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One of the easiest ways to make your home look and feel festive during the holiday season is hanging up Christmas lights around your house and yard. However, it’s important to use outdoor Christmas lights, which are designed to stand up to inclement weather.
“When it comes to Christmas lights, the most important factor is to know what you are going to decorate and how you want it to look in the end,” explains “Captain” Matthew Martoccio, founder of The Christmas Guys, a Christmas light installation company. “You don't necessarily want the same exact bulb type everywhere on your trees, shrubs, and on your home.” Different bulb shapes and light colors can be used for different applications, and you’ll also want to take factors such as bulb type and durability into account while selecting string lights to use outdoors.
To find the absolute best outdoor Christmas lights, we tested more than a dozen products over the course of several weeks, evaluating how well they fared in a variety of weather conditions. We assessed each strand of lights on its brightness, bulb shape and size, length, durability, and more, and we consulted with several experts for their insights on what makes a great set of Christmas lights.
Here, the best outdoor Christmas lights to decorate your home.
Best Overall: AmazonBasics 100 LED Commercial Grade Outdoor Christmas String Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: 5mm wide angle | Length: 33 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: 3
Extremely bright and visible
Durable commercial-grade construction
Available in popular colors
Can’t connect many strands
For classic holiday lights that will stand up to the worst weather, you can’t go wrong with the AmazonBasics Commercial Grade Outdoor Christmas Lights. These string lights come in either 16- or 33-foot strands, as well as bright white, warm white, and multicolored options, and our tester was extremely impressed with their high-quality construction, especially given the reasonable price.
These commercial-grade LED lights feature 100 5mm wide-angle bulbs per 33-foot strand, and the lights are mounted on green wire and each wrapped with weatherproof material. During testing, we were impressed by their bright and consistent light, which is amplified by the bulb shape, and they stood up to heavy rain and wind with no problems. These lights are both UL- and wet-rated, but the one downside is that you can only connect three strands together on one outlet.
"Another important factor to consider when purchasing outdoor lights is determining how many you need. Measure all the straight lines of the house and add them together. Don’t forget to measure the distance to your power source!" –Lance Allen, Decorative Holiday Merchant at The Home Depot
Best Budget: Home Accents Holiday 100-Light LED Mini Warm White String Light
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: T5 mini | Length: 29.5 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: 30
Also available in multicolored
Able to connect up to 30 strands
Not the most durable
Slight strobing effect
To get the most bang for your buck, the Home Accents Holiday LED Mini String Lights are a solid classic option for decorating your home. These indoor-outdoor lights might not be the most durable, but they’re extremely affordable and give you the flexibility to connect up to 30 strands of lights together for large-scale decorating. Each strand is 29.5 feet long, and they feature 100 bulbs on classic green wire.
Our tester thought these lights were of average brightness, and she liked the traditional appearance of the warm mini lights. She notes that they have a slight strobing effect, which is caused by a lack of rectifiers on the LEDs, but said it’s not as noticeable when they’re actually hung up. These lights aren’t commercial-grade, which means there’s always the possibility that moisture will get into the bulbs, but they’re a great value if you're decorating on a budget.
Best Colored: Yuletime Multicolor LED Christmas Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: T5 mini | Length: 66 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: 30
Bright and vibrant colors
Numerous colors available
Long 66-foot strands
Strand stays lit if one burns out
Not the most durable
You can create a cheery and colorful outdoor display with the Yuletime Multicolor LED Christmas Lights, which come in just about every color imaginable. These colored lights feature 200 LED mini bulbs on a 66-foot wire, and our tester thought the hues were vibrant and beautiful, especially at night.
These colored Christmas lights are UL-certified, and during our testing, they held up perfectly through several days of heavy rain and winds. They have a “Stay Lit” design that prevents the whole strand from going dark if one bulb burns out, but our tester did note that the construction isn’t quite as durable as other options. You can connect up to 30 strands on one outlet—ideal for decorating your house or yard—and the lights come with six spare bulbs and two fuses, allowing you to repair any issues quickly and easily.
Best Solar: Touch of Eco LITEUP125 Solar-Powered Wide Angle LED Mini String Light
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: 5mm wide angle | Length: 68 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: N/A
Can be installed anywhere
Several solar panel mounting options
Warm, cozy light
Solid or flashing light effects
Not very bright
Long lead wire
If you want to display Christmas lights in a location where there isn’t an electrical outlet handy, the Touch of Eco LITEUP125 Solar String Lights are a pretty and convenient option. This strand of lights is 68 feet long with 125 small LED bulbs, and it’s connected to a small solar panel that you can clip into a nearby surface or stake into the ground.
As you might suspect, these lights aren’t the brightest option out there, and our tester noted that they’re particularly dim when the weather is cloudy or rainy. The lights automatically turn on at dusk and stay on for up to eight hours, and they offer both solid or flashing light modes, which can be controlled from the back of the panel. However, the strand has a 12-foot lead wire, which our tester thought was unnecessarily long, as it cuts the lighted length down to 56 feet.
