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29 Different Types of Outdoor Christmas Lights for Your Home (Holiday Decorating Guide)

Photo collage of different types of Christmas lights outdoors.

Quicklist: Outdoor Christmas Lights

  1. Plug-In
  2. Battery-Powered
  3. Solar
  4. LED
  5. Incandescent
  6. Projection
  7. White
  8. Red
  9. Blue
  10. Green
  11. Multi-colored
  12. Mini-bulbs
  13. C3 Bulbs
  14. C5Bulbs
  15. C6 Bulbs
  16. C7 Bulbs
  17. C9 Bulbs
  18. Icicle
  19. Net
  20. String
  21. Novelty
  22. Rope
  23. Mini-lights
  24. Dome
  25. Wreath
  26. Pathway C
  27. Twigs and Branches
  28. Scenes
  29. Tree Trunk Web

Four years ago we didn’t own a single strand of Christmas lights. Then we moved into a new house and the first weekend of December five houses going up our steep street were lit up like Christmas trees. The house on the other side of us was lit up, too. Ours was the dark, party-pooper house without lights.

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 into 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 — 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.

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I don’t want to put lights up just for the sake of putting them up. I want the display 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 and we have many cars driving by all through December checking them 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 four years, I’m a Christmas light expert having bought all kinds, colors and sizes. I have my preferences.

Update: In 2020 I decided to hang up my staple and hire a Christmas light hanging service that we’ve now used two years in a row.  Here’s what I learned about hiring a Christmas light hanging service.

Related: Mail Order Furniture Catalogs

Christmas Lights: Series vs. Parallel Circuit

Christmas Lights Wiring Graphic - Series vs. Parallel

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My Exterior Christmas Light Preferences

  • Color coordination:  At first, I focused on white lights, but after putting up strings of red and blue 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 strand to be one color and coordinate those lines around the property.
  • The one exception is multi-color or two-color strings look OK 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 of the 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 should be absolutely no tripping hazards 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 great luxury.
  • Clips:  I do not use clips on trees and bushes. It’s a nightmare to take down and they’re not necessary. I only use clips for the light strings attached to the house, clipping those to the gutter. That’s my two cents’ on putting up Christmas lights.
  • Here’s my in-depth guide setting out all the different types of Christmas lights you can buy for your house exterior.

House with incredible Christmas light display

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 may prefer battery-powered lights if you don’t have access to an outside outlet or aren’t putting up that many lights — but if you’re serious about a light display, you should get lights that plug-in.

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 they will look bad.

6. Projection

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

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

I don’t like them because it’s too much. However, one exception is projection can be a good way to illuminate a part of the house — such as the side, or a large solid part of the wall, to add a cool element. I don’t plan on adding projection, but if used strategically the effect can work really well.

Color

7. White

House with white Christmas lights

You have to admit the all-white lights look is pretty fabulous. It’s understated, elegant and 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 throughout the yard looks fantastic. Now we have an equal mix of red, blue and white throughout the yard and 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 that into the mix.

9. Blue

Cool blue Christmas light display

Use of 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 and they 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-colored

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 our house. It’s OK on the house, but for the yard, I think strings of single colors look best on various bushes, etc.

Bulb Size

12. Mini-bulbs

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. We put an insane number of these inside and outside our house. We really go 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 Bulbs

C3 Christmas lights

14. C5 Bulbs

C5 Christmas Lights

15. C6

C6 Christmas Lights

16. C7 Bulbs

C7 Christmas light bulbs

17. C9 Bulbs

C9 Christmas light bulbs

Light Type

18. Icicle

I love 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 anything other than spools. I’ve 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.

23. Mini-lights

Mini LED outdoor Christmas lights

These are my favorite lights for both inside and outside the house. 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 

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 three 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 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, gingerbread 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 green lights on the 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 elevated like it is, it’s a beacon for the 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 classical pillars in the front of this large home.

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

This outdoor Christmas decoration scene includes a 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 seen all that often as a residential 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 Claus in the 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 lighting.

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 lit up with white and red lights.

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

The Tudor-revival home’s front yard is beautifully lit up with lights throughout the garden.

