veranda offers plenty of great decorating opportunities.

Here’s another example of a spectacularly decorated house in North Vancouver. It’s an old Victorian style home totally decked out with Christmas lights from top to bottom. The wrap-around veranda offers plenty of great decorating opportunities.

Here's an example of a tastefully decorated elegant older brick home.  It's not over the top.  I love the Nutcracker characters standing on guard along the stairs to the front door.

Here’s an example of a tastefully decorated elegant older brick home. It’s not over the top. I love the nutcracker characters standing on guard along the stairs to the front door.

The sloping front yard offers plenty of great lighting opportunities here with the green light trees and white lights lining the railing along the stairs to the house which is nicely decorated with a series of wreaths.

The sloping front yard offers plenty of great lighting opportunities here with the green light trees and white lights lining the railing along the stairs to the house which is nicely decorated with a series of wreaths.

I love this front door entrance with icicle style lights wrapping around the door along with the icicle lit wreath.  This is very easy to do and looks fabulous.

I love this front door entrance with icicle style lights wrapping around the door along with the icicle lit wreath. This is very easy to do and looks fabulous.

Fortress style mansion with lights everywhere. With the house being elevated like it is, it's a beacon in this neighborhood.

Fortress style mansion with lights everywhere. With the house being elevated like it is, it’s a beacon in this neighborhood.

Another stately home loaded with lights on the house and the property.  It's definitely not overdone though.

Another stately home loaded with lights on the house and the property. It’s definitely not overdone though.

New mansion with the yard lit up.  Notice how the trees have literally thousands of lights on them which is a great effect.

New mansion with the yard lit up. Notice how the trees have literally thousands of lights on them which is a great effect.

Here's an example where the bulk of the lights are along supporting pillars of this two story home.

Here’s an example where the bulk of the lights are along supporting pillars of this two story home.

Lit garlands wrap around the greco roman pillars in the front of this large mansion.

Lit garlands wrap around the greco roman pillars in the front of this large mansion.

This outdoor Christmas decoration scene includes the manger scene in the front yard.

This outdoor Christmas decoration scene includes the manger scene in the front yard.

Decorations here include a lot of lit text such as "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" which is not all that popular of a decorating technique.  It definitely makes this effort unique.

Decorations here include a lot of lit text such as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” which is not all that popular of a decorating technique. It definitely makes this effort unique.

Now that's a huge lit Santa Clause in the large front yard loaded with white lights leading up to a large white mansion.

Now that’s a huge lit Santa Clause in the large front yard loaded with white lights leading up to a large white mansion.

Here's another elevated stone mansion with red and white lights everywhere.

Here’s another elevated stone mansion with red and white lights everywhere.

The front of this home has a large balcony with railing that is nicely lit up along with the gardens using only red and white lights.

The front of this home has a large balcony with railing that is nicely lit up along with the gardens using only red and white lights.

You  don't need a mansion to create a spectacular light display.  The entire small front yard is a carpet of lights.

You don’t need a mansion to create a spectacular light display. The entire small front yard is a carpet of lights.

This brick home has lights and lit snowflakes everywhere.  I like the red and white lights wrapping around all the windows.

This brick home has lights and lit snowflakes everywhere. I like the red and white lights wrapping around all the windows.

This large front yard with many trees and bushes offers many lighting opportunities.  All the trees are lit up with green, white and red lights.  Notice how each bush or tree has its own color.  That's the effect I really like and do with our house.

This large front yard with many trees and bushes offers many lighting opportunities. All the trees are lit up with green, white and red lights. Notice how each bush or tree has its own color. That’s the effect I really like and do with our house.

The large tree in this yard is a great example of how you can create an incredible light display with a tree - using thousands of lights.

The large tree in this yard is a great example of how you can create an incredible light display with a tree – using thousands of lights.

The long stairs leading up to the front door is nicely light up with white and red lights.

The long stairs leading up to the front door is nicely light up with white and red lights.

Tudor revival home front yard is beautifully lit up with lights throughout the garden.

Tudor revival home front yard is beautifully lit up with lights throughout the garden.

 

 







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