"Consider where you are hanging lights—LED bulbs are best suited for live trees and wreaths because they stay cool to touch and prevent fires." –Lance Allen, Decorative Holiday Merchant at The Home Depot
Best Large Bulb: Wintergreen Lighting C9 OptiCore Commercial LED Christmas String Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: C9 | Length: 50 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: 1,000 feet
Bright, clear light
Available in numerous colors
Built-in clips for hanging
Bulbs must be installed by hand
If you’re decorating a large outdoor object—such as your roofline or an oversized tree—you’ll want large bulbs to match the scale, and the Wintergreen Lighting C9 OptiCore Commercial LED Christmas Lights are unmatched in terms of aesthetic and quality. These lights feature large, faceted C9 bulbs made from durable polycarbonate, and our tester found them to be extremely bright and beautiful, lighting up her whole yard. Or, if you’d prefer them to be less bright, they can even be dimmed with a compatible switch!
These large lights come in several lengths, and the 100-foot strand includes 100 bulbs. However, the bulbs and wires are packaged separately, forcing you to screw in each of the bulbs by hand. The lights are available in a variety of colors, and they even feature a clip on each socket, which makes them extremely easy to hang along your roofline.
Best Rope Lights: The Holiday Aisle LED Christmas Rope Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: Rope | Length: 150 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: N/A
Extremely bright and vibrant
Unique modern appearance
Can be cut to perfect length
Extremely poor directions
Power connectors aren’t waterproof
For a bold, contemporary look, The Holiday Aisle LED Christmas Rope Lights are extremely bright and vibrant—they’re sure to catch the eye of everyone who drives by your home this holiday season! These rope-style lights feature LED bulbs inside clear PVC tubing, and they can be twisted and bent at any angle to easily match the space you’re decorating.
Our reviewer said these lights were the brightest of all the products she tested, and she loved that you’re able to cut them down into a shorter length, if desired. However, the instructions for these lights are extremely poor, so it may take some trial and error to figure out how to connect strands, and the brand notes that the power cords and connectors aren’t waterproof. Finally, a word of caution: Make sure to completely remove the lights from the spool before plugging them in, as the PVC can melt if it gets warm—a lesson our tester learned the hard way.
Best Waterproof: Pro Christmas 5mm Wide Angle Conical LED Christmas Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: 5mm wide angle | Length: 26 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: 60
One piece bulb/socket design for moisture resistance
Bright and vibrant
Able to connect up to 60 strands
Can’t replace bulbs
Professional-grade Christmas lights, such as the Pro Christmas 5mm Wide Angle Conical LED Lights, are made with a one-piece bulb and socket design. This prevents water and dirt from getting into the bulb and causing rust or corrosion, and it can help to ensure your displays don’t burn out prematurely. These particular professional-grade lights wowed our tester, who said the colors were vibrant and beautiful.
The Pro Christmas lights are 35 feet long and feature 50 5mm bulbs on green wire, and you can connect a whopping 60 strands end-to-end on one outlet. They’re UL-rated for outdoor use and held up great during rainstorms and windy days during testing. These outdoor Christmas lights come in a variety of color schemes, and while you’re not able to replace the one-piece bulbs, each LED light can last for up to 75,000 hours.
"Traditionally, incandescent bulbs are dipped for coloring, which results in the sun fading the colors in just one season. With LEDs, you actually have the diodes colored the same as the bulb so you do not see the fading occur from year to year." – Matthew Martoccio, founder of The Christmas Guys
Best Extra-Long: MZD8391 Christmas Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: Not listed | Length: 105 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: 4
More than 100 feet long
Available in multiple colors
Offers several lighting effects
No replacement bulbs
Small bulbs aren’t ideal for large-scale decor
If you’re decorating your whole yard, the MZD8391 Christmas Lights are 105 feet long, letting you cover more ground with just one strand. The lights come in a variety of color schemes, and there are 300 small LED bulbs per strand—just keep in mind that they’re very small, so they’re not the best choice for large-scale decor, like along a roofline.
Our tester loved the bright colors of these lights, and she also liked that there are eight lighting effects to choose from, such as chasing, slow fade, and twinkling. The indoor/outdoor lights are waterproof and held up just fine in inclement weather, and you can connect up to four of the strands together, covering more than 400 feet.
Best Novelty: Huacenmy Outdoor Solar Snowflake String Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Bulb Shape: Novelty | Length: 30 feet | Maximum Connected Strands: N/A
Can be installed anywhere
Cute snowflake shape
Eight lighting modes
Hard to untangle
Not very bright
The Huacenmy Outdoor Solar String Lights feature cute snowflake-shaped bulbs that make an adorable addition to your porch or outdoor living space. They’re powered by a small solar panel that stakes into the ground, and they even offer eight different lighting effects, including flashing, twinkling, fading, and more. The strand of lights is 30 feet long, and it features 50 LED snowflakes, each of which is roughly 2 inches wide.
