Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
How many of us have been there? We’re having a great time outside, then night falls, and we have to pack it in because there isn’t enough light for the backyard. Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to go for a floodlight; for a well lit, welcoming outdoors, festoon lights are hard to beat! Find the best outdoor festoon lights reviewed here.
Lights On A String
Think of those you drape around the Christmas tree, and you will have a good idea of what festoon lights are, except these are actual light bulbs, and (very important) they are designed to be outside—even in the rain, in some cases. While they are a great way to bring light to any get-together after nightfall, there are also some options intended to provide a subtler glow, giving your backyard a unique ambiance.
Since we are dealing with electricity here, there are some important points to keep in mind as we shop around.
Neither Rain, Nor Heat…
As we briefly mentioned, festoon lights intended for the backyard will (and must) be weather resistant, and the stronger the better. Some will, in fact, mention an IP (Ingress Protection) rating, which is designed to tell you at a glance how well protected an electric item is against dust and water. Such value will be depicted as follows
The first digit indicates protection against solids, the second grades protection against liquids. The higher the digit, the stronger the protection, with a zero indicating that the item is completely vulnerable. An X in any position means the relevant protection was not tested.
It is not rare for an item to present an X on the first digit (IPX7, for example), which does not have to be a bad thing: if the protection against liquids is high enough, then it is safe to assume solids will not be an issue either. You can read more about IP ratings here.
Another rating you may encounter is the ‘Dry-Damp-Wet’ system, which is not as elaborate as the IP one but is still pretty useful to quickly find out if something you want to buy will be okay outside. ‘Dry’ is the default rank, and applies to just about everything you have in your home, which cannot be exposed to the elements; ‘damp’ can be brought outside but should never be exposed to rain, and ‘wet’ can be right out in the open, without any concerns about rain.
Some Good Practices
The following is a list of recommendations to minimize the risk of a shock—or worse.
Manage the power supply. Make sure the outlet you plug your lights into is not overloaded. Whenever possible, rely on a power surge protector, just in case.
Check the cords periodically. If you see any gash or deterioration, it might be best to take the whole thing down, to avoid getting jolted.
Dead bulb? Leave it there. Removing it immediately will leave the socket exposed and vulnerable to dust and decay. Only when you have a replacement ready should you take out the old bulb.
Arriving At The Right Pick
Your backyard, your vision, your light. Here are a few factors that may help you pick the best brand and model for your tastes and needs.
LED vs Incandescent
Athough it may be a bit of a harder sell for fans of warmer lighting, and those on a tighter budget, LED is overall a better choice: since they provide more light with less wattage, you can string more of them together without risk of overload, and your utility bill will thank you in the long run.
Looking to keep your backyard well lit after hours? Going for a dash of ambiance only? Depending on your intentions, the value to keep in mind here is lumens.
This is not limited to warm vs cold light; some strings will come in more various colors, should you want to add a festive air to your outdoors space. You can even find some models that allow you to change color and pattern at will—much like Christmas lights!
Yes, many need the conventional electric outlet—but some are designed to depends on the sun! This latter type is usually great for just about any kind of weather (as water won’t cause undue risk), but the panel will require direct exposure to the sun. They can’t run continuously for long, either, so if you’re looking for something that will stay on 24/7, conventional power is your best bet.
If you’re running lights across several feet, consider buying strings with connectors at each end (not all models come with this feature); this way, you can chain them together, and plug the entire line into a single outlet—as long as you don’t overload it!
No More Dark Backyard: The List
The following is a compilation of options we believe we might find to your liking, as well as a summary of what makes them worthy of consideration.
Novtech 38.5FT 30Bulbs G40 Globe String Lights
If you’ve ever wondered how it would feel to visit an Italian bistro, then this might be a good choice, as that is precisely the atmosphere these lights are intended to recreate. UL certified, they come with an IP65 rating, which means you can string them across an area without any roof without fear of an unexpected rain causing issues. This line comes with roughly 30 sockets, each housing a LED bulb about the size of a golf ball, with an E12 base. If your area is particularly wide, there is little cause to fret, as you can get this same model in a 58ft string. Purple color also available.
- The unique internal makeup of the bulb provides a distinct ambiance to the area, whuch is further enhanced on the purple option.
- Peculiarly long option on offer provides an alternative to drape across wide areas without concern about sagging connections in between.
- Difficult to contact seller in case an issue needs resolving.
LED Outdoor String Lights 48FT 2W
If you are the nostalgic sort, of simply a fan of the industrial design style, then this could be what you are looking for, as this option features Edison type bulbs which, old-fashioned though they may be, come with the convenience of LED light sources. Unlike the original bulbs, you can bring these outside without any worry, as they come UL listed for weatherproof commercial use, and with a pretty solid IP 65 rating. Although available only in 48′ length, this model is capable of interconnection, with a maximum capacity of 30 strands. The connector features its own cover, for protection when not active.
- An attractive, solid options for those who prefer a not so modern look in their spaces, or on their Christmas trees.
- The dimmer switch must be procured separately in order to access the dimming feature.
- Per several reports, it can be difficult to find replacement for these Edison style LED bulbs; manufacturer includes only one spare in package.
Mr Beams S14 Bulb Solar LED
No outlet? No problem!, as all these lights need to thrive is sunlight. This 54′ line comes with 24 glass S14 bulbs, with a space of 1.7′ between one bulb and the next—which, per manufacturer, translates into a 45.11′ area covered. Given their source of power, installation is quite easy, the key component being the solar panel, which should be placed conveniently so it can charge. Thanks to its IP65 rating—which, in a nutshell, makes it practically impervious to just about any weather—there is little to no limitation as to where this string can be installed outside. Consumption is 0.6W per bulb.
- No need to turn it off manually, as the built-in photocell sensor prevents activation between dawn and dusk.
- Only 90 lumens per bulb; this might make it more difficult to provide adequate lighting depending on the area, unless the string is wrapped repeatedly.
- Solar panel requires 2 to 3 days of charging before first use, which might have to be taken into account if the set is being purchased for use at an upcoming gathering.
Outdoor String Lights 25 Feet G40 Globe
Variety is the spice of life, they say, and if you subscribe to this belief in terms of color, then this option might warrant a closer look. Whereas most other models settle for just 1 option (and some go as far as 2), this one comes with a total of 5 palettes to choose from, presenting variations in socket color as well as in the bulb.
This string can be bought in 3 sizes (25,50 and 100′), which, coupled with the ability to connect one string to another—3 strings being the maximum length supported—, should be more than sufficient to cover any area, however large or small it may be. Worth noting, however, that some color options are restricted to only certain sizes.
- Each bulb is tested for 48 hours before shipping, which helps ensure quality.
- Color variety offers solid options for the day-to-day, as well as for the holiday season, specifically with the green socket /multicolor bulb variant.
- Per its IP rating, this model might be less of a fit for areas that see frequent dust storms, or are close to the sea, due to its solids protection not being as tight as that boasted by other options.
Lights4fun, Inc. Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights
Wishing you could make your lights twinkle, wave, dim down and back up? If so, then this option could be the one for you, as it comes with a total of 8 different lighting effects (static, flash, glow, to name a few). The 14′ cable comes with a total of 15 warm-light LED bulbs, and it can be under the rain just fine, per customer reports (no protection rating has been provided).
The unit comes with a panel which can be anchored to the ground via a built-in stake, and it relies on a battery (which is included) for more steady energy flow.
- A particularly cost-effective option, thanks to its relatively low price tag and the fact that it is solar powered.
- Only one size available, which may greatly limit the area that can be covered as it cannot be interconnected.
- Remarkably low output; this may make them better for decoration only, rather than as a source of light.
The Light Of The Party: Outdoor String Lights 25 Feet G40 Globe
Festoon lights are not just about illumination—they are also about decoration, and that is something this model is pretty good at: its color selection is hard to beat among its category, and it addresses the socket as well as the bulb itself; you can get it warm, or go for a multicolor option that is almost certain to turn every head during holiday season. Length is something else made easier, as it offers a decent variety of sizes and you can also string them together, which means there is hardly any area you cannot cover with them.
Their cost is not prohibitive, although it will depend on the length you choose. Considering the overall value it offers (not to mention every bulb comes tested for 48 hours), it’s hard to top this one as a potential investment.