Top Brands of Christmas Lights

Prextex

Prextex Christmas Lights (20 Feet, 100 Lights) - Clear White Christmas Tree Lights with White Wire - Indoor/Outdoor Waterproof String Lights - Warm White Twinkle Lights

If you’re looking for reliable Christmas lights with a traditional and all-white design, that’s what you’ll get from Prextex. Their lights are designed for indoor, as well as outdoor use, and you even get extra bulbs and replacement fuses as part of the package. 

Amazon Basics 

Amazon Basics products don’t need any introduction, and their Christmas string lights are ideal for outdoor use. You get Amazon Basics Christmas lights in various lengths and different color options, such as warm white and multi-color.

Twinkle Star

Twinkle Star’s fairy lights may not seem like the right choice for Christmas, but they’re especially appropriate if you want to steer away from the traditional style of Christmas lights. The lights come with eight modes to choose from, including waves, twinkle, slow, slow fade, and more.

Wintergreen Lighting

C9 OptiCore Cool White LED Commercial Outdoor Christmas Lights – Heavy Duty Christmas String Lights; Green Wire (25 Lights, 25 ft, Cool White)

With high-quality construction, these Christmas lights from Wintergreen Lighting are a good choice if you don’t want to buy lights every year. You can get their lights in various color options and they come with built-in clips for easy and convenient hanging. The lights are especially good for outdoor use and work well on big trees or roof lines.

BHCLIGHT

BHCLIGHT offers extra-long LED Christmas lights in the traditional green wire we’ve all become used to. Their lights can give your Christmas tree a beautiful, warm glow that encompasses the Christmas spirit.  The lights can be used inside as well as outside, because they’re waterproof.

They also come with eight different lighting modes to choose from.

Photo of outdoor Christmas lights

Yuletime

Yuletime’s multicolor LED Christmas lights have impressive brightness and are easy to set up. The bright and vibrant colors make Yuletime lights stand out and you’ll love how many colors there are to choose from. The lights have a “Stay Lit” design, which means if one bulb burns out, the rest of them will continue to stay on.

QUWIN 

The Christmas lights by QUWIN are quite unique in that they give off a lovely blue hue thanks to the cool white light emitted. There are eight different lighting modes to choose from. You can use these lights on their own or as part of a lighting extravaganza with other similar lights.

Home Accents

Home Accents offer Christmas lights that are durable and easy to use while shining brightly and beautifully. The cute lights are available in a multi-colored option if that’s what you’re looking for. You can use Home Accents’ Christmas lights indoors, as well as outdoors, and they’re quite affordable.

Twinkly

Twinkly Strings – App-Controlled LED Christmas Lights with 100 RGB (16 Million Colors) LEDs. 26.2 feet. Green Wire. Indoor and Outdoor Smart Lighting Decoration

If you’re looking for Christmas lights that can be used outdoors without failing as soon as the weather picks up, you will love Twinkly’s Multi-color LED String Lights. Thanks to a hands-free operation design, the lights are easy to use. You can also set different sections of the lights to different colors.

MZD8391 Christmas Lights

MZD8391’s Christmas lights are very bright and shine beautifully while also being easy to use. They’re available in various colors and different lighting effects, as well. Thanks to high-quality construction, the lights will last many festive seasons.

Y YUEGANG

Y YUEGANG Christmas laser lights are a great option if you don’t like hanging traditional lights. The projector can simply be staked into the ground, or mounted somewhere sturdy, and aimed on surfaces, with many colors to choose from.

Huacenmy

Huacenmy Solar Christmas Lights Snowflake Lights 50 LED 8 Modes Cool White Fairy String Lights Snowflake Decorations for Outdoor Garden Holiday Party Patio Yard Christmas Decorations

If you want to do something different this Christmas, Huacenmy’s outdoor solar snowflake string lights is a great option. The lights, which have a cute snowflake shape, can be installed just about anywhere. They come with eight different lighting modes that include fading, flashing and twinkling.

KNONEW 

KNONEW’s Christmas lights come in different colors, like blue, purple, warm white, and orange. You can also get the lights in various string lengths, and they have built-in timer functions.