Our tester found that these lights were quite tricky to set up, as the snowflakes get quite tangled in the wire. However, once they were installed, she loved the pretty white light, even though it’s not the brightest. The lights turn on automatically at dusk, and on cloudy or overcast days when the solar panel doesn’t get enough light, they do dim down after a few hours.
The AmazonBasics 100 LED Commercial Grade Outdoor Christmas String Lights (view at Amazon) are a classic choice for your outdoor decor. These lights are extremely well-made and hold up wonderfully against tough weather, and they’re extremely bright and vibrant. If you’re looking for something that’s budget-friendly, consider the Home Accents Holiday LED Mini String Lights (view at Home Depot), which are an unbeatable value. Just keep in mind that they might not last quite as long as commercial-grade options.
What to Look for in Outdoor Christmas Lights
“One thing to look for when purchasing outdoor Christmas lights is that the lights you’re selecting are outdoor rated,” explains Lance Allen, Decorative Holiday Merchant at The Home Depot. Underwriters Laboratories Inc., commonly abbreviated as UL, has a variety of safety standards for outdoor Christmas lights, and you’ll want to check that a product is UL-listed for use outside. This information is typically in the product description, and you can also find it on the product tag, which is usually a sticker attached to the wire.
You can find outdoor Christmas lights with both LED and incandescent bulbs, but nearly all experts recommend opting for LEDs when possible. Not only do LEDs use significantly less energy, allowing you to connect more strands together, but they also stay cool to the touch, which makes them safer to use around potentially flammable objects, and last longer than incandescent bulbs.
Those aren't the only benefits, either: “Traditionally, incandescent bulbs are dipped for coloring, which results in the sun fading the colors in just one season,” says Martoccio. “With LEDs, you actually have the diodes colored the same as the bulb, so you do not see the fading occur from year to year nearly as much, if at all.”
Christmas lights come in all different shapes and sizes, and while this choice is mostly based on personal preference, Martoccio recommends certain bulb sizes for different outdoor applications. “In general, never use mini lights on a roofline,” he says. “For roof lines and evergreen trees 20 feet and over, you want the larger C9 LED bulbs. For bushes, branch wraps, and evergreens under 20 feet, you can use mini lights.”
Outdoor Christmas lights are frequently subject to rain, snow, wind, and cold temperatures, so it’s important that they’re durable enough to withstand winter weather. Many of our experts recommend looking for professional- or commercial-grade Christmas lights (which often aren’t sold at big-name retailers), as these lights are made from higher quality materials. Further, many professional-grade lights feature one-piece bulbs and sockets, which prevent moisture, dirt, and dust from getting inside and causing the light to fail.
How do you hang outdoor Christmas lights?
The best way to hang outdoor Christmas lights depends on where you’re installing them. If you’re putting them on a fence, railing, or tree branch, you can simply wrap the lights around the surface for quick and easy installation. If needed, you can use a few zip ties to ensure the lights stay in the desired location.
However, installing outdoor lights on your home can be more complex. Gutter or shingle clips (view at Amazon) are a popular option for hanging lights along the roofline, or you can use Q-hangers (view at Amazon) for other locations. Many of these clips are discrete enough that you can simply leave them on your home year-round, saving you the hassle of putting them back up each holiday season.
Can you plug in outdoor Christmas lights without an outdoor outlet?
If you don’t have an outdoor outlet to plug Christmas lights into, there are still several ways you can make your home look festive. One of the simplest options is to purchase solar- or battery-powered outdoor lights, which don’t require an outlet at all. Alternatively, you can run an outdoor-rated extension cord from an indoor outlet to your yard, or, if you have a light fixture outside, there are adaptors (view on Amazon) that transform a light socket into a 2-prong polarized outlet.
How do you hang outdoor Christmas lights on your home?
If you want to install Christmas lights along your roofline, one of the easiest options is to use special clips that snap onto your gutters or slide under shingles. “Make sure that the first strand can reach a power source, then attach lights to clips (view at Amazon) that can attach to your gutters or shingles and can hold various types of light strands,” say Allen. These clips can typically hold any size Christmas light, and they can be installed without any tools.
Do I need to cover the plugs for my outdoor Christmas lights?
Outdoor electrical outlets typically have a weatherproof box or cover, which will protect the plug on your Christmas lights from getting wet. However, if you’re planning to connect multiple strands end-to-end, you may want to get protective boxes (view at Amazon) for these connections or at least wrap them in electrical tape to prevent moisture from getting inside.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester who has been contributing to The Spruce since 2017. While researching outdoor Christmas lights, she consulted with several experts, including Lance Allen, Decorative Holiday Merchant at The Home Depot, and Matthew Martoccio, founder of The Christmas Guys. Using their recommendations, she selected more than a dozen sets of outdoor Christmas lights for firsthand testing, and she displayed them outdoors at her home over the course of several weeks, including during heavy rain and wind. She evaluated each product’s performance based on brightness, durability, ease of use, and more before selecting the top-performing lights to include in this list.