How Many Feet of String Lights Should You Buy

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Patio string lights are pretty much a must have nowadays. Popular, energy efficient, and easy to install – they can add ambiance and much needed lighting to any outdoor space. But how many feet of string lights should you buy to get the job done?

The answer to that question is pretty straightforward, in theory anyway. But we’re going to break down how to properly measure for outdoor string lights so you don’t need up running short or buying too much.

As someone who came one box short on their outdoor lights this year and went back to the store only to find them sold out, I can tell you that this issue is near and dear to my heart. Anyway, here’s everything I learned about measuring for outdoor string lights so that you won’t make the same mistake!

How are String Lights Measured?

The length you see on a box of (or online listing for) string lights is usually in feet. Sometimes, depending on where you live, this might be in metres instead. Regardless of the unit, it’s always a linear measurement, which means one straight line.

Think of it this way: If you get 6 feet of string lights and lay them on the ground they should span exactly 6 feet.

The problem with linear measurements is that they don’t account for the sag you need when you hang string lights. It also isn’t always easy to measure how much light you’ll need if you plan on wrapping them around something.

It’s OK, though – we have a way to work through this.

How to Measure How Many Feet of String Lights You Need:

Materials needed: String, tape measure.

  1. In my experience, the easiest way to measure how many feet of string lights you need to buy is by simply hanging up a length of string exactly where you plan on hanging your lights.
    1. Make sure you let it sag the same way you’d want hanging lights to sit or wrap it around anything you want covered in lights.
  2. Mark or clip the string so you know where your lights should end. 
  3. If your lights need to be plugged in, use additional string to measure the distance between the end of your strand and your outlet. How do you plan on closing this gap? If it’s with more lights you’ll need to add this to your measurements, or you can buy an outdoor extension cord
  4. Lay your string(s) flat and measure the length. That will tell you how many feet of lights you need.

How Many Boxes of String Lights Do I Buy?

Since string lights come in fixed lengths this is a common problem that comes up when buying lighting.

Say you want to install 50 feet of lights, but the lights come in 6 feet lengths.Normally you’d divide your total distance by how many feet are in each box to figure out how many boxes of lights you need.

We can’t buy 8.3 boxes of lights so you’ll have to make a decision on how many boxes to buy. If you hung your original string loose you can probably get away with 8 boxes here and hang them a bit tighter – but I almost always recommend going up to the next number.

Just in case.

String lights hung at a concert

Connecting Multiple Strands of Lights

As someone who’s way too invested in Christmas light displays I can honestly say this is something most people don’t consider when hanging lights. There is always a limit to how many strands you can connect in one circuit safely.

The amount of lights that can be connected will depend on the type, style length, amount of lights, and manufacturer. Most manufacturers will support 3-5 strands connected as a general guideline. Some go up to 10 or 20 on a single circuit. 

If you’re using solar powered lights you can ignore this section on power. Just follow the directions from the manufacturer in regards to how many lights you can string together.

Can You Power The Lights?

The type of power you have going to your outlets is a huge factor in determining how many lights you can connect. Each strand of lights has a wattage on it and those added together are the total strain on your power supply.

Most 15 amp homes can support 1,800 watts, but you shouldn’t exceed 80% so that comes down to 1,440. If your lights are 50 watts a strand the most you can have on one circuit is 28 strands of lights.

For Your Safety:

  • Use 80% or less of your home’s max wattage
  • Do not exceed 12 amps on a single circuit
  • Remember that the wattage is for the entire braker, not just the outlet – so anything plugged into that circuit should be included in your max wattage calculations
  • If you need more lights than your circuit supports, look for a different brand of lights, plug additional strings into an outlet attached to a different breaker, or change up your plans

Other Things to Consider

Distance Between Bulbs

This might affect how you determine your initial measurements, so definitely check on the distance between each light before measuring. If the lights are too far away and you pull them tight they might look sparse. 

Or, bulbs that are too close together could touch each other if there’s too much sagging in hanging lights.

Longer Lengths

With energy efficient LEDs it’s now possible to put more lights than ever on a single strand. Where we used to see 4 or 6 foot lengths of lights, there are now options as high as 100 feet  or more.

Replacement Bulbs

When you purchase string lights it’s also a good idea to grab some extra bulbs at the same time, just in case.

How Many Feet of String Lights Should You Buy? – Conclusion

Now that you know how many feet of string lights you should buy you’ll have to figure out what the best lights are for you. Are you going to go with Edison bulbs, programmable LEDs, or solar powered lights? 

Whatever you pick, string lights are a great way to make your patio or outdoor space more inviting! 

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