Touch of Eco 

If you’re looking for solar-powered Christmas lights, Touch of Eco offers high-quality options. The lights can be installed just about anywhere, have long lead wires and come with different light effects.

Aluan

Aluan’s Christmas lights are a fun option if you’re in the mood for something different and interesting. You get the lights in many color options, like warm white, cool white, and blue. You can also choose different lengths, depending on where you want to install them.

Photo of home with Christmas lights

Where to Buy Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights Etc.

As you can already guess, Christmas Lights Etc. offers exactly what the name implies. You’ll find thousands of unique holiday light options along with a wide variety of other festive décor items. If you’re looking for a very specific type of light, then Christmas Lights Etc. is the place to shop.

This online store has been open since 2000 and continues to offer a fantastic variety of options for holiday decorations and lighting, as well as fun Halloween lighting, patio decorations, and lots of artificial Christmas trees. You can also find individual bulbs in a wide range of sizes, colors, and styles, just in case you need one single replacement bulb for your lights at home. Be sure to check out their variety of beautiful artificial lighted Christmas wreaths, too.

Amazon

YULETIME Purple Christmas Lights with White Wire, 66 Feet 200 Count UL Certified String Lights, Pack of 2 Sets 33 Ft 100 Count Incandescent Mini Light Set (Purple - White Wire)

It’s not surprising that Amazon is chock-full of a wide variety of Christmas light options for your holiday festivities. Visit the world-famous website to find a ton of unique lights featured in a range of colors, bulb styles, and more. You can find a 300-count pack of affordable Christmas lights that come in unique color options and traditional styles.

Look for lights featured in colors like purple or orange for a funky and fun touch this season. This massive online retailer should have the perfect Christmas lights for you. Prime members also get free, fast shipping, which means you can find what you need at the last minute if you have to.

There are over 10,000 results for Christmas lights on Amazon, so you’re almost guaranteed to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Festive Lights

Festival lights with different colors.

This UK-based company has been offering customers a range of holiday décor and lights since 1999. The website is filled with fun designs and features an array of Christmas decorations, mostly focused on lighting. Be sure to check out their smart lights which include a free mobile app download.

The app lets you control your lights remotely via your smartphone, and you can also draw your own design, which is transmitted to the lights via Wi-Fi. You can even choose a range of color combinations like gold, silver, and bronze that can flash in sync with the music.

The website also offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor holiday lighting and decorations. If you’re in America, the company does provide worldwide shipping, but you’ll have to pay for shipping on any orders that are less than $300.

Pottery Barn

If you’re looking for a high-end home goods store that offers charming, rustic holiday lighting and décor, Pottery Barn is an excellent choice. This retailer offers a wide range of stylish Christmas lights and many other items for your holiday home. The high-end home goods store has been in existence since 1949 and continues to provide customers with a variety of beautiful, rustic-inspired furniture and décor.

Pottery Barn has several brick and mortar locations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia. You can also purchase most of their products online. Many items are available in limited quantities, so if you see something you like, it’s best to purchase it before it’s gone.

Pottery Barn also offers occasional sales, and many items are available online with free shipping. Check out their sister companies, West Elm and CB2 for a variety of more modern options. 

Target

Happy family decorating a Christmas tree.

Target is by far one of America’s favorite retailers, offering groceries, clothing, household items, and plenty of holiday lights and décor. This popular retailer has over 1,800 stores throughout the United States, as well as a website and smartphone app. The country’s eighth-largest retailer sells a variety of fun items for the holidays, including Christmas lights and other lighted decorations.

You’ll find everything from colorful, novelty-style lights and décor to beautiful, rustic-inspired options from the company’s flagship brand, Threshold. Almost everything sold at Target is priced competitively and many Christmas lights are offered as low as $5 per set. From LED string lights for your tree to fun projection lighting, Target has everything you need all in one location. 

Don’t forget to check out a customer favorite, the Target Wondershop line, which features a fantastic assortment of colorful, fun ornaments, holiday decorations, lighting, and more.  If you don’t have a Target near you, the company also offers free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items with just a $35 minimum purchase